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UNESCO Heritage Sites in Germany Where You Can Embrace the Monk’s Life

Explore rich religious traditions and outstanding architecture at the country’s most magnificent cathedrals and monasteries.

The painted, gilded, curved ceiling, of the Wieskirche in Germany, flanked by ornate columns and sculptures

The interior of the magnificent Wieskirche is anything but monastic

©Romantische Straße Touristik-Arbeitsgemeinschaft GbR/Eugenio Bersani/Latitudes Travel Magazine

With distinctive architecture and a wealth of art, these churches and monasteries are some of Germany’s most remarkable places to visit. The beautifully preserved spaces, merging art with history in a country that played a pivotal role in shaping Christianity, reveal the cultural and aesthetic influences of the Holy Roman Empire and the Reformation. Found throughout the country, from the more modest Protestant chapels in the north to ornately filigreed Catholic cathedrals in the south, these UNESCO-recognized sites make ideal stopping points on a countryside road trip.

Explore Hannover, followed by Carolingian Westwork, Civitas Corvey, and Frankfurt

The golden gates opening into the Royal Gardens and palace of Herrenhausen in Hannover, Germany

Royal Gardens and palace of Herrenhausen in Hannover

©GNTB/Francesco Carovillano

Consider ditching the autobahn to tour central Germany’s pastoral landscapes. Begin with a wellness-infused stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hannover Schweizerhof in the heart of Hannover. Book a pass for the in-house day spa and find inner peace with a relaxing sauna and massage before kicking off your tour with a crash course in regional history at the Royal Gardens and Palace of Herrenhausen.

A modernly furnished guest room at DoubleTree by Hilton Hannover Schweizerhof, Germany

A guest room at DoubleTree by Hilton Hannover Schweizerhof

Courtesy of Hilton

Once an electorate to the Holy Roman Empire, Hannover—midway between Hamburg and Berlin—was swept up into numerous different European kingdoms, including Georgian England, Napoleonic France, and finally the Prussian Empire. Though it’s now most famous for its electronics and tech trade fair, the city’s royal heritage reveals a local connection to the House of Windsor and modern-day monarchy. Tour the final resting place of the royals at Herrenhausen or simply stroll through the well-appointed gardens.

Light streaming in the windows along a long hallway flanked with antlers and candelabras inside the Corvey Castle, Germany

Corvey Castle dates to the days of Charlemagne

©GNTB/Christoph Zahn

Or begin your stay in Celle at the Hampton by Hilton Celle. Known for its baroque castle and hundreds of restored timber-framed homes, Celle is quintessential Germany and offers a quiet respite.

From there, head south to start on a pilgrimage to the impressive Carolingian Westwork and Civitas Corvey, Westphalia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. The former Benedictine abbey dating to the days of Charlemagne holds the only surviving Carolingian westwork, an opulent structure attached to the Imperial monasteries that would allow kings and emperors to take part in church services in a separate area. One of the finest examples of pre-Romanesque architecture featuring elements later expanded upon in Gothic styles, the 1,200-year-old facilities contain frescoes depicting scenes from the Odyssey. The invaluable art was created to signify Christianity’s defeat over the Saxon pagans for the kings and emperors who stopped in the region on their long-distance travels.

Make Frankfurt your jumping-off point

A view at dusk of Frankfurt’s banking district from large windows inside Hilton Frankfurt City Center room

A Hilton Frankfurt City Centre room with views of Frankfurt’s banking district, lovingly called Mainhattan

Courtesy of Hilton

Frankfurt, lovingly referred to as “Mainhattan,” thanks to its banking skyscrapers, makes a good home base for exploring nearby UNESCO sites. Home to several top-quality hotels, the city offers plenty of accommodations to choose from, including the Hilton Frankfurt City Centre near the Old Opera House (Alte Oper), an opera house dating back to 1880. With its indoor pool and sauna area, the property provides a modern and relaxing haven in the heart of the city.

Or stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt City Centre, which puts you in walking distance to the pedestrian shopping district and lively nightlife. Take in the Imperial Cathedral (Kaiserdom), where several Roman emperors were crowned or visit Goethe’s House to learn about Germany’s most famous author and uncover the inspiration behind Faust’s deal with the devil.

Other hotel options in Frankfurt include those near the airport, like Hilton Frankfurt Airport, Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport, and Hampton by Hilton Frankfurt Airport. You could also find a pleasant place to stay off the beaten path, such as the DoubleTree by Hilton Frankfurt Niederrad or Hampton by Hilton Frankfurt City Centre East. Near the convention center, try the Hampton by Hilton Frankfurt City Centre Messe.

The Maulbronn Monastery Complex

In one of the small towns near Frankfurt, booking a room in the historic building of the Hilton Garden Inn Mannheim puts you in the citys Kepler Quartier. Or opt for the Hampton by Hilton Kaiserslautern. They both provide an ideal jumping-off point for a tour into the Black Forest, named as such because the density of its tree cover hardly allows light through.

Shining through the darkness is Europe’s best-preserved medieval monastery, the Maulbronn Monastery Complex, with its Gothic vaulted ceilings in the church and Romanesque arcades. The former Cistercian abbey represents the first use of Gothic architecture in the German-speaking world. The complex retains extraordinary elements, including the iconic Fountain House and an engineering feat that draws water from the surrounding rivers. Nestled in the Black Forest, the monastery’s surroundings, including spectacular vineyards, offer nature lovers opportunities for hiking or biking.

A room at the Hilton Heidelberg in Germany with a view of the Heidelberg Old Town

The Old Town of Heidelberg is just steps away from the new Hilton Heidelberg

Courtesy of Hilton

Another option is to check out the lively university towns in the vicinity. To the east is Heidelberg, beloved for its picturesque Old Town and bridge over the Neckar River. Stay at the riverside Hilton Heidelberg within walking distance of Old Town and dine from a menu focused on local treats.

A guest room decorated in warm and rust colors at Hampton by Hilton Freiburg, Germany

A cozy guest room at Hampton by Hilton Freiburg

Courtesy of Hilton

In the south lies Freiburg, with its imposing red sandstone cathedral in a charming pedestrian city center. As the seat of an archbishop, Freiburg is home to a seminary, so it’s not unusual to see student priests in town. Step in the brooks running alongside the cobblestoned sidewalks to see if the legend holds true—that those whose feet get wet will marry a Freiburger. The Hampton by Hilton Freiburg offers complimentary breakfast onsite, provides easy access to restaurants, and is a good place to stay before the brief drive to Lake Constance, one of Europe’s largest freshwater lakes, marking the Switzerland border and great for boating, swimming, and hiking.

The island of Reichenau on Lake Constance is a nature lover’s dream and home to three historical churches

The island of Reichenau on Lake Constance is a nature lover’s dream and home to three historical churches

©Verkehrsverein Reichenau e. V./Helmuth Scham

Romanesque Churches and Pile Dwellings

The bustling village of Constance makes for a pleasant home base as you explore the popular vacation area. Stay at the Hampton by Hilton Konstanz on the Seerhein River with easy access to the Munster and thermal baths, plus complimentary breakfast.

A view of two connecting rooms at Hampton by Hilton Konstanz, Germany

Confirmed connecting rooms are available at Hampton by Hilton Konstanz

Courtesy of Hilton

Bike on the island of Reichenau, home to three UNESCO-recognized Romanesque churches dating from between the 9th and 11th centuries, along with ruins from an 8th-century Benedictine monastery. The medieval churches were forerunners during their time—adapting ideas from the Byzantine and taking on elements of Carolingian, Ottonian, and Salian architecture.

The monastery, an important artistic center during its heyday, houses illuminated manuscripts and other artifacts offering insight into the art and architecture of 10th- and 11th-century Europe. Travel even further back in time with a visit to the nearby UNESCO-designated Pile Dwellings on the southern shore of Lake Constance to see well-preserved examples of how residents lived in the prehistoric era.

The interior of the Juliet Rose bar decorated with globe lights and mirrored pillars at Hilton Munich City, Germany

Juliet Rose bar at Hilton Munich City

Courtesy of Hilton

Continuing along Lake Constance’s north shore will take you past all the popular castles of Bavaria’s King Ludwig. The 19th-century fairy tale king with an affinity for Richard Wagner’s operas built the opulent Linderhof Castle in the alpine foothills along with the still-unfinished Neuschwanstein, whose image has become synonymous with Germany. Dine on pork knuckle or take in a traditional dance in the village of Füssen before driving north to the Bavarian capital of Munich to stay at the Hilton Munich City, an accessible hotel in the heart of the city. On premises, you’ll enjoy a 24-hour fitness center and creative cocktails by master bartenders at the Juliet Rose bar.

The Pilgrimage Church of Wies

Along the way to the big city, plan for a few hours at the stunning Pilgrimage Church of Wies (Wieskirche). The 18th-century rococo masterpiece retains all its original artwork and materials, a feat given the dizzyingly detailed interiors, with biblical scenes adorning every inch of the walls and angels circling overhead in a magnificent trompe l'œil. Rising out of flourishing farm fields, the church provides a quiet space for contemplation and intensifies feelings of solitude, helping visitors feel closer to what they hold holy.

Where to stay in Munich

It’s a startling contrast to the lively action in Munich, but you could extend your trip instead with additional stops following this wellness itinerary. Or should you choose to spend more time in Munich, other options for accommodations include one with a swimming pool and sauna, the Hilton Munich Park. Located beside the Eisbach River, the hotel has views of the marvelous English Garden (where you can hang with the locals on sunny days with a picnic) and is near the 18th-century rococo masterpiece, the Nymphenburg Palace. Or stay at the Hampton by Hilton Munich City North, a quiet and convenient hotel in the Schwabing neighborhood. Stroll the Marienplatz and stop for a beer, pretzel, and bratwurst at one of the many beer gardens in the city.

Elsewhere in the city, try the Hilton Garden Inn Munich City West or stay just outside of Munich in the east at Hampton by Hilton Munich City Center East. Hampton by Hilton Munich City West has easy access to the Oktoberfest grounds. Or enjoy an option near the airport, the Hilton Munich Airport, with its Michelin-starred restaurant, Mountain Hub Gourmet, featuring local delicacies like venison and chanterelle mushrooms.

Hilton and the German National Tourist Board
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