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What the world loves most about Germany

Barbara Geier takes a look at a survey of the German National Tourist Board, listing the country’s 100 most popular tourist attractions

Hooray, here’s another list. And this time it’s a really good one compiling Germany’s top 100 attractions, as voted for by international visitors. The survey was conducted by the German National Tourist Board in Frankfurt online and 5,500 respondents gave their opinion on Germany’s best. Let’s take a look at the results and see what the world loves most about Germany.

At number one is – surprise, surprise (not) – Heidelberg Castle. Rising high above Heidelberg, the castle is, no doubt, iconic and an integral part of German history. I have a lot of first-hand experience with its international popular appeal: I grew up in a small town not far from Heidelberg and whenever we had visitors from abroad we ‘had’ to make a trip over the Rhine to show off Heidelberg and its castle. Can’t recount how many times I’ve been to see the huge wine barrel which can be found on the castle’s grounds and is a major tourist attraction in itself … Well, not least for reasons of local patriotism I can very well live with this top German attraction. Good choice, people. And Heidelberg is simply a lovely spot. Just make sure not to stick to the castle only and get exploring.

Number two and number three are equally no-brainers: Neuschwanstein Castle and Cologne Cathedral. For reasons of local patriotism I’d have to say that the Romanesque Cathedral in Speyer on the Rhine where I went to school is much more impressive than Cologne not least because of its splendid and free-standing location at the end of the town’s beautiful Maximilianstrasse boulevard, surrounded by a park (and not scrammed in next to a train station, got issues with that, I have to admit).  Actually, dare I say it, I never really understood why everyone likes Cologne Cathedral so much. Maybe it’s because I’m not a big fan of Gothic cathedrals in general, preferring the Romanesque style. The surroundings that you grow up in apparently influence your taste somewhat. Therefore, I was pleased to see that the UNESCO World Heritage Speyer Cathedral at least still features in the top 50 at number 24.

As for the rest of the top ten, it is on the one hand fairly predictable – Brandenburg Gate Berlin, Church of Our Lady in Dresden, Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam – but also comes up with some surprise entries that I wouldn’t have expected so high up such as Hamburg docks/ fish market at number six or Schwetzingen Palace at number nine, the latter also a piece of my Heimat so thumbs up for that.

It also doesn’t come as a big surprise that Bavaria is the Federal State with the highest number of entries, 22, followed by Baden-Württemberg with 17, the south-west of Germany with major natural attractions such as the Black Forest still being a highlight for many visitors.

All in all I’m quite happy with that list, in particular because I also found some more unusual attractions featured such as Völklingen Ironworks, another UNESCO World Heritage site, BMW World in Munich or Porsche Museum Stuttgart that represent, in the latter cases, the cutting-edge architecture nowadays to be found in Germany as well as, in the former case, the innovative ways of transforming relics of the country’s industrial past into tourist attractions.

As for my personal list, it would contain less in the way of bricks and mortar. The joys of beach life on the East Frisian island of Juist, for instance; al fresco coffee and cake, people-watching included, in an idyllic corner in Baden-Baden; late-night vodka and lemon sipping in a quirky little bar in Berlin, and sharing a table with strangers in a typical inn on the German Wine Road,  enjoying honest and down-to-earth food (best fried potatoes ever), all prepared by a female Vietnamese chef.

Full list of top 100 visitor attractions in Germany

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