Top Historical Cities in Germany
Despite heavy bombing during World War II, some of Germany’s historic cities managed to survive mostly intact. A concentrated collection of the country’s prettiest old cities is located in west-central Germany, within striking distance of Frankfurt, from where you can take a half-day, day trip, or overnight adventure. See below for our rundown of Germany’s must-see historic cities.
A photogenic jumble of ancient lanes, churches, and medieval townhouses, the baroque-style Old Town (Altstadt) of Heidelberg may look old, but this university town has a youthful vibe and student-fueled energy. Its No. 1 attraction is the ruined Renaissance Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg), which stands on a hill overlooking the town.
Medieval Rothenburg ob der Tauber—located along the Romantic Road, a 220-mile (354-kilometer) route linking several picturesque villages in Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg—is packed with Instagram-ready backdrops. Half-timbered houses and turreted towers line its cobbled lanes, and charming taverns serve wine made from grapes grown in the vineyards surrounding the town.
The unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire and a major cultural and intellectual center, Nuremberg is Bavaria’s second-largest city and it’s steeped in history. While it did suffer damage during WWII, much of its Old Town (Altstadt) has been painstakingly rebuilt, and the core of the historic center is still surrounded by medieval walls interspersed with towers and gateways.
The Romans first settled in Mainz due to its strategic location at the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers, and it has been occupied ever since. Amble around the charming half-timbered medieval center, visit the famous 12th-century Romanesque cathedral, and see the Gothic-style Church of St. Stephen, which was rebuilt after World War II and features stained-glass windows created by artist Marc Chagall.
Sitting pretty on the banks of the Moselle River, Trier is filled with historically significant buildings and monuments that together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the highlights are the 13th-century Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche), the Roman Imperial Baths, Porta Nigra gate, and the Cathedral of Trier, the oldest church in Germany.