The Historic Highlights of Germany is a group of 17 different cities across the country, each of which has played an important role in national and international history over the years. These interesting destinations may not be the first places that come to mind when you think about a holiday to Germany but, as we’re about to prove, they are teeming with fascinating attractions. Here are a few sights that highlight why these cities have been chosen as Historic Highlights.
Augsburg can look back on over 2000 years of history, having been settled by the Romans in 15 BC. The city is famous for being the birthplace of Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang’s father) and the place where Rudolf Diesel built his eponymous engine in the 1890s. One of the most popular sights, though, is the Fuggerei, a town within a town and the largest social housing complex still in use today.
Created by Jakob Fugger in 1520, the apartments were built to help the people of Augsburg living in poverty. Back then, a year’s rent would cost just one Rheinischer Gulden (Rhineland Guilder) and, astonishingly, today’s residents still pay the equivalent (€0.88). To qualify to live within the Fuggerei you have to have lived in Augsburg for at least two years, be a committed Catholic and be impoverished without debt. Visitors can venture through the gates, which are still locked each evening, to view the complex and take a look around the display residence.
Osnabrück’s Town Hall Of The Peace Of Westphalia
Osnabrück, in the state of Lower-Saxony, is known for being the only city in Germany that’s in the middle of a national park. The lush TERRA.vita GeoPark is a World Heritage Site that’s home to dinosaur footprints and rocks dating back 300 million years.
Not quite stretching back that far, but undoubtedly a historic highlight, the late-gothic Town Hall was built in 1512. Its importance today stems from the fact that it was the setting for the signing of a treaty that helped end the Thirty Years’ War – one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. In fact, this was one of a series of treaties signed to bring about peace between the Holy Roman Empire and France, the Holy Roman Empire and Sweden, and the Dutch Republic and the Kingdom of Spain. Each year, children ride hobby horses through the streets before collecting a pretzel from the Mayor outside the Town Hall.
We could fill this entire blog post just with historic highlights from Heidelberg, such is the wealth of cultural attractions that the city has to offer. As well as being home to the oldest university in Germany and a favourite haunt of literary geniuses like Goethe and Mark Twain, the city is dominated by the ruins of its Renaissance castle.
First mentioned in 1225, the elaborate sandstone palace was built as a residence for the members of the County Palatine of the Rhine. The fact that it is now in a state of ruin can be attributed to a number of events. It was first damaged by the French during the War of the Grand Alliance and later, following some repairs, caught fire after being struck by lightning twice. What is left today is still a remarkable structure which gives you an idea of the initial scale of the building. The gardens, which were never completed, tell a story of beauty and impressive ambition.
European Hansemuseum, Lübeck
Having been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, it would be easy to recommend the entire Old Town of Lübeck as a historic highlight. As you wander through the winding alleyways and past a plethora of listed buildings, the sweet smell of marzipan fills the air. As this combines with the salty breeze that rushes in from the North Sea coast, a unique atmosphere is created in this beautiful city.
The best place to learn about the history of Lübeck, though, is at the European Hansemuseum. This attraction details the city’s status within the Hanseatic League, revealing stories of wealth and power brought about through trade. Through multimedia presentations, interactive exhibits and staged historic scenes, the museum not only recounts the League’s rise to power through religion and riches but also its demise and the myths surrounding this.
Charlemagne Route, Aachen
The city of Aachen laughs in the face of Augsburg’s 2000 years of history and points to 5000 years of its own that dates back to the late Neolithic period. A beautiful destination, flavoured by its famous Printen gingerbread biscuits, Aachen is where Emperor Charlemagne decided to build his Imperial residence and where Roman-German kings were crowned for nearly 600 years.
Having played such a key role in the city’s history, the best way to discover Aachen is by following a route dedicated to Charlemagne himself. As well as visiting the stunning cathedral where the coronations took place, you will also see the hottest thermal spring north of the Alps, which is thought to be the reason why people originally settled here, and the Town Hall – which used to form part of Charlemagne’s palace.
If you would like to visit any of the cities that are part of the Historic Highlights of Germany, we can tailor-make a holiday to your own requirements. As well as visiting them separately, we can also help you organise a trip which tours multiple cities in one area. Call our friendly team today on 0800 988 3369.