Off the beaten path: Day trips to some of Germany’s hidden gems

You’ve likely been to the Champs-Élysées in Paris or seen the cathedrals at Strasbourg and Cologne. You’ve surely been able to stand up close beside Big Ben in London and all those were indeed fabulous trips for you and your family. But have you ever seen the world’s tallest cathedral spire or looked through the world’s oldest piece of stained glass? Have you sought out some less well-known destinations during your stay here in Germany?

Photo by Pajor Pawel /

Germany has so much to offer and many exciting things close to us get overshadowed by all the must-do touristy trips we end up taking during our time here. Why not check out the following spots? All are easily accessible by autobahn, offer many lodging opportunities, and are fairly inexpensive.

Have you ever been to Bamberg? It’s a small town close to Nuremberg where the long-preserved St. Michel’s (Michelsberg) Monastery is currently undergoing improvements. Parts or all of the church are visible from the outside but entrance might not be available depending on work schedules. Tap into a smoked beer or other refreshments at one of the old town pubs and decide what else suits your fancy. Bamberg, with its beer pubs, is also home to the often-overlooked Altenburg castle, several other free or inexpensive cultural buildings, and lots of baroque architecture that gives an old-world feel to the city. Bamberg is less than 60 kilometers from Nuremberg, the site of the post-World War II criminal trials and makes for another destination while you are in the area.

Closer to home here in the KMC, the Voelklinger Iron Works tour near Saarbruecken is time well spent. The compound gives a glimpse to what life was like as this region evolved away from an agrarian dependence and toward the Industrial Revolution. While there are older sites of this kind, the Voelklinger Works is surely the most well maintained because it was in operation until the 1980s.

Photo by Sergey Dzyuba /

The world’s oldest examples of stained glass date back to the 11th century and can be found inside the Augsburg Cathedral in southern Germany, just above Munich. These “Prophet Windows” are extraordinary to glimpse and give the visitor a sense of time and place, considering all the people who have come and gone through those halls since medieval times.

Augsburg also offers the Fuggerei, a housing estate created by fabled Jakob the Rich and a community unto itself. Tour the maze of apartments and other dwellings that became a centerpiece for an affordable living while all properties around it routinely escalated in price. Afterwards, visit the Riegele craft beer brewery. Family-owned for almost 200 years and with history stretching back even further, Riegele is a place to relax and take inventory of locally created as well as select imported beers that are popular in the region.

The Gothic-themed town of Regensburg is also an hour from Nuremberg and rests peacefully on two sides of the Danube River. Many buildings and monuments in and around the city date back hundreds of years and the area has been given UNESCO Heritage status. The town resembles Kaiserslautern in that it has a university and population of over 150,000 but there is much more of a homey, laid-back feel to this city and the ones adjacent to it.

While in Regensburg, a memorable stopping point is the Historische Wurstkuchl. This is a sausage-themed restaurant that has been serving the regional delicacies for nearly 900 years. Ask the counter person for a suggestion of a well-known meaty menu item and several senf (mustard) offerings are sure to pique your tastebuds.

Also, check out Neupfarrplatz — an underground discovery point boasting exhibits from Roman artifacts to war bunker hideaways.