Four ways to travel responsibly through Germany, the green heart of Europe

From award-winning urban architecture and environmentally friendly hotels to nature parks, cultural initiatives and public transport, here’s how to make the most of Germany’s eco-conscious travel options.

Alpine lakes in Bavaria in south Germany are so clear they mirror the sky.

Photograph by Romantische Straße Touristik-Arbeitsgemeinschaft GbR
By The German National Tourist Office
Published 17 Dec 2021, 05:00 GMT

Whether you’re after an urban city break, a week exploring the great outdoors, or a low-key trip taking in farm-to-fork restaurants and artisanal traditions, all is possible in Germany. Alongside its urban hubs — home to historic, five-star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and world-class museums — you’ll find an abundance of charming villages, national parks and wonderfully wild conservation areas.

And the best part? With greener options for getting around, eco-friendly accommodation and myriad opportunities to support local culture, this is a country looking to blaze a trail in responsible tourism. Below, we explore four of the best ways to travel in Germany.

The Mecklenburg Lake District is known as the Land of a Thousand Lakes, where castles like Schwerin Castle look out across glistening bodies of water.

Photograph by Anibal Trejo

 1.  Explore the great outdoors

For travellers who want to get off the beaten track and out into nature

Germany’s landscapes aren’t limited to fairytale forests and snow-capped peaks. From the spotless white beaches in the north to the lush mountain valleys of the south, its natural landscapes are wild and diverse. As well as heaths carpeted with purple heather, dramatic volcanic rock formations and romantic vineyards, you’ll also find an abundance of national parks, nature reserves and conservation areas, home to ancient trees and endangered species.

The Rhön UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which encompasses the Rhön Mountains, is a natural paradise teeming with flora and fauna. Over 3,700 miles of well-marked hiking trails include the Milseburgweg route, which involves a challenging climb up Merseburg mountain; from the top, visitors will be rewarded with magnificent, panoramic views. Wide-open spaces mean wide-open skies, too, and after nightfall stargazers will be lost for words looking up at the Milky Way.

Swimming and cycling enthusiasts can combine their two passions on the Mecklenburg Lakes Cycle Route, which leads from the pretty northern town of Lüneberg to the island of Usedom. The route passes through Müritz National Park, home to ospreys and white-tailed eagles, and the Mecklenburg Lake District, known as the Land of a Thousand Lakes.

Bicycles are said to outnumber people two to one in the city of Münster in the north west German region of Münsterland.

Photograph by Matthias Duschner

2. Discover sustainable cities

For travellers after a long weekend away in a buzzing urban hub

From Freiburg in the south — home to the zero-emission district of Vauban, as well as Germany’s first solar-powered football stadium — to Münster in the north west, where bicycles are said to outnumber people two to one, some of Europe’s greenest cities can be found in Germany.

Make your way to Berlin’s Tempelhofer Feld, one of the world’s largest inner-city open spaces, to wander around the peaceful Alemde-Kontor community garden, an urban gardening project offering regular workshops and cultural events. Join a small-group tour with Green Me and visit some of the city’s organic cafes and ethical stores. Renowned globally for its vegan food scene, the German capital offers a wealth of eating options, from zero-waste dumplings to ingredient-focused fine dining and hyperlocal seasonal cocktails.

The Hanseatic port city of Bremen — home to the Climate House, a museum dedicated to the Earth’s weather, climates and climate change — is ranked the third-most-bike-friendly city in Europe. Rent a bike and spend an afternoon cycling through parks, past allotments and along the banks of the Weser river. Stop for a break in Bremen’s historic centre — the 15th-century market square holds UNESCO World Heritage Status — and finish up with a cold beer while watching the sun set over one of the city’s picturesque harbours.

Germany's train network is second to none, with companies like Deutsche Bahn aiming to be climate neutral by 2040.

Photograph by den-belitsky

3. Indulge in lower-impact luxury

For travellers looking to make the most of world-class dining and sumptuous spa treatments

For some, eco-friendly trips conjure images of wild camping and lake swimming, but there’s no need to sacrifice comfort to travel responsibly. Head to the magnificent Bavarian region of Allgäu, in the south, home to mountain pastures and the Breitachklamm Gorge, to spend a luxurious weekend at the Hubertus Mountain Refugio Allgäu hotel. Its elegant, eco-friendly design is timeless, and the Mountain Spring Spa includes a Japanese-style hot spring, salt therapy room and outdoor yoga platforms, not to mention an infinity pool with views of the Bavarian Alps.

Germany is home to 53 restaurants whose efforts have earned them a Michelin Green Star. Ring the bell of a 500-year-old town house in Nuremberg to be welcomed into tiny Essigbrätlein, which holds two regular Michelin stars in addition to its green one. Ingredients here are sourced regionally, in season, and the winter tasting menu lists dishes simply, with examples including carrot and Brussels sprout crown. Desserts include black radish ice cream.

German rail company Deutsche Bahn plans to be climate neutral by 2040, so the nation’s comfortable and affordable train network offers the opportunity to travel more greenly between destinations, too. Train options aren’t just restricted to day trips, however: with a long-distance sleeper, visitors can journey from the south of the country all the way to the north overnight.

Schloss Vollrads is a castle and a wine estate in the Rheingau wine-growing region in Germany.

Photograph by Deutschland abgelichtet Medienproduktion

4. Experience local culture

For travellers who love traditions and the artisans that keep them thriving

Environmental efforts aren't just the preserve of high-tech companies and Michelin-starred restaurants. Germany is home to an abundance of producers and artisans preserving and promoting local traditions and offering eco-friendly ways to immerse visitors in the country’s regional cultures. From the Hafenkäserei — a harbourside, organic cheese dairy in Münster, complete with showroom and cafe — to the intricate wooden handicrafts traditionally made in the Ore Mountains, local cultures are alive and well here, and waiting to be explored.

The village of Feldheim, in Brandenburg, south west of Berlin, is Germany’s first self-sufficient village, powered entirely through renewable energy. Head to the visitor centre, where exhibitions take place regularly, to learn how Feldheim sources alternative energy, before hopping on an e-bike for a leisurely ride around the village and the almost perfectly flat countryside that surrounds it.

Those who get thirsty on their travels will find eco-friendly drinking options aplenty. Head to Frankfurt-based Knärzje’s zero-waste beer — as much as a quarter of the organic brewery’s malt is derived from surplus bread — or visit a winery. At Dreissigacker, a biodynamic winery in Germany’s largest wine region, Rheinhessen, guided tastings take place in an award-winning, environmentally friendly building in the hillside vineyard.

How to do it
 

Eurostar trains head to Germany via Brussels from London St Pancras. Tickets to Berlin are available through Trainline from £87 or Munich from £62. Lufthansa and British Airways fly to German cities, including Frankfurt and Munich; Ryanair has direct flights to Berlin Brandenburg from London Stansted and to Düsseldorf from Edinburgh.

For more inspiration on how to experience Germany responsibly, go to germany.travel

Learn More
Read More

You might also like

Travel
In the frame: our pick of art exhibitions across Europe for 2019
Travel
The renaissance of Riesling: five to try
Travel
Germany: lifting the black clouds in Lusatia
Travel
Beyond Bond: four spy museums around the world
Travel
Explore Celtic heritage on a one-week road trip from Wales to Ireland

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us

Subscribe

  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved