drive alive holidays
Driving holidays in Europe - Plan your self-drive motoring holiday

Tourist information for eastern Germany:

East Germany is now emerging from the austerity of its isolation during the Cold War and revealing its many treasures as a tourist region. As well as some superb castles and palaces set amongst spectacular scenery, the great cities of Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden are complemented by numerous beautifully preserved medieval towns. The scenery varies from the holiday resorts and flat plains in the north through the lovely central lakes to the almost chocolate box beauty of the Harz mountains and the wilder grandeur of the Zittau range in the south.

The north of eastern Germany borders the Baltic Sea and is a very popular summer holiday destination, as is the large island of Rugen. The town of Wismar makes a good base to explore the coast and has a beautiful medieval centre. The main seaside resorts - Bad Doberan, Heiligendamm and Kuhlungsborn - are linked by a scenic narrow gauge railway. Eastwards from the ferry port of Rostock the coast becomes more rugged, and sand dunes abound. Stay in lovely Straslund and take a day-trip or longer to popular Rugen, an island with beautiful sandy beaches, forests, imposing chalk cliffs, rolling hills and woods. The holiday island of Usedom has some excellent beaches.

In the west of the northern province of Mecklenburg is the ancient city of Schwerin, beautifully situated among ten lakes. From here, explore the Mecklenburg Lake District, a lovely and largely undiscovered area of rolling farmland amongst 650 lakes, teeming with wildlife.

Map of East Germany

Berlin is one of the essential tourist destinations of the world. There's something for everyone; historic monuments, stunning architecture, major museums and galleries, concert halls and venues galore, lovely parks, sophisticated shops, wonderful restaurants, excellent bars, a famously lively nightlife. Add to this its recent history as a divided city and its symbolic importance as the place where the Wall fell, and Berlin is truly a city worth travelling to. Arm yourself with a good guide and enjoy yourself. If you've got the time visit the nearby town of Potsdam, with its superb formal gardens and palaces. 50 kms further west is Brandenburg, enjoying a lovely position on three islands and boasting some fine old buildings. The countryside for 100 or so kms to the north and south east of Berlin is a beautiful land of lake-strewn forests, and is an added bonus when you visit this part of Germany.

In the province of Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg has one of the finest churches in Germany, as well as other worthwhile sights. The church at Havelberg, an inland fishing port, contains a stunning choir screen, and the crooked streets of the old town give glimpses of the riverfront. Be sure to visit Wittenberg and its famous university where Martin Luther lectured. See the beautiful parkland, palace and lakes at Worlitz. Dessau's fame is as the birthplace of Bauhaus architecture, and many examples are scattered throughout the town. The main tourist draw in the province is the Harz mountains in the south-west, a beautiful region of wooded slopes, verdant valleys and spectacularly well-preserved old towns such as Halberstatdt, Quedlinburg, Blankenberg, Wernigerode and Stolberg. The whole area is served by narrow gauge railways, and is superb for walking amid stunning scenery, and in the winter you can try the skiing.

The province of Thuringia is largely forested, and the Thuringian Forest in the south-west offers some of the finest walking in Germany. Stay in either Friedrichroda or Schmalkalden and take the numerous marked trails for all levels, but none too strenuous. The main city of Thuringia, Weimar, is famous for the role it has played as a centre of artistic and cultural excellence, and is particularly associated with Schiller and Goethe. A sad reminder of the Nazi past is the concentration camp at Buchenwald, outside the town. In the north-west of the province are the Kyffhauser mountains, largely uninhabited but with excellent and numerous marked trails. Stay at the small spa town of Bad Frankenhausen.

Leipzig is perhaps the livliest city in Saxony and a famous cultural centre. To the south is the town of Colditz of war-time fame, and the pretty valley which leads to Zwickau via the picturesque towns of Rochlitz, Wechselburg and Rochsburg. Zwickau itself retains an interesting medieval centre. Dresden, although horribly bombed in the last war, has enough left of its former glory to make it well worth visiting, especially the Zwinger Palace, the Semperbau (with its galleries of old masters equal to the world's best), the Hofkirche, the Albertinum and, on the outskirts the twin palaces of Schloss Pillnitz. 25 kms north-west is Meissen, home of Dresden china, with an impressive castle and church. South of Dresden is Saxon Switzerland, where the Elbe cuts its way through dense woods and rocky crags - excellent walking country centred on Bad Schandau. The Zittau mountains in the east are wild, wooded and rocky.

Map of East Germany