Germany is the eighth-most-visited country in the world, with a total of 407.26 million overnights during 2012.
This number includes 68.83 million nights by foreign visitors, the majority of foreign tourists in 2009 coming from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
Additionally, more than 30% of Germans spend their holiday in their own country.
According to Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Reports, Germany is ranked 3 out of 136 countries in the 2017 report and is rated as one of the safest travel destinations worldwide.
In 2012, over 30.4 million international tourists arrived in Germany, bringing over US$38 billion in global tourism receipts to the country.
Domestic and international travel and tourism combined directly to contribute over EUR43.2 billion to the German GDP.
Including indirect and induced impacts, the industry contributes 4.5% of German GDP and supports 2 million jobs (4.8% of total employment).
The ITB Berlin is the world’s leading tourism trade fair.
Tourism in Germany is primarily driven by three factors: German culture, outdoor activities and the countryside, and German cities.
The history of tourism in Germany goes back to cities and landscapes being visited for education and recreation.
From the late 18th century onwards, cities like Dresden, Munich, Weimar, and Berlin were major stops on a European Grand tour.
Spas and Seaside resorts on the North and Baltic Sea (e.g., Rugia and Usedom islands, Heiligendamm, the islands Norderney and Sylt) particularly developed during the 19th and early 20th century, as major train routes connected seaside spas to urban centers.
An extensive bathing and recreation industry materialized in Germany around 1900. At rivers and close to natural landscapes (along the Middle Rhine valley and in Saxon Switzerland, for example), many health spas, hotels, and recreational facilities have been built since the 19th century.
Since World War II, tourism has expanded greatly, as many tourists visit Germany to experience a sense of European history and the diverse German landscape.
The country features 14 national parks, including the Jasmund National Park, the Vorpommern Lagoon Area National Park, the Müritz National Park, the Wadden Sea National Parks, the Harz National Park, the Hainich National Park, the Saxon Switzerland National Park, the Bavarian Forest National Park, and the Berchtesgaden National Park.
In addition, there are 14 Biosphere Reserves, as well as 98 nature parks.
The countryside has a religious aura, while the bigger cities exhibit both a modern and classical feel.
It is common for small and medium-sized cities to retain their historical appearance and have old towns, or Altstadt in German, with significant architectural heritage.
The table below shows the distribution of national and international visitor nights spent in each of the sixteen states of Germany in 2017.
Germany overall had 178.23 million visitor nights in 2017, of which 37.45 million were foreign guests (21.01 percent).
With 94.3 million nights spent in hotels, hostels, or clinics, Bavaria has the most visitors.
With 18.472 nights per 1.000 inhabitants, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has the highest density of tourists per population (German median: 5.568 nights per 1.000 people).
Germany’s official body for tourism is the German National Tourist Board (GNTB), represented worldwide by National Tourist Offices in 29 countries.
Surveys by the GNTB include perceptions and reasons for holidaying in Germany, which are as follows: culture (75%), outdoors/countryside (59%), cities (59%), cleanliness (47%), security (41%), modernity (36%), good hotels (35%), good gastronomy/cuisine (34%), good accessibility (30%), cosmopolitanism/hospitality (27%), good shopping opportunities (21%), exciting nightlife (17%) and good price/performance ratio (10%) (multiple answers were possible).
Countryside of Germany
About 242 million nights, or two-thirds of all nights spent in hotels in Germany, are spent in spa towns.
Germany is well known for its health tourism. Many spa towns have been established at a hot spring, offering convalescence (German: Kur) or preventive care using mineral water and other spa treatment.
Spa towns and seaside resorts carry official designations such as Mineral and mud spas (Mineral- und Moorbäder), Healthy climate resorts (Heilklimatische Kurorte), Kneipp cure resorts (Kneippkurorte = water therapy resorts), Seaside resorts (Seebäder), Climatic spas (Luftkurorte), and Recreation resorts (Erholungsorte).
The largest and most well known resorts also have casinos, most notably at Bad Wiessee, Baden-Baden (Kurhaus), Wiesbaden (Kurhaus), Aachen, Travemünde and Westerland (Kurhaus).
Germany’s most visited tourist regions are the East Frisian and the North Frisian Islands, the Baltic Sea coasts of Holstein, Mecklenburg and Vorpommern, the Rhine Valley, the Bavarian, and the Bavarian Black Forest, and the Bavarian Alps.
These are some of the other popular regions:
• in the North: Usedom, Holstein Switzerland, the Lüneburg Heath, Harz and Mecklenburg Lake District
• in the West: Teutoburg Forest, Sauerland, Eifel and the Moselle Valley
• in the East: Saxon Switzerland, Thüringer Wald, Erzgebirge and the Elbe Valley
• in the South: Taunus, Spessart, Rhön, Odenwald and Allgäu.
Theme routes in Germany
To help visitors learn about a specific region and its scenic or cultural qualities, local and regional governments have developed theme routes since the 1930s.
Other popular German theme routes include parts of the European Route of Brick Gothic and European Route of Industrial Heritage, the Harz-Heide Road, Bertha Benz Memorial Route, and Bergstrasse.
Germany’s main winter sports regions are the Bavarian Alps and the Northern Limestone Alps and the Ore Mountains, Harz Mountains, Fichtel Mountains, and Bavarian Forest within the Central Uplands.
First-class winter sports infrastructure is available for alpine skiing and snowboarding, bobsledding, and cross-country skiing.
In most regions, winter sports are limited to the winter months, November to February.
During the Advent season, many German towns and cities host Christmas markets.
In terms of numbers of overnight stays, travel to the twelve largest cities in Germany doubled between 1995 and 2005, the largest increase of any travel destination.
A major driver for this increase has been the growth of cultural tourism, often in conjunction with educational or business travel.
Consequently, the provision and supply of more and higher standards of cultural, entertainment, hospitality, gastronomic, and retail services also attract more international guests.
Berlin has a yearly total of about 135 million day visitors, putting it in third place among the most-visited city destinations in the European Union.
Berlin had 781 hotels with over 125,000 beds in June 2012. The city recorded 20.8 million overnight hotel stays and 9.1 million hotel guests in 2010.
In the first half of 2012, there was an increase of over 10% compared to the same period the year before.
In 2007, more than 3,985,105 visitors with 7,402,423 overnight stays visited the city.
With more than 175,000 full-time employees and revenues of €9.3 billion, the tourism industry in the Hamburg Metropolitan Area is a major economic force.
Hamburg has one of the fastest-growing tourism industries in Germany.
From 2001 to 2007, the overnight stays in the city increased by 55.2% (Berlin +52.7%, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania +33%).
A typical Hamburg visit includes a tour of the city hall and the grand church St.
Michaelis (called the Michel), and visiting the old warehouse district (Speicherstadt) and the harbor promenade (Landungsbrücken).
Sightseeing buses connect these points of interest.
As Hamburg is one of the world’s largest harbors, visitors take one of the harbor and canal boat tours (Große Hafenrundfahrt, Fleetfahrt), which start from the Landungsbrücken.
Major destinations also include museums.
The area of Reeperbahn in the quarter of St. Pauli is Europe’s largest red-light district and home to strip clubs, brothels, bars, and nightclubs.
The Beatles had stints on the Reeperbahn early in their careers.
Others prefer the laid-back neighborhood of Schanze with street cafés or a barbecue on one of the beaches along the river Elbe.
Hamburg’s famous zoo, the Tierpark Hagenbeck, was founded in 1907 by Carl Hagenbeck as the first zoo with moated, barless enclosures.
Many of the international exhibitions in Germany are industry leaders or trend-setters. The country has some of the world’s largest fairgrounds.
Thousands of national and international trade fairs, conventions, and congresses are held in Germany annually.
In 2008, 10.3 million people visited the 150 largest trade fairs alone.
More than half of these visitors come from abroad, more than one-third from countries outside Europe.
The German Tourism Association (Deutscher Tourismusverband) irregularly publishes statistics on the most visited landmarks.
With an average of over 6 million visitors entering Cologne Cathedral per year, the cathedral is Germany’s most visited landmark.
Second and third place respectively go to the Reichstag building in Berlin and the Hofbräuhaus in Munich.
Other much visited architectural landmarks include the Drosselgasse in Rüdesheim (3.0m), the medieval old towns of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (2.5m), Regensburg (2.0m), Frauenkirche in Dresden (2.5m), Bad Münstereifel (2m), the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and the Holsten Gate in Lübeck 1.