Lonely Planet, the bible of backpackers and independent travelers, is done for me! A recent news item on my favorite podcast startled me: Lonely Planet has published its annual "Best in Travel" destinations 2024*. To mark Lonely Planet's 50th anniversary, the supposed 50 best travel destinations in the world were chosen for 2024. What annoyed me incredibly t was to hear that not a single German destination is on this list. But Nairobi has made it to number 1 of the cities! My first thought was: Who bribed the editors? Or were they all on drugs? To recommend a city where 60 % of the population live in slums as the best city break destination is, in my view, at least grossly negligent. Incidentally, I was in Nairobi for two days at the start of a Kenya safari in 2017, and I don't intend to check whether it has improved since then.
It was a bitter disappointment for me that Lonely Planet completely ignored my home country of Germany - the country that has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites (52!) after China and Italy and offers diverse landscapes from the North Sea to the Alps. I took this as an opportunity to take a closer look at the Lonely Planet Travel Guide Top destinations in Germany*, which I bought recently. As a travel blogger for Germany, I wanted to know how Germany is viewed by foreign publishers and what they think are the most important travel destinations in our country.
Why the Lonely Planet Guide "Top Destinations in Germany" is No Good
I was shocked to realize that for Lonely Planet, practically only southern Germany exists. At least Cologne, the Moselle valley and the Upper Middle Rhine Valley were mentioned in the west, and the cities of Berlin, Potsdam and Dresden in the east. That's it! The Wadden Sea and the Baltic Sea, the islands, the Harz Mountains, the Mecklenburg Lake District, the World Heritage cities of Lübeck, Wismar, Bremen and Hamburg - all missing! The whole of Thuringia - in my opinion one of our most interesting federal states, with places where world history was significantly influenced - Weimar, the Wartburg and the Bauhaus - is completely left out!
Even in Bavaria, only Munich, Nuremberg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Neuschwanstein Castle made it into this "top selection". Not even the Zugspitze, Lake Constance or the Alps are mentioned. I'm sorry, I just can't take a travel guide like this seriously! It doesn't help that there are useful practical tips for the few destinations mentioned.
I had the suspicion that Lonely Planet had asked some - relatively uninformed - non-German travelers which "top travel destinations" in Germany came to their mind, and compiled the travel guide based on this survey. But why this work was then translated into German remains a mystery.
Unfortunately, there are only a few travel guides on the English-speaking market that look at Germany as a whole. Here I can recommend DK Eyewitness Germany* and Fodor's Essential Germany*. Both travel guides cover all regions of Germany and go into detail about the culture, country and people. Another English travel guide is Rick Steves Germany*, which doesn't convince me 100 %, as it also leaves out entire regions. However, I would definitely prefer it to the Lonely Planet.
Travel Guides Germany: My Recommendations
I have looked at a number of German-language travel guides covering the whole of Germany. All of these books are suitable to give you an overview of the different regions, cities worth seeing, cultural highlights and natural beauties of Germany, and for inspiration. Once you have decided on one or more destinations, I recommend that you also buy a specialized travel guide for the region or city in question. Here I almost always use the travel guides from Michael Müller Verlag or from Reise Know-How back. Although they are not as visually appealing as some other travel guides, they provide an incredible amount of information and background knowledge, which is important to me.
I can recommend the following travel guides for the whole of Germany:
1. Baedeker Germany: The Classic
- Detailed information on history and historical sights, important personalities, the country and its people
- High-quality maps and illustrations, including three-dimensional depictions of important sights
- Good tour suggestions
- Removable "Easy-Zip" card
- Alphabetical organization of destinations makes geographical classification difficult
- No practical tips on how to get there, mobility on site, etc.
Recommendation: The Baedeker Travel Guide Germany* is an excellent choice for travelers looking for quality content and years of experience. If you are looking for inspiration for your next trip, it is less suitable, as the alphabetical structure makes it more of a reference book. Tips on how to get there, public transport and budget-friendly travel are also missing.
2. Vis-à-Vis Travel Guide Germany: Perfect for an Initial Overview
- High-quality visual presentation with maps, photos, tour suggestions and info boxes on special topics
- 3D drawings of interesting sights
- Structured by region
- Attractive information section on various topics relating to Germany (e.g. landscapes, festivals, history ...)
- Partly poor information about the sights
- Some regions are underrepresented compared to others (example: Berlin approx. 70 pages, Black Forest one page)
- No removable map
Recommendation: The Vis-à-Vis Travel Guide Germany* is a very nice and useful travel guide that is characterized by high-quality pictures and design. If you are more visually oriented, and cultural and historical information is important to you, you will like this travel guide. It even includes budget tips for individual destinations. However, it is relatively expensive.
3. MARCO POLO Hin & Weg Deutschland: Top Highlights and Insider Tips
- Structured by federal states from north to south
- Visually enhanced by infographics, images, info boxes and speech bubbles.
- Tips on lesser-known sights and activities
- Relatively superficial information
- No removable map
Recommendation: This "all-German" Marco Polo Travel Guide surprised me in a positive way. It contains a lot of - albeit condensed - information on all the important places and sights in Germany and also provides some insider tips. It is attractively designed with information boxes, graphics and funny speech bubbles. Compared to the Baedeker, for example, the information is somewhat superficial and lacks cultural and historical background.
4. 4. Das Reisebuch Deutschland (Bruckmann-Verlag): Inspiration Especially for Road Trip Fans
- Comprehensive overview of Germany based on 12 routes that lead through different regions of the country
- Generally high-quality design and print quality.
- Description of dream roads and national parks with highlights covering different interests and activities.
- Some descriptions of places and sights are a little too compact
- Organized alphabetically within the regions, which makes tour planning more difficult
- No removable map
Recommendation: The Bruckmann travel guide* is particularly impressive thanks to its visual design with high-quality photos and information boxes. The routes presented provide inspiration for exciting road trips that include nature and cultural experiences. However, many beautiful regions and places are missing from this travel guide.
Conclusion: The Good Old Baedeker is my Favorite Travel Guide for All of Germany
Among the travel guides for the whole of Germany, I like the Baedeker the best. So far, I've found a paragraph on every sight worth mentioning. Admittedly, the alphabetical organization seems a bit antiquated and is my biggest, if not only, criticism of the Baedeker. Otherwise, I find it very attractively designed and think that it contains everything you can expect from a travel guide for Germany. A clear recommendation!