It’s easy to forget how diverse a country Germany is and just how much it has to offer. Living here has opened up parts of Germany I would never have thought to visit. Here are 9 places you should visit in Germany in 2014.

1. KIEL – in itself, Kiel would not be at the top of a must-see list for Germany. However, it is worth visiting this northern sea-side city in June during the Kieler Woche – the world’s largest sailing regatta. Even if you have no experience of sailing, you will be taken in by the buzzing maritime atmosphere. If sailing is not your thing, head to one of the nearby beach resorts (for example at Strande) and rent yourself a typical ‚Strandkorb‘ (literally sand basket) for a day – a cosy and sheltered way to enjoy a book, whatever the weather and a good introduction to the beloved Ostsee (Baltic sea).

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2. HAMBURG. You will not meet a single German who does not gush over Hamburg. For good reason. A guided boat ride through the harbour learning about one of Europe’s busiest ports, a walk through the fishmarket and dinner in a restaurant in the portuguese quater make for the perfect day out. And that’s not even mentioning the still-under-construction and architecturally fascinating Elbphilharmonie (Elbe Philharmonic Hall) or the relaxing atmosphere around the lake Alster. For a fun outing for both grown-ups and kids, visit the ‚Minatur Wunderland‘, the world’s largest model railway and seemingly a parallel world. If you still have an afternoon to spare, take a 30 minute ride out to the suburb of Blankenese for a walk through the ‚Treppenviertel‘ down to the river Elbe. So picturesque, you will wonder if you are in the make-believe Lilliput lane.

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3. Bike tour in BRANDENBURG. This eastern state stretching out and around Berlin is under-explored even by its natives.  Flat, open and often newly re-surfaced roads cut through fields and leafy trees passing through barely inhabited hamlets and villages – ideal for a bike tour. Century old churches and castles dot the landscape as well as country mansions with dramatic lakeside views (such as Haus Tornow) at affordable prices.  Enjoy the tranquility of the area and take the perfect opportunity to practice any German you learnt at school, as knowledge of English is patchy in this area. Those in search of a little bit of luxury should head to Gut Klostermühle for some rest and relaxation in its saunas and spa.

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4. Wine tasting at DURBACH. The picturesque town of Durbach perched on the hilly wine fields in the black forest is the perfect spot for a long weekend. Summer or winter, this place will not disappoint. Grab an apple from an unmanned stand and leave your fare in the honesty box, hike on the  through the wine fields up to Schloss Staufenberg and spend the evening at a winzer sipping the local wine –  you’ll be sure to go home with a case or 2 of Riesling. 

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5. MUNICH. The crown-jewel of the southern state of Bayern has a rich, showy and opulent flavour. You will be greeted by yet another stunning church, mansion or column at every corner you turn. Take a walk along the river Isar, stroll through the boutiques at Haidhausen and relax at a beer garden in the world famous English gardens. Whether you like beer or not, don’t leave before trying the speciality wheat beer (Weissbier). If you do like beer, there’s a little something called ‚Oktoberfest‘ waiting for you to arrive in your Dirndl/Lederhosen at the end of September every year.

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6. BERLIN. I’ve already mentioned some of the reasons I love Berlin. Start with a long breakfast at the French cafe Fleury in the district of Mitte before browsing through the small boutiques in the area. Take in some culture in the clutter of museums on the magnificent Museuminsel (museum island). On a sunny day, bring your swimming things and jump into the the Badeschiff or hang-out at one of the many stretches of white sand at a beach bar along the river Spree. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your luck at getting into the much-hyped techno-club Berghain. No one really understands the door policy, but the more individual you look, the higher your chance of a first-hand experience here.

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7.THE EIFEL. No not the big tower in Paris, but rather the low mountain range in western Germany – an underestimated area of beauty. A volcanic area centuries ago, the Eifel belongs to the Rhenish Massif. Bring your hiking boots and enjoy the many walking routes in this area. Monschau, Nideggen and Blankenheim are just a few of the picture perfect towns to gather supplies before you start off on your trek and for coffe and local cake (order a Streuselkuchen) at the end of a solid day of walking.

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8. Island-hopping at SYLT and FÖHR. Though I’ve never been there, these North Sea islands are adored by Germans. Take the whole family and spend a week in a holiday home – just remember to book well in advance. While Sylt is good for celebrity spotting, Föhr is a little quieter. Take a walk from Utersum through the wildlife protection area for nature at its purest, trample on sheep dung and traipse back to the small beach at Utersum, where people gather to enjoy the best sunset on the island. While Wyk and Nieblum count as the touristic hotspots, don’t miss out on the magic of Witsum. (Photos and tips courtesy of Thorsten Firlus)

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9. DÜSSELDORF – my surrogate ‚home-town‘ can’t be left out. And you may just end up on a business trip here. If you do, wander through the beautifully preserved Altstadt (old town) and spend a summer evening sipping white wine at the roof-top terrace of Düsseldorf’s most important music hall – ‚Der Tonhalle‘ and enjoy spectacular views across the Rhein. Or if you prefer, tuck into Bratwurst and the local Alt-beer a few hundred metres down the road at the river-side beer garden.

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