Travel Through A Historical Tour Of Medieval Germany
Doused with surprise, Germany's ancient land reveals inspirations that would change the world. Medieval castles, historic churches, artistic movements, steel barons, regal palaces and more, the country's World Heritage sites provide a narrative on our planet's development, compelling and confounding as they sweep across the centuries. This unique 10-day tour explores 11 of the country's most resonant UNESCO sites, each an unmistakable piece of world history.
Explore an evocative sweep of Germany's World Heritage sites, traveling west to east and journeying through the eras
Start in Cologne, where a fabulous cathedral and quaint old town immerses you in the scents of yesteryear
Explore the raw imagery and sharp lines of Industrial Germany and the start of the steel barons
Discover the Dome of Aachen, a masterpiece that was sparked copies for many centuries to come
Lose yourself in Wartburg Castle, Germany's most iconic medieval fortress
Spend a day navigating through the life and times of Martin Luther, including the house where the Protestant Reformation was born
Find the expressionist artwork that's leftover from the Bauhaus School of the early 20th century and symbolizes the birthplace of modernism in Germany
Stand before the regal grandeur of old before stepping inside famous palaces and parks
Walk through the heritage of Berlin, from the line that once divided East and West to the housing estates that have inspired a continent
Tour At A Glance
(Day 1): Cologne – Cologne Cathedral and the Famous Old Town
(Day 2): Essen – Inspiring Remains of Industrial Germany
(Day 3): Aachen – Aachen Cathedral and the Dramatic Eifel National Park
(Day 4): Bochum – Delights in Southern Germany
(Day 5): Wartburg – The Iconic German Medieval Fortress
(Day 6): Erfurt – Fabulous Art and Design of the Bauhaus School
(Day 7): Eisleben – The life and Times of Martin Luther
(Day 8): Berlin – Palaces and Parks of Potsdam
(Day 9): Berlin – Walking Across the Heritage of Berlin
(Day 10): Berlin – Departure
Germany's landscape is one of contradictions. Picture Italy or Spain, and it's easy to conjure up a set of resonant images. But Germany? The country flickers across the paradigms, confounding its stereotypes with sites that meander across the centuries. Medieval villages hide among southern forests, iconic industrial sites that became blueprints for the world as palaces shimmer with regal excess while quaint churches are steeped in history. Some of Germany's World Heritage sites are from the 20th century, inspiring movements of art and design that shaped Europe. Others scroll back to the first millennium AD, and it's remarkable to think of how much war and conflict they've survived.
This is a country that quickly charms, throwing away its stereotypes as it reveals innovation and inspiration. Home to 40 World Heritage sites, from prehistoric pile dwellings to primeval beech forests, Germany has much to offer. You'll travel west to east across the country, this handcrafted luxury itinerary taking in 11 of the most diverse and significant UNESCO sites in the country. Over ten days you traverse the paradigms, starting in old Cologne and ending in the urban beauty of Berlin. Mostly rural, the route pieces together the secrets of the country and connects the enchantment of a nation: the birthplace of Martin Luther and the Reformation, the Bauhaus art school, a marble palace hidden by forests, a fabulous fortress from the 11th century.
Travel in a luxury saloon vehicle with your specialist guide, moving slowly across Germany. Actual driving time is short on most days, other than one three-hour drive from Bochum to Wartburg Castle. Sleep in sublime luxury hotels on route, boutique offerings that exude the charms of both rural and urban Germany. Not a journey through skyscrapers and bustling cities, this itinerary is an immersion in the historic atmosphere of the country; at the hotels and guesthouses you'll notice how the ambiance remains adorably old-world. Dotted throughout are a series of culinary and fragrant treats, along with many places that prefer to avoid any fame. Think along the lines of a meal at a locally celebrated brewery, designing your own perfume, watching musicals, and enjoying lunch from the chef who cooks for the German national soccer team.
Our private tours typically range from $500 - $1000 per person/per night depending on chosen hotels and room categories, vehicles used, types of tours, flight cost, time of year and other factors. Make an inquiry for a customized trip quote.
Day 1: Cologne – Cologne Cathedral and the Famous Old Town
Gothic Cologne Cathedral stands proudly above the city, its ornate spires dominating a city that remains firmly in an ancient era. Touch down at Cologne International to be greeted by your guide and accompanied to your hotel, a delightful five-star hotel that's almost as iconic as the old cathedral dome. As you travel into the city, you can't miss the cathedral, an exquisite place of worship that took over two centuries to build. It's the natural starting point on your walking tour of Cologne, a 13th-century masterpiece that was developed in the late 19th century and spent four years as the world's tallest building. Step inside and the glamour drips from the dome, exquisite stained glass, and sculptures filling the nave.
The Cathedral stands in the heart of the old town, a collection of curling streets and cobbles. One leads into Sunner Keller, a local brewery that specializes in classic Cologne delicacies. Take a tour, and then enjoy a filling lunch of iconic local cuisine. Down another lane, find the 4711 Kolnisch Wasser Perfumery, where 220 years of scented production is there to explore. Craft your own perfume, piecing together fragrances before stepping back out into the charms of Old Cologne. A table at your hotel's restaurant has been reserved for a relaxed first evening in Germany.
Day 2: Essen – Inspiring Remains of Industrial Germany
After many cobbles and charms, today's journey takes you into the industrial lines of Germany's past. Zeche Zollverein was the world's largest coal mine, and largely the blueprint for the development of heavy industry in Europe. The towering buildings imbue a remarkable poetry; their beauty showcased like a modernist art sculpture, the strange shapes and straight lines always impressing the camera lens. Nearby is Villa Hugel, the glamorous residence of the Krupp family, indicative of the wealth that's developed in this corner of Germany. It's the architectural antithesis of Zollverein, all elaborate curves and flamboyance. One space connects these two paradigms, the 100-meter high Gasometer Oberhausen, an old gas holder now converted into a flourishing art and exhibition space. Late afternoon, check in to your luxury hotel, a timeless space that imbues an old-world style much more reminiscent of Cologne than Zollverein.
Day 3: Aachen – Aachen Cathedral and the Dramatic Eifel National Park
Now onto the late 8th century and the Aachen Cathedral, the oldest in Northern Europe and a masterpiece of quaint elaboration. From the outside, it's difficult to comprehend its age, such an imposing structure built in a distant millennium. For 600 years, this was the coronation place of German monarchs and the centerpiece of a medieval world. And for even longer, the breathtaking dome would inspire cathedral design across Western Europe. The town of Aachen is equally fascinating, offering a journey into a hidden world unchanged for centuries.
The same description is resonant in Eifel National Park, a dramatic landscape of woodland and rivers that retains an ancient sense of wilderness. Europe is overpopulated and has been built upon for millennia, so Eifel is one of its few remaining stretches of truly wild land. Streams babble down through indigenous forest, wildcats and red deer drink from the meandering rivers, and the gnarled oak woods flow besides mysterious ravines. A variety of self-guided hiking trails makes this an afternoon of escapism. From Eiffel, return into Cologne and another night at your luxury hotel.
After days of exploration, today will be tranquil and celebratory, a chance to discover the cultural secrets of Southern Germany. Travel to Zeche Waltrop, the medieval town that's kept itself delightfully away from the standard tourist trail. Manufactum Warenhaus also keeps its heritage alive, so you'll explore how to craft tools and clothes the traditional way. Lunch is a very special one at Gasthaus Stromberg, a restaurant owned by Holger Stromberg, celebrated chef of the German national soccer team. Expect fresh, healthy flavors and an inspirational take on German classics. Late afternoon, tour Habbel Distillerie before sitting back to an evening performance at Schauspielhaus Bochum, one of the country's preeminent theater spaces and the atmospheric home of German musicals.
Day 5: Wartburg Castle – The Iconic German Medieval Fortress
This morning is the only significantly long drive on the itinerary, just over three hours from Bochum until the imposing turret of Wartburg Castle comes into view. Perched above Eisenach, this World Heritage Site elegantly reflects the romance of Germany's middle ages. From a distance, its rough and imposing, but get up close and a Romanesque ceremonial hall leads you into the exquisitely ornamented design. Germany's best-preserved fortress, Wartburg Castle carries some 1,000 years of history as if it was built yesterday. Your guide introduces Martin Luther, and his spartan cell reveals the conflict of his time. Your accommodation is far more luxurious than Luther's was, located at the base of the castle, a boutique residence that radiates romance as it looks down onto a lavishly green valley.
Day 6: Erfurt – Fabulous Art and Design of the Bauhaus School
Church steeples rise above cobbled bridges and light shines through the Gothic stained glass, while cathedral spires cast shadows on half-timbered Renaissance buildings. Erfurt was once at the crossroads of European trade, and its wealth is reflected in the masterful medieval design. It's a perfect town to explore on foot, quiet lanes taking you past art galleries and ancient bells, Europe's oldest intact synagogue and a bridge of inhabited 15th-century townhouses. Erfurt Cathedral is the essential attraction, the majestic tower in the heart of the town. But almost every corner catches the eye, from monastic remains to lanes where jesters once sang. Remarkably, Erfurt is not yet on the World Heritage list, although the medieval Mikveh and Old Synagogue are on the tentative list.
Take a stroll through town, then spend the afternoon in Dessau and Weimar, where the work of the Bauhaus is presented wonderfully. This is where Germany's avant-garde came to study, and their design would soon influence the world in the early part of last century. The contrast is unfathomable, one all curves and subtlety, the other brash, bold and in your face. Much of the original work of the Bauhaus is exhibited in their original university buildings, and the buildings are very much part of the exhibit. Returning to Erfurt, the evening is at your leisure and the streets offer a delightful place to walk without a map.
Day 7: Eisleben – The life and Times of Martin Luther
It's been some 500 years since the Reformation, and the atmosphere of Martin Luther's times continue to inhabit the streets of Eisleben. Splendid townhouses rise beside quaint churches; an old town square is shrouded in late-Gothic excess, and the sense of history is absolute. The home of the great Church reformer, and you start in the house where Martin Luther was born. A Luther statue stands beside the town hall as you enter the small church where he was baptized before visiting the original Luther pulpit in St. Andrew's Church. St. Anne's Church is equally inspiring, the biblical scenes carved into stone as they rove around the church – nowhere else in Europe has these stone-carved murals. Following your guided tour, you're free to soak up the atmosphere of the town and continue the submersion in another era.
Onwards to Wittenberg, where Luther's grave is found along with Castle Church, where he nailed his 95 theses to the door, the single most poignant moment in the split from the Catholic church. Driving north, spend the day in Potsdam, where the Prussian state stands in its untouched glory. Tree-lined avenues rise to expansive stately homes, landscaped parks weave behind red brick houses and marble palaces; every angle induces a sense of regal grandeur. Some 150 buildings make up the World Heritage area, each as glamorous as the last.
Wander through Babelsberg Park and into the Palace, admiring the portraits that hang along corridors as sentinels from the past. On the lakeshore of Heiliger See, explore the shimmering contours of the Marble Palace, then onwards to the grand steps that lead up to Palace Sanssouci, the oldest of the sites here. Potsdam was the home of the Prussian monarchy, and the area reflects an iconic image of old-world Europe, the nouveau art standing amongst wonderfully green gardens, it is a place that can hold you captive for days. Explore at leisure and then it's a short journey across to Berlin, where your hotel is just a two-minute walk from another great memoir to neoclassical design: Brandenburg Gate.
Day 9: Berlin – Walking Across the Heritage of Berlin
Berlin's heritage is world famous; the city is doused in both World Heritage design and the scars of conflicts past. Flicker between the two realms and join the dots of Europe's wars with the fables of the city's development. Start in the past with the Berlin Museum Island, which houses an exquisite set of treasures from the last 6,000 years. Artistic treasures line the Museum of the Ancient World (1830) while the Old National Gallery (1876) presents an evocative collection of Prussian art. The New Museum (1859) has been refurbished, uniting historical gems once separated by war. A promenade leads between these stunning 19th-century galleries, and your guide will pick out their most important pieces.
Now onto the divide, the mark of the Berlin War still visible beneath your feet as you journey through the heart of the city. Near Checkpoint Charlie, there's a resonant section of the wall left in its original state where you can feel the eeriness of the time. Berlin, however, is not a city that should be defined by its conflict and separation. For many centuries, innovative methods brought the people together. The World Heritage Berlin Modernism Housing Estates are a prime symbol of this, some of the world's first examples of building reform that assisted the working classes. Like so many destinations on this itinerary, it's a UNESCO site that radiates surprise. Your evening is free in the city and the pedestrianized area around Brandenburg Gate makes for a leisurely dinner and a ride by horse and chariot.