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castle set upon a hill

Where to Stay in Germany: Lodging Tips

SmarterTravel

With so many tempting possibilities, deciding where to stay in Germany can turn into a dilemma. Should you choose ultra-modern hotels or charm-filled historic properties? Should you dream away your nights at country inns, fairytale castles, or pampering spa resorts? Even if you’re on a budget, Germany’s lodging options include hotels, B&Bs, and hostels that are among Europe’s very best. Or, for a change of pace, you can spend a few days on a farm or a countryside vineyard. Can’t choose? The best plan may be to mix and match as you travel through the country, sampling some of Germany’s best accommodations.

Traditional Hotels in Germany

Germany uses the international rating system of stars for hotels, from modest one-stars to five-star luxury. In one- and two-star hotels, you’ll find smaller rooms and perhaps shared bathrooms. From three stars up, hotels will have an onsite restaurant, luggage service, private bathrooms, and a reception desk that stays open at least 12 hours of each day. At four- and five-star hotels, you’ll enjoy room service and plenty of amenities, including robes and washcloths.

German lodging standards are very high, and you can generally expect clean and comfortable rooms with breakfast included. Better hotels may serve a lavish morning buffet that includes eggs, meats, yogurt, fruits, and cheese. Many hotels in all price ranges have Wi-Fi, though sometimes for a fee.

Europeans still tend to smoke more cigarettes than Americans do, so if you’re sensitive to smoke, it’s worth requesting a nonsmoking room or floor when you make your reservation. Be aware that in a climate where air conditioning is seldom necessary, many older hotels may not have it. If you are planning a summer trip, be sure to ask.

Keep a copy of your reservation confirmation with you to make sure the promised rate is honored. Always check hotel sites directly for specials and deals, such as low weekend rates in cities when business travelers go home. During major events like Munich’s Oktoberfest or the Frankfurt Book Fair, rooms are scarce and rates can double or even triple. You can also find great deals on Germany hotels via TripAdvisor and Hotels.com.

Germany’s Romantik Hotels

While star ratings tell you about amenities, they do not measure charm, and many older European hotels have great appeal. Among the most enjoyable places to stay in Germany are the aptly named Romantik Hotels, found in Germany’s major cities as well as in its smaller towns. The hotels in this group are all in historic buildings and owner-managed.

Another romantic experience is to choose a schlosshotel, or castle converted into a hotel. Germany has more of these special accommodations than anywhere else in Europe. You can find many of them listed at TripAdvisor, and at a site called Castle and Palace Hotels.

Note that some of Germany’s older hotels do not have elevators, so if stairs are a problem for you, make sure to request a room on the ground floor.

Germany’s Country Hotels

The German countryside has so much beauty and so many attractions that it is well worth your time to plan part of your itinerary in Germany away from the cities. This will give you the chance to experience delightful places to stay such as gasthofs and gasthauses, atmospheric country inns that also serve good local food.

For a different experience, spend time at a countryside bauernhof, a farm that offers rooms for travelers. These are great fun for families, especially for city dwellers. You can also stay amid scenic vineyards at a winzerhof, a winery guesthouse. A site called LandReise is an excellent source for these types of lodgings (though it’s only in German; use the Chrome browser for translation). Bavaria alone boasts more than 1,000 farm stay listings, along with its own association and website to help find them: Farm-Holidays.com.

Germany’s Spa Hotels

Ever since Roman times, visitors have been coming to Germany to “take the waters” in health spas surrounded by hot mineral springs said to have healing properties. “Bad” means bath, and hotels in cities such as Bad Reichenhall, Wiesbaden, and chic Baden-Baden share access to the coveted spa waters. Many of these cities also have diversions like casinos and fine eateries. Hotels vary from modest to super-luxurious. Check listings in each town to make your choice, as well as Booking.com.

Germany’s Budget Hotels, B&Bs, and Homestays

For those who are looking for a well-priced hotel in Germany, booking services like Expedia and Hotels.com offer good values in all price categories. Another good source is Best Western. The chain’s listings in Europe are not motels as they are in some parts of the U.S., but rather small hotels that have been inspected and are reliable. If you’re willing to stay outside the city center and take public transportation to get around, you can often find lower rates in better hotels. Just be sure that quick connections are near the hotel.

Germany has its full share of economical bed and breakfast choices, as well. B&Bs, also known as pensions, may be small hotels, but most often, they’re private homes with live-in hosts. They are a far more personal experience than staying in a hotel. The best way to find listings is by contacting the local tourist offices in the areas you plan to visit. You can also find listings at international online services such as BBOnline, BnBFinderBedandBreakfast.com or, of course, Airbnb.

At the lower end of the lodgings scale in Germany are zimmer, meaning simply “rooms,” in private houses, offered by families that have a spare bedroom or two. These can be especially handy if you’re looking for an overnight while touring the country by car. Watch for signs that say “Zimmerfrei” (room available), check with the local tourist office for locations, or try Homestay.com.

Vacation Rentals in Germany

Apartment and home rentals provide more spacious quarters and can be less expensive than booking multiple hotel rooms when traveling with family or a group of friends. The agencies and websites that specialize in offering these types of properties have listings ranging from studios in the city to villas in the country. Among the sources to try are AirbnbHomeAway, and TripAdvisor’s vacation rentals page.

Ask for references or read reviews from people who have previously rented the property that you’re considering. Be sure that someone will be on call to help in case of emergency, like a lost key or a plumbing problem. If you’re hungry for more information before making your reservation, read up about what you need to know about booking a vacation rental.

If you’re planning to stay in Germany for a week or longer, you could consider a house swap. A German family might be delighted to trade their home or apartment for yours, saving each of you a lot of money. Specialized agencies such as HomeExchange or Intervac have listings all over the world, including many in Germany. As with rentals, references from others who have stayed in the property are invaluable. Not quite sure how to arrange this type of accommodation? Read more about how to set up a home exchange.

Hostels in Germany

Germany helped pioneer the idea of youth hostels, and today has more than 500 hostel properties that are among Europe’s most modern. While they still offer the bunk rooms that are popular with thrifty students, many hostels also offer private double rooms and family-style rooms that appeal to budget-conscious older travelers. Rates are modest and often include breakfast.

The best hostels book up fast, so do reserve well in advance. Find listings at the German Youth Hostel Association, or via Hostelling International, an organization that covers countries around the world. You may also want to consider investing in a Hostelling International membership, as this will allow you to stay worldwide at deeply discounted rates.

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–original research and reporting by Eleanor Berman

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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