Friends, family, partners or pets: Weekends away with the ones you love
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In this issue…
Sites with spectacular views • An eco-friendly treehouse • Dog-friendly luxury hotel in Berlin • What to do in winter on the island of Sylt • Gerhard Richter exhibition in Dresden • Berlin International Film Festival…
It’s tricky to compose a newsletter full of seasonally-appropriate travel suggestions without addressing the great big February 14th elephant in the room. What follows, however, are ideas to fit all sorts of bills: a solo Sunday stroll, a place to gather for a weekend with friends, or the perfect spot for a wild romantic gesture. Here's a selection of ideas for day trips and getaways whether you’re embracing Valentine’s and/or Galentine’s or ignoring them both altogether.
Please check individual sites and destinations for up-to-date COVID-19 regulations.
Destination Picks: Impressive sites with spectacular views
The Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
Those who love a good city view should make a beeline for Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie (Elbe Philharmonic Hall), which just turned five last month. The Elphi, as it’s affectionately known, is home not just to three concert halls, but also restaurants, bars, a five-star hotel and 45 private apartments, and it’s topped by a public viewing platform that affords a 360° view of the city. Travelling up to the plaza via the 82-metre-long, curved escalator decorated with shining discs is an experience in itself. (It’s also fully accessible via lifts.) There’s a huge window on the 6th floor that offers a view down the Elbe River towards the docks and harbour; another, shorter escalator ride takes visitors up to the 8th floor, where you can walk around the outer plaza and take in magnificent views of the city. You’ll need to book a ticket (2€ per person) and a timeslot in advance.
How to get there: Information on how to reach the Elbphilharmonie using public transport can be found at elbphilharmonie.de.
Bastei Bridge, Saxon Switzerland
The Bastei Bridge and the 194-metre-high rock formation on which it’s built (pictured top) have been drawing tourists to the Saxon Switzerland National Park, on Germany’s border with the Czech Republic, for more than 200 years. The towering rocks, which were formed by water erosion around a million years ago, are connected by a sandstone bridge that offers far-reaching views of the surrounding mountains, the Elbe River and Koenigstein Fortress. As you might expect, things do get busy here, but the bridge has no opening or closing times, so to avoid the crowds, head there first thing or towards the end of the day.
How to get there: Take the S1 train from Dresden in the direction of Bad Schandau, alighting at Kurort Rathen railway station, hop on the ferry to cross the river and follow the well-marked trail to Bastei.
Niederwald Monument, Rheingau
The circular Germania hiking trail leads walkers on a gentle 5km loop from charming (and in summer, very touristy) Rüdesheim to the 38-metre-high Niederwald monument, which commemorates the foundation of the German empire in 1871 after the end of the Franco-Prussian war. Standing next to the imposing statue of Germania with her sword and crown, you can enjoy panoramic views of Rüdesheim’s vineyards sloping down to the Rhine River - and far beyond.
How to get there: A cable car also runs to the monument from March-October. Trains to Rüdesheim am Rhein railway station run regularly between Frankfurt and Neuwied. Visit rheingaulinie.de for details.
Accommodation Picks: Splashing out for Valentine’s (or Galentine’s)(or just for yourself)
Germany Travel Picks supports sustainable overnight accommodation and independent and family-run businesses. Please check individual websites for up-to-date COVID-19 regulations.
If you’re looking to go away over the second weekend in February, whether to spend time with friends, spoil a partner or simply celebrate your own fabulous self, these three stylish places to stay will make for a very special treat.
Remote Eco Treehouse
The minimalistic treehouses at Resort Baumgeflüster in Ammerland, a very flat region 70km from the North Sea cost known for its large number of charming windmills, are surrounded by forest prime both for hiking and spotting wildlife such as pheasants, rabbits and deer. The treehouses feature beds equipped with Egyptian cotton sheets, designer bathrooms with underfloor heating, and a well-stocked pantry for self-catered meals. You can also order a breakfast picnic to be delivered - think filter coffee or East Frisian tea with sugar and cream, freshly-baked bread rolls and homemade jams (from 7,50€ per person).
Treehouses from 255€ per night for one or two people; up to two additional guests can be added at an extra cost (see website for details). For further information and to book visit baumgefluester.com.
Romantic Alpine Hideaway
The Klosterhof Alpine Hideaway & Spa is a 4-star, family-run wellness hotel in a secluded location just outside the spa town of Bad Reichenhall in the Bavarian Alps. There are endless hiking options right on the hotel’s doorstep, as well as the possibility to go rock climbing or skiing on nearby Predigtstuhl Mountain (easily reachable via the world’s oldest cable car). After a bracing day out, head to the spa for a full body massage (pregnancy massages also available), a turn in the Finnish panorama sauna or a dip in the year-round heated outdoor pool. Some of the stylish lofts and suites have private whirlpools and balconies with gorgeous valley views.
How to get there: Trains run every hour from Munich to Bayerisch Gmain train station, to/from where the hotel is happy to arrange a transfer.
Double rooms from 286€ per night. The Romantic Weekend package, which includes a candlelit dinner and a private couples floating session in the saltwater pool, starts at € 505 per person for three nights. Further information and booking at klosterhof.de or book your stay via booking.com.
Sumptuous City Stay
The Orania.Berlin hotel is located in a very grand historic building surrounded by the buzzing restaurants, clubs and bars of the German capital’s Kreuzberg district. The hotel’s understated luxury, contemporary style and relaxed atmosphere, however, are in stark contrast with the busy, lively streets outside. Rooms are stylish and dog friendly, their furnishings sumptuous, enormous windows soundproofed and en-suite bathrooms stocked with organic bath products. If you don’t want to head out for dinner, you’re in luck: the restaurant here is excellent, and the lounge - complete with open fire and Steinway piano for live jazz sessions - is a cosy spot for a nightcap.
How to get there: The Orania.Berlin is a five-minute walk from Kottbusser Tor train station. From there, it’s less than a 20-minute journey to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (main train station). Plan your route at bvg.de.
Double rooms from 170€ per night. Dog fee 50€ (no fee for service dogs); pet beds, food/water bowls, toys and waste bags available. Further information and booking at orania.berlin, or book your stay at booking.com.
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A Local’s Picks: Winter on the island of Sylt
Jordan Wagner has lived in Germany - first Heidelberg, then Hamburg and now Kiel - for eight years. Having grown up by Lake Michigan in the USA, she feels right at home on the Baltic Sea.
Known for its thatched homes, quaint villages, delicious seafood and scenic views, Sylt is Germany’s chicest island and a veritable piece of paradise in the North Sea. Unfortunately, the island is endangered due to land loss and shifting dunes, but there are efforts in place to combat this including continual dredging and depositing of sand. It’s easy to reach the island by train and there is an extensive bus system throughout the island connecting the various villages.
❈ Pick up the best coffee on the island from Kaffeerösterei Sylt. The fine aroma of espresso is intense and delectable the minute you walk into the cafe in the village of Rantum, and the roastery prides itself on its green coffees, sustainable measures and variety of roasting profiles.
❈ If you’re feeling brave, take a winter plunge into the North Sea! There are many health benefits to a cold-water plunge and an abundance of beaches across the entire island to partake in one. In the summer months, there are also a plethora of water sports and lessons available including kitesurfing, surfing, and standup paddle boarding.
❈ Enjoy an afternoon tea at the family-run Kleine Teestube. While the inside of the tea room is a bit kitschy, it perfectly embodies the spirit of this brick building in the village of Keitum. They offer a large assortment of loose leaf teas to which their Frisian waffles make for a wonderful accompaniment on a cold day.
❈ To the east of Sylt is the Wadden Sea, which is not only a national park that spans the coast from Denmark to the Netherlands, but was also designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 due to its unique biodiversity. It’s highly recommended that you use a guide when exploring the Wadden Sea - the tides are unpredictable and change quickly. Local company Watt & Meer organises public and private tours.
❈ Head to the Ellenbogen (pictured), the northernmost point of Sylt - and Germany! -to watch the sun set over the sand dunes, beaches, and two lighthouses. Make sure to only walk on marked pathways - walking on the dunes can quickly damage them.
❈ After spending the day outside in the cold, warm up with a meal made with regional ingredients at the Fährhaus Sylt Hotel’s Käpt’n Selmer Stube. This 5-star hotel and restaurant used to be the starting or ending point of journeys to and from Sylt when it was only possible to travel by ferry.
For a detailed itinerary, check out Jordan's weekend guide to Sylt. You can follow Jordan’s adventures on her Northern Germany blog Hamburg and Beyond, European travel blog Wayfaring With Wagner, or her Instagram account.
Exhibitions and events: Opening in February!
• 120 works from Berlin painter and graphic artist Max Liebermann will be displayed alongside those by some of his colleagues in the I. MAX LIEBERMANN. A EUROPEAN ARTIST exhibition. Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, 03 February - 08 May 2022
• Gerhard Richter. Portraits. Glass. Abstractions is an exhibition to mark the Dresden-born artist’s 90th birthday. Focusing on the themes named in the title, the 40 works have been selected by Richter himself. Albertinum, Dresden, 05 February - 01 May 2022
• The 72nd Berlin International Film Festival is taking place from 10 - 20 February. The programme, including screenings, events, venues and times, is being published online today (01 February); advance ticket sales begin on 07 February at 10:00.
You might also be interested in...
The bathtub of Berlin: soaking it up on Germany’s sunniest island • Rick Steves gets naked in Baden Baden • From the Pergamon to the Bode, Berlin's best museums tell the story of Germany's history
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