Nuremberg – The big little village

The second largest city in southern Germany (behind Munich) and a burgeoning tourist destination it may be, but a bustling metropolis it most certainly isn’t.

Brimming with picturesque markets, squares and narrow cobbled streets, a leasurely walk through the city centre will take you all of 30 minutes before you reach one of Nuremberg’s major landmarks – Berg Castle, one of the most important castles in the history of the German Empire.

Located at the top of a back-breaking hill, the castle offers splendid views of the city and, conveniently for budget travellers, there is a clean and friendly youth hostel on its doorstep.

Other noted attractions include Kaiserburg, the Albrecht Durer Haus, and the bustling Hauptmarkt – the city’s main market, located in Marienplatz square, home also to the delightful Schoner Brunnen (‘Beautiful Fountain’).

The city also puts on great festivals, including the Christkindlesmarkt each Christmas, and the annual International Toy Fair.

Venture away from the centre, though, and the spectre of Nuremberg’s tainted past looms large.

The Zeppelin Stadium, next to the Messezentrum in the Nuremberg suburbs, is where Hitler held his infamous rallies and draws visitors all-year-round.

Drinkers’ paradise – Oktoberfest

The world’s most famous beer festival, Oktoberfest starts on 22 September for two weeks so it’s time to start planning your trip.

Beer lovers should have made their way to the Schottenhamel tent by high noon on September 22nd where the city’s lord mayor will tap the first keg of the festival’s beer.

Once the ceremonial opening is finished, the eagerly anticipated moment arrives when beer guzzlers from across the world will be able to sample some of Bavaria’s finest ales and allowed to quench their thirst at will.

It is common for visitors to arrive at around 09:00 to secure the best seats in full view of the beautiful waitresses decked out in full Bavarian wear so that their glasses can be refilled whenever required.

Prices range from 6.95 Euros and 7.50 Euros per litre and the beer swigging visitor can expect plenty of banter and frivolity as the traditional German bands get into full swing and drinkers bang their fists boisterously on the wooden tables.

The festival lasts for 16 days so book your flight to Munich as soon as you can to avoid missing out.

Cologne – Bikers, buildings and beer

Bikers will flock to Cologne this October as Germany’s fourth largest city is due to stage the Intermot International Motorcycle and Scooter Fair.

But Cologne has much more to offer than a collection of wannabe Hells Angels – it dates back to the Roman times and possesses some of the most striking architecture of central Europe.

The city also has a very young vibrant population and is famed for its remarkable bar to person ratio, said to be the highest in the country.

Cologne, known as Koln by the locals, is the major transport hub of west Germany with an international airport just ten miles south-east of the city and a good road network provides tourists with easy access to its centre. The city’s S-bahn, the local railway, runs all day and trains take approximately 15 minutes to reach the Hauptbahnhof, or the central station.

However, the intrepid biker will probably wish to surge through the channel tunnel and along Europe’s highway on his steel horse with the open road at his mercy, as he makes his way to the world renowned Intermot fair.

This year’s show, taking place from October 3rd to 7th, is hosted inside a 120,000 sq m newly-furbished arena with a 75,000 sq m outdoor area attached.

Visitors will have the chance to view offerings from hundreds of motorcycle and accessory manufacturers as well as watch and participate in a number of support events including stunt shows, enduro courses, quad riding, scooter races and a trails course.

In addition, BMW Motorrad factory rider Chris Pfeiffer will showcase his vast array of tricks to a large audience.

But for the more retiring tourist, Cologne’s famous cathedral will have the most cultural gravity. A building which dominates the city’s skyline and now a UNESCO world heritage site, it took 632 years to be fully completed and is now Germany’s most popular tourist attraction with 6.5 million people entering every year.

Cologne also boasts 12 Roman churches that were built not long after the founding of the city in 50 AD. They are now fully restored after the destruction of World War II

But if annihilation of the intoxicative kind if what you are after, then you are advised to make your way to one of the city’s many bars, which will invariably be selling a ‘hoppy’ beer called Kolsch.

The locals take this brew very seriously indeed: it can only be served in a small, narrow glass called a Kolschstange which is less than half a pint. And the Kolsch Convention of 1985 states that the beer can only be brewed within a 20 mile radius of this bubbly and beautiful city.

Notes about the image in this article

Cologne, Groß St Martin at night – This image is subject to copyright. Please do not copy.