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An Architecture Lover’s Dream Tour Through Germany’s UNESCO Sites and Beyond

From rococo and baroque facades in Lübeck to Bauhaus in Weimar and Le Corbusier’s modernist neighborhood outside Stuttgart, Germany has a rich architectural history.

A birds-eye view of cars driving along the roads at night in Lübeck, Germany

Lübeck’s history as a busy Baltic port brought wealth and an array of extraordinary architectural styles to the UNESCO-recognized Hanseatic city

©Martin Bülow

Located in the heart of Europe, between the mountains and the sea, Germany has played host to a plethora of cultures that each left an indelible mark on the art and aesthetics of the country. Perhaps the most immediate way to see that is through architecture found throughout the country that will broaden your vision of what Germany is and has been while providing a wealth of artistic inspiration. From medieval monasteries to modernist monoliths, an expansive range of building styles reflect the sensibilities of the time and continue to influence the field of architecture internationally even today.

Lübeck’s city center

This influence is particularly evident in Lübeck, a stunning port city in the northern Baltic that’s a bejeweled remnant of the Hanseatic League. With its UNESCO-recognized city center, Lübeck hosts captivating centuries-old structures, each bearing the hallmarks of the era in which they were constructed. The remarkably well-kept rococo and baroque facades reveal the town’s former wealth, something which was not always a given. One siege of the city gave rise to the almond delicacy marzipan after residents were said to have used it to stave off starvation. Strolling its narrow cobblestoned streets can feel almost like stepping into a period movie (Thomas Fontane’s Effi Briest was filmed here), making for a picturesque introduction to Germany’s rich heritage.

Berlin’s architecture

You can’t truly explore German architecture without heading to the capital of eclectic building styles, Berlin. With its divided history, Berlin offers numerous examples of building styles, from the Soviet Brutalist Plattenbau near the iconic TV Tower at Alexanderplatz and social modernism of the former East to the pre-war Gründerzeit gems in western neighborhoods like Friedenau and Schöneberg.

An indoor spa and pool shaped like conjoined bubbles and sculpture on the ceiling with a matching shape at the Waldorf Astoria Berlin, Germany

Relax inside the Waldorf Astoria Berlin, with its distinctive spa and pool

Courtesy of Hilton

To stay in an architecturally significant building itself, book the Waldorf Astoria Berlin, an art deco masterpiece in the heart of the city’s shopping district, Ku’damm. The property’s unique shell-shaped pool and allegiance to art deco interiors channel the roaring ‘20s while magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows provide stunning views of the city.

Get a glimpse into life during the DDR at the center of it all in the Hampton by Hilton Berlin City Centre Alexanderplatz or if you prefer something a bit further afield, opt for the Hampton by Hilton Berlin City East Side, located near the outdoor museum hosting remnants of the former wall. Or stay at the newly opened DoubleTree by Hilton Berlin Ku’damm to visit the popular Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Another centrally located option in the Hilton portfolio is the Hampton by Hilton Berlin City West.

Museum Island and Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

A view out of a glass dome to the Gendarmenmarkt from a dinning area in the Hilton Berlin, Germany

A view to the Gendarmenmarkt from Hilton Berlin

Courtesy of Hilton

For a different view of the city, stay at Hilton Berlin which is directly opposite Berlin’s Cathedral (Deutscher Dom) on Gendarmenmarkt in the center of the government district and boasts unparalleled views of the grand building. The hotel, located where the former border wall between east and west once lay in the Government Quarter (Regierungsviertel as it’s known locally), has as neighbors a distinctive amalgamation of 19th-century buildings with contemporary reconstruction to repair war damage.

Among the most famous of these buildings are the glass-domed Parliament building, or Reichstag, and the recently reopened Berlin Palace, home to the Humboldt Forum and its ethnological and Asian Art museums. Part of the UNESCO-designated Museum Island, the Humboldt Forum is a great jumping-off point for a day filled with culture.

A photograph of the entryway gate to the Dessau Garden Kingdom, Germany

Dessau Garden Kingdom

©GNTB/Jürgen Blüme

Architecture buffs will be especially impressed by a tour of the Bauhaus Museum and the national art gallery, or Neue Nationalgalerie, the last major undertaking by legendary modernist Mies van der Rohe. The architect served as the final director of the groundbreaking Bauhaus school of design and architecture before its closure in 1933. His ideas, along with other philosophies from the movement, can be explored in greater depth in nearby Weimar, Bernau, and Dessau, where the Bauhaus movement found its academic home in the 1920s.

A photograph of a minimalist house designed in the Bauhaus style in Dessau, Germany

A minimalist Bauhaus design in Dessau

©GNTB/Felix Meyer

The short-lived school gave rise to the functional modernist aesthetics that have heavily influenced art and design in Germany today, but it isn’t the only thing of architectural significance in Dessau. During The Age of Enlightenment, locals there looked into the possibility of communal living that integrates art, education, and economy in a harmonious way, the results of which can be seen in the UNESCO-recognized Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz, with its memorable landscape design.

The Weissenhof estates in Stuttgart

The lasting influence of the Bauhaus school of architecture can also be found in southern Germany. The automotive capital of Stuttgart reveals its love of forward-thinking design, which you can experience through a tour of projects completed by students at the university. Stay in the heart of the Europa District at the Hampton by Hilton Stuttgart City Centre, which provides complimentary breakfast and easy access to the automotive museums and other monuments to design. Or stay outside of the city center at the uniquely designed Hilton Garden Inn Stuttgart NeckarPark, which is steps away from the Mercedes Museum and the popular event arenas.

A room with a floating bed at the Hampton by Hilton Stuttgart City Centre, Germany

Hampton by Hilton Stuttgart City Centre

Courtesy of Hilton

Stuttgart is also home to several examples of architect and urban planner Le Corbusier’s attempt to build modernist neighborhoods that respond to societal needs, including the UNESCO-recognized Weissenhof estates. The housing serves as a practical and inspiring example of how we might live well today.

Darmstadt Artists’ Colony, Mathildenhöhe

Two buildings in Mathildenhöhe, Germany, designed in the early modernist style

With its assemblage of artists’ studios and architectural experiments, Mathildenhöhe exemplifies the early modernist design that went on to inspire the Bauhaus movement.

©GNTB/Francesco Carovillano

Another extraordinary experiment in communal living can be seen in the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony, Mathildenhöhe, a prototype of modernism that arose out of a colony established by the Grand Duke of Hesse at the turn of the 20th century. At the center of a reform in arts and architecture, Mathildenhöhe drew influence from the Vienna Secession and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Taken together, the colony’s 23 different buildings—including a Wedding Tower, the Russian Chapel of St. Maria Magdalena, and the “Swan Temple” Garden Pavilion—create a vibrant and harmonious urban area for artistic exploration.

These aren’t the only unusual buildings in the city of science and space exploration. Friedensreich Hundertwasser also designed the Waldspirale, a remarkably colorful social housing with a green roof and extensive sunlight that considers the environment and human needs in its construction while experimenting with new and unusual aesthetics. This could also describe the attitude toward architecture in Germany more generally—with progressive approaches to design and environmentally conscious implementation, there’s much to explore and learn from the country’s architecture.

Frankfurt’s architectural restoration and more

An exterior view at night of the Hilton Frankfurt above the Frankfurt Airport’s high-speed train station

Located above the Frankfurt Airport’s high-speed train station and just a skyway away from the airport, the Hilton Frankfurt Airport and Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport hotels were designed to reflect their surroundings

Courtesy of Hilton

Wrap up your tour in the nearby banking capital of Frankfurt, an especially good lesson in architectural restoration. Visit the historic city center, which underwent extensive post-war reconstruction and offers a model for blending Old World charm with the latest in architectural engineering. Stay within walking distance of the pedestrian shopping street at the Hilton Frankfurt City Centre or Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt City Centre and stroll through the city to take in its mix of old and new. Recently, local officials dug deep into the archives to recreate the former Gothic beauty of 35 buildings and reopened the “new old town,” which shares all the charm of the 17th- and 18th-century aesthetic with more modern-day approaches to construction.

A view of a skyline from a room at Hilton Frankfurt City Centre, Germany

Lovingly referred to as Mainhattan, Frankfurt has a wonderful skyline as seen from the Hilton Frankfurt City Centre

Courtesy of Hilton

With most of the timber-framed buildings destroyed during World War II, skyscrapers rose up along the Main River, creating a skyline that resembles Manhattan’s and giving Frankfurt the local nickname of “Mainhattan.” The Hilton Frankfurt City Centre’s Hudson Yards bar’s name nods to the Big Apple and you’ll find other references to the theme throughout the hotel.

For a taste of life in other neighborhoods, consider booking a room at the Hampton by Hilton Frankfurt City Centre East in the heart of the financial district, DoubleTree by Hilton Frankfurt Niederrad in the Lyoner Quartier and close to numerous businesses, or near the trade fair grounds at Hampton by Hilton Frankfurt City Centre Messe.

Just west of the city, the Hilton Frankfurt Airport has a 21st-century vibe. Its shape draws on the surrounding aviation activity and provides easy access to the busy international airport. Stay in the Squaire Building, with its kid-friendly catering for those 12 and under. You could also try the nearby Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport or Hampton by Hilton Frankfurt Airport before you catch your flight.

If you’re not quite ready to take off, extend your trip to include more UNESCO-recognized sites with a tour north along the Industrial Cultural route. The journey offers even more insights into Germany’s fascinating approach to art and design and highlights of innovation, from the European Green Capital of Essen to Hamburg’s warehouse district, for a truly life-changing adventure.

Hilton and the German National Tourist Board
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