A trip to Europe would be wasted if you didn’t take some time to explore its seventh-largest country, Germany. To entice you, we’ve listed 28 things that Germany is known and famous for.
Germany is famous for being the Land of Poets and Thinkers. From vital inventions to Christmas traditions, sausages and beer, Germany is home to plenty of culture, history and quirky laws! Germany is also known for its major cities, the Black Forest, the Alps and Oktoberfest.
In true German style without a moment to lose, let’s find out more about Germany!
Previous Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit said “Berlin ist arm, aber sexy” – “Berlin is poor, but sexy”. Well, it’s certainly not poor anymore, but it definitely still attracts visitors from all over the world.
Germany is famous for its capital city, Berlin. It’s actually nine times larger than Paris, and has more bridges than Venice. Berlin is also home to Berghain, one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. No cameras are allowed inside and there’s a 50% chance you’ll be turned away for reasons unknown. There’s also a sauna and bathhouse near Ida-Wolff Platz where they play Techno music underwater.
I recommend you do a walking tour when you visit – it only takes a couple of hours and they take you to all the interesting spots along the way. Stops include Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, and the Holocaust Memorial.
2. Great thinkers
Germany is famous for being called the Land of Poets and Thinkers (Das Land der Dichter und Denker), and it’s well-deserved. Thanks to Germans past and present, the world has benefited from hundreds of years of scientific, literary and philosophical theories.
The great thinker Albert Einstein is famous for his theory of relativity, but lesser-known scientists such as Robert Koch, the inventor of bacteriology, are just as important.
German Philosophers like Kant, Nietzsche, Marx, Engels and Tolle have shaped modern views on pretty much every angle of life.
Many countries try to emulate the enormous festivities of Oktoberfest, but for the real deal you’ve got to head to Munich in Bavaria. Germany is famous for the ultimate fall celebration, Oktoberfest.
The name is a bit of a misnomer, because Oktoberfest actually starts in September and ends on the first Sunday of October. On 12 October, 1810, the Crown Prince of Bavaria, Louis I, married Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The city of Munich held Oktoberfest for the first time to celebrate the union of their beloved royal couple and the tradition lingers today.
It’s estimated that 78,500 hectoliters (2 million gallons) of beer is consumed during the two week festival, and it shows the more relaxed side of German culture. Grab your Lederhosen, learn a folk dance and eat your weight in bread – it’s the right way to Oktoberfest!
You’d be wrong to assume German beer consumption is limited to Oktoberfest, however. Germans have been brewing beer since 800 BC, and it’s only gotten more popular over the years. In fact, Germany is known for brewing, loving and consuming beer!
Germans are the second largest consumers of beer in the world, after the Irish. Unlike other countries, it’s perfectly legal to consume beer in public places like parks or on the streets. There’s even a German word for a takeaway beer: wegbier.
In 1156, the Bavarian city of Ausberg stipulated that “no beer of inferior quality is allowed to be brewed”. That law now applies to the whole of Germany. The Deutsches Reinheitsgebot (The German Purity Laws) state that only water, barley and hops may be used to avoid adulteration. There are 7,000 beer types brewed in 1,300 breweries in Germany today.
Oktoberfest isn’t all that Munich has to offer. In fact, Germany is famous for the Bavarian region because of its rich culture and gorgeous views! Munich has an entirely different vibe compared to trendy Berlin – and from lakes to the Alps, it’s all happening in Bavaria.
Munich has 80 museums to pick from and the best beer gardens. It’s the true home of Lederhosen, which are traditionally worn at Bavarian weddings. That doesn’t mean you won’t see locals donning them on the streets, though – a few Bavarians slip into their Lederhosen for some Friday night fun.
Bavaria offers some of the best hikes and lake views in Germany. Hikers should head to Tegernsee, 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Munich, to experience the German Alps. From there you can climb the mountain of Wallberg or just admire the view. Another lake, Königsee, is near the border to Austria, and is one of the cleanest in Europe.
6. Neuschwanstein Castle
Does this castle look familiar to you? Well, this castle is so famous it deserves its own separate point. Germany is famous for being home to Neuschwanstein Castle.
Also located in Bavaria, the Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the top sightseeing spots. Walt Disney and his wife visited in the 1950s, and decided it should be the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle. It also inspired the Disney logo!
Neuschwanstein originally belonged to Ludwig II of Bavaria, and was built in 1869.
The outside is the most impressive part of the castle – and no photography indoors is permitted. Still, if you’re a Disney fan, it’s a must-see!
Germany shares borders with nine European countries: Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and The Netherlands. Exploring Europe is easiest done by train, and Germany is famous for its exceptional rail network.
Don’t go yet! Before you leave Germany, remember that the German rail network is actually one of the best ways to explore the country. Germany has the fourth best rail network in Europe – and the trains are nearly always on time.
The main railway network of Germany is called Deutsche Bahn, and is 41,315 kilometers (25,672 miles) in length. It’s possible to get pretty much anywhere in Germany by train and often works out much cheaper and faster than flying or hiring a car – even with the Autobahn.
8. The Autobahn
Which leads us to our next point. You’ve probably heard of the Autobahn, even if you don’t quite know what it is. Germany is famous for its Autobahn, a highway stretching 12,993 kilometers (8,073 miles) that connects Germany’s major cities.
There are a few myths surrounding the Autobahn, so to clear a few things up, here are some facts. Some say the Autobahn has no speed-limits – false, one third of it does. Contrary to popular belief, Adolf Hitler was not responsible for the Autobahn per se. It was actually designed with construction underway in the 1920s. It was originally designed to be a racetrack, but today it’s a driver’s dream to get from A to B.
Fun fact: In August 2019, Germany recorded its highest ever temperature of 42°C (107.6°F) and the unexpected heat melted a bicycle and the Autobahn’s surface near Berlin.
9. Modern German history
The impacts of modern German history are still felt all over the world today. Germany is known for taking great responsibility for the horrors of the holocaust, particularly with regards to Jewish people and other persecuted minorities.
All over Germany, you can find museums and monuments dedicated to those affected by the Nazi Regime, 1933-1945. Holocaust denial is punishable by law in Germany and Austria, and throughout towns and cities you’ll see commemorative plaques among the cobblestone paths. Called “Stolpersteine”, “stumbling stones”, these plaques give names and occupations or addresses of murdered individuals.
After liberation in 1945, some German concentration camps such as Sachsenhausen were used by Soviets as internment camps for political dissenters. You can learn more about that and the holocaust by visiting Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, and The Jewish Museum.
10. East & West Germany
It doesn’t end there, though. Germany is famous for the time when it was divided into East and West after World War II. Ideological disputes surrounding communism and capitalism forced the country to segregate after the war ended, and many families found themselves stranded as a consequence.
Germany was divided into two parts. The GDR (German Democractic Republic) belonged to the east, and the FDR (Federal Republic Germany) belonged to the west. Berlin was also divided – leading to the building of the Berlin Wall. The wall fell towards the end of the Cold War, and in 1989, Germany reunified.
There’s plenty of East German history still available to see today. I can recommend taking an underground tour of Berlin to see the tunnels used to smuggle people out of East Germany, or the East German museum, also in Berlin.
Germany is known for being the birthplace of Protestant Christianity thanks to the professor of theology, Martin Luther.
On Halloween (31 October) 1517, Martin Luther allegedly nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church, Schlosskirche, Wittenberg. There’s speculation about whether this actually happened, but what is sure is that it changed the religion of Christianity forever. The name Protestant actually comes from Luther’s 95 theses – it was essentially a list of things he disagreed with about the way the Catholic church was run and impacted people.
Germany is still a fairly religious country. There are 23,000 Protestant churches, mostly located in the north of the country, and a further 24,500 Catholic churches, most of which are spread over the south and west. The most famous churches to visit in Germany are the Cologne Cathedral, Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden, and Schlosskirche (Castle Church), Wittenberg.
Hamburg is Germany’s second-largest city, and by no means second-best! Germany is famous for the port city of Hamburg, which used to be Germany’s main trade center thanks to its many waterways.
In fact, Hamburg has more canals than Venice and Amsterdam combined, and is the city with the most bridges in the world. The infamous St.Pauli district of Hamburg is where The Beatles played before they found fame. It’s now an up and coming area for artists and designers.
The Portuguese Quarter (Portugiesenviertel in German) in Hamburg is home to the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian churches which pay homage to the city’s past dealings with Scandinavia.
Not to mention that hamburger patties do in fact come from Hamburg – although it took American ingenuity to put them between two slices of bread
That hamburgers as we know them didn’t originate in Hamburg is actually surprising, especially since Germany is famous for its borderline obsession with bread. There are 300 bread varieties available in Germany, and my main mission in life is to try them all.
As a European expat and bread-lover, I can testify that I take an extra deep breath when I pass German bakeries in Australia – it’s not just the same as the real deal, though. In south Germany, snack-time is referred to as “Brotzeit”, literally “bread-time”. Some of the most popular varieties are Pretzels, Follkornbrot (rye bread), and Pumpernickel.
The staple bread you’ll see all over Germany is so beloved that each part of the country has a different name for them. The generic term is “Brötchen” meaning small-bread. The small bread roll is referred to as a Semmel in the south, and Rundstück in the north.
14. Weird laws
With rules for just about everything, it figures that Germany is famous for having some pretty out-there laws.
For instance, you’ve probably heard that it’s not illegal to escape from prison in Germany. It’s true! Apparently it’s because it’s a natural human instinct to be free.
It’s illegal in Germany to tune your piano at night, and you can be fined for putting your recycling in the wrong garbage can (All German homes have at least four different ones). While you aren’t legally obliged to recycle your drinks packaging for money, in Germany, it’s the norm. There’s a small tax levy on bottles and cans, which you can exchange in store for money. The system is called Pfand.
15. Excellent words
If something’s nearby in Germany, the locals will take cover if you start talking about a “stone’s throw”. No, in Germany it’s a Katzensprung, “cat’s jump”, away. Germany is famous for having a harsh sounding language but there’s plenty of German phrases I think English could learn a lot from. Here are some of my favorites!
If someone is annoying you, you can say “du gehst mir auf den Kechs” – “you’re walking on my cookie”. “Kummenspeck” or “grief-bacon” is a word that describes the weight-gain that appears after comfort eating. “Treppenwitz” is the witty comeback that only occurs to you when you’ve walked away from an argument.
Lastly, your “innerer Schweinehund” or “inner-pig-dog” is that voice in your head that convinces you to press snooze and carry on sleeping. Who said Germans aren’t emotional people?
16. Daylight Saving Time
The Innerer Schweinehund’s voice is never louder than on the first day of Daylight Saving Time (DST), at least in some parts of the world. When the clocks go back an hour, we lose one hour of sleep – and it’s all thanks to Germany.
Germany is famous for being the first country to fully implement DST. On 30 April, 1916, in the middle of World War I, the German Empire realized a need to conserve energy and water. Putting the clocks forward saved them a whole hour’s worth, and the U.S and Britain followed suit.
It’s worth mentioning however that countries who observe DST are a minority. Only in Europe, North America and parts of the Pacific will you find countries fiddling with time. South and Central America don’t bother, and neither do Africa and most parts of Asia. Thinking about it, this more than anything explains the German obsession with punctuality.
17. Soccer lovers
An undisputed fact about Germany is their soccer prowess and they put many nations to shame when it comes to their soccer medals, cups and awards.
The German national men’s soccer team have won the FIFA World Cup four times in total, and they’ve won the European Championships three times. But it’s not just the men! Germany is the only nation in the world where both the men’s and women’s team have been crowned FIFA World Cup winners. The women have won the FIFA World Cup twice.
In-nation soccer is taken just as seriously. The Bundesliga, the German soccer league, is watched all over the world. Teams such as Bayern, Köln and Frankfurt-am-main have fans in all corners of the earth. Germany’s top scorer is Miroslav Klose.
You probably already knew that Germany is famous for its inventions and innovation, but did you know that Germany has the 4th largest economy in the world? It’s thanks to German inventors and innovators that many of the things we can’t live without exist today!
You start the day by brushing your teeth with toothpaste – a German innovation. The car was invented by two Germans – one of them being Karl Benz, hence Mercedes Benz. The airbag installed in your car is also German. The refrigerator, aspirin, chip cards, contact lenses, helicopters, jeans and x-ray technology – all German.
Something that may surprise you is that television was actually invented in 1931 by a German, Baron Manfred von Ardenne. The first TV program was broadcasted in Berlin in 1935. German brands we see everywhere are Budweiser, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Siemens, Bosch, Porsche, Volkswagen…this list could go on forever.
The mountain region of the Schwarzwald, (Black Forest in English) south-western Germany, spans 6,009km2 (2,320 miles2). Germany is known for many of the spa towns and hiking trails dotted around the Black Forest, as well as the indulgent chocolate and cherry cake with the same name!
The forest is made up of oak, beach and fir trees – the tallest of which reaches 1,219.2 meters (4,000 feet) in height. The Triberg Waterfall is 163 meters (535 feet) tall and is a must-see if you’re out hiking.
The Black Forest region is especially famous for the beautiful scenery and woodworking. Many wood-crafters still make cuckoo clocks and furniture from the enormous trees. Baden-Baden is the most popular town in the region because of its naturally occurring hot springs – and in the winter it’s a popular skiing destination.
It might seem an obvious point, but Germany is famous for having an estimated 1,500 types of sausages. It’s hard not to think of sausages when you think of Germany, but with so much variety and regional traditions there’s plenty to discover about the German favorite food.
Germans categorize their sausages (of course they do) into three main categories: Kochwurst (cooked sausages), Brühwurst (scalded sausages) and Rohwurst (raw sausages).
Hot dogs are thought to have originated from Frankfurt, although they were globally popularized through American export. The humble Frankfurter sausage is still a favorite in its eponymous city, however. Other famous German sausages are the Bratwurst, Bockwurst, and Currywurst.
21. Christmas traditions
If you celebrate Christmas, chances are you look forward to decorating your Christmas tree, singing carols, drinking mulled wine and going to Christmas markets. Well, they’re all originally from Germany!
Christmas carols like Silent Night (Stille Nacht) and O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum) were originally written in German. The Christmas tree has its roots in pagan beliefs, but Germans popularized bringing a fir tree into the home and decorating it with candles and edible hangings to celebrate Christmas.
Gluhwein, called mulled wine in English, is a staple Christmas tradition in many countries. Germany also has a whole host of baked goods which are only available during Christmas time, such as Stollen – fruitcake, and Lebkuchen – chocolate covered gingerbread cookies. Look out for these and more at Christmas markets in all the large cities, such as Cologne, Hamburg, and Dresden.
Germany is known for its relaxed attitudes towards nudity, called Freikörperkultur (free-body-culture) in German. This can lead to some very jarring situations for tourists if you aren’t clued-up on some of the more bizarre aspects of German culture.
Some of us just can’t wait for summertime to arrive, but I think the gold medal of welcoming summer has to go to Thuringia, Germany. In Hainich National Park on the first day of the summer season, people turn up from all over Germany to dance for one whole hour completely nude. The dance is called the Knackarschwiese, and that roughly translates to firm-butt-meadow. You weren’t expecting that, were you?
Being naked in public isn’t illegal in Germany, which explains why a man was caught running naked through a Berlin park in August 2020, chasing a wild boar who had stolen his laptop. Not even kidding.
23. Book lovers
Germany is famous for its dedication to the arts, particularly literature. German publishers churn out 94,000 new books a year, and half of all Germans read once a week.
Frankfurt is the German center of book publishing, where it holds one of the most important book events in the world – International Frankfurt Book Fair. Every year in November, a day is chosen for the sole purpose of reading aloud or listening to someone else read to you – Reading Aloud Day.
The modern printing press was invented in Germany, so the first known book and magazine were both made in Germany. Famous German authors you might have heard of include Bernhard Schlink, W.G Sebald, Franz Kafka and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
24. German etiquette
We all know that Germany is known for being a country where you say what you mean, and mean what you say. There are a few little etiquette rules that might trip you up, though, so here’s some advice.
In some parts of Germany, if someone offers you a drink (or anything, really) and you want to decline, you say thanks – “danke”. If you want to accept, you say “Bitte” – “please”. When ordering a beer, raise your thumb if you want one, and your forefinger for two.
While we’re on the subject of fingers…If you lose your temper on the Autobahn (or anywhere) I wouldn’t recommend utilizing your fingers to show your displeasure. Giving someone the middle finger is illegal in Germany and carries a fine. Luckily, German has some hilarious legal insults. Try “arschgeige” (butt-violin) instead.
25. Classical composers
Germany is famous for having many great classical composers, and I’m sure you recognize the names of Schubert, Handel and Beethoven.
The legacy of two German composers in particular lives on today through Christian weddings, since two of the most popular bridal marches still in use were written by them. What many people don’t know is that both pieces of music were actually intended for theater audiences, rather than real life congregations.
Richard Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” or “Here Comes The Bride” was written in 1850 for the opera Lohengrin. It’s also the version that attracts rude substitutions for lyrics – or it does among kids, anyway. Felix Mendelssohn’s Bridal March was written for the 1842 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in London.
Fairytale fans, here’s another one for you. Germany is famous for being home to fairy tales written by the Grimm brothers, and you can step inside a real life one by visiting Heidelberg, south-west Germany.
Nested on the banks of the river Neckar is the city of Heidelberg. Bursting with baroque architecture and castle ruins, you’ll also find Germany’s oldest university there. History buffs will know that it was flattened during the 30 years’ war, and destroyed yet again by the French in the 17th century.
If you have a rebellious streak, I recommend you take a visit to the Studentenkarzer – the student jail. In a back room of the old university, you’ll see graffiti ranging from the 18th century until 1914, written by students incarcerated in its walls for drunken misdemeanors or pranks.
27. Adidas & Puma
Germany is famous for its notable brands, but Adidas and Puma take center stage when it comes to sportswear.
Brothers Adolf and Rudolph Dassler started Adidas in 1949 from their mother’s laundry room. The name is a contraction of Adolf’s names : Adi and Das. Today, Adidas is the largest sportswear producer in Europe and second largest in the world after Nike. Following a dispute, Rudolph sought to compete with his brother and created Puma, another notable German brand.
The three stripes that symbolize Adidas are so iconic today but almost no one knows that they originally belonged to a Finnish sportswear company called Kahnu. The Dassler brothers paid the equivalent of 1,600 euros ($1,906) and two bottles of whiskey for it.
You’ve probably heard the stereotype that Germans are incredibly punctual and organized and it’s absolutely true.
Don’t be surprised if appointments in Germany come with the minute as well as the hour. Munich is the second most punctual airport in the world after Tokyo, and most Germans don’t expect to wait around for anything or anyone.
This also applies to queuing, but in a roundabout way. I was standing in line at a cafe in Berlin last year with a friend when a local cut in front of me. I was so incensed and, in surprise, exclaimed “what are you doing!?” The man turned around, looked me dead in the eyes and said “I didn’t want to wait”. The worst part was, I couldn’t even respond to that. So, yeah. Don’t keep Germans waiting.
And that’s a wrap! There’s definitely a lot more than we’ve got space to cram in here, so let us know your quirky facts about Germany below! Find out more about the cities and countries we’ve mentioned here by checking out some of our other guides: 15 Cities Known As The ‘Venice Of The North’, and what Denmark is known for.