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Archaeology Travel | Explore the Past in Germany | 4
Map of Europe showing the position of Germany.

Exploring the Past in Germany

Few other countries have a prehistory and history as rich and complex as Germany. From the Neanderthals who made some of Europe’s oldest Ice Age art to the Iron Age Celts and their exquisite gold work. From the Hanseatic League of the Middle Ages to the 20th Century and the Third Reich. The historic highlights of Germany are being discovered by more and more visitors each year. Whatever your interest in archaeology and history, in Germany you will be spoilt for choice with Roman forts, Charlemagne’s Aachen, Gothic castles and churches, Bach’s Leipzig, the Berlin Wall and some of the finest museums and art galleries in the world.

Planning Ahead

Christmas Markets in Germany: A Guide for Lovers of Tradition and History

Interesting Things to Know About Germany

  • The nation state of Germany was founded in 1871, with the establishment of the German Empire. What existed before that for around 1,000 years was a confederation of autonomous princely states within the Holy Roman Empire. Today Germany has 16 constituent states. As the modern state of Germany was formed from a collection of a number of older states, it has a federal constitution whereby constituent states have retained a certain degree of sovereignty.
  • Archaeological evidence for the earliest ancient humans in Germany dates to around 600,000 years ago. The earliest known fossilised remains of non-modern humans, Neanderthals from around 40,000 years ago, were found in the Neander Valley. The earliest dated remains of modern humans are from Swabian Jura mountains. Here, archaeologists have also found what is thought to be the oldest musical instrument, a flute dated to around 42,000 years ago. As well as a carved statuette of a lion-human figure that dates to around 40,000 years ago.
  • In 1450 Johannes Gutenberg introduced movable metal type in Europe and printed the so-called Gutenberg Bible in Mainz. This is not the first use of movable type, that was in China. A couple of hundred years in Hamburg, the theologian and poet Johann Rist is widely accepted to have created the first magazine. Published regularly between 1663 and 1668 under the name of ‘Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen’ (German for Edifying Monthly Discussions) it was not the first to use the word ‘magazine, although it thought to have inspired many the publications that followed that were called magazines.
  • Some of the Christmas traditions we now take for granted, particularly in the West, such as the Christmas tree and the Christmas market, originated in Germany. The first record of a Christmas Market is from 1434 in Dresden (Saxony). The modern practice of bringing a pine tree into the house and decorating it, is thought to have originated in Germany. Decorating the house with evergreen wreaths is known about in Europe as far back as the Romans and their festivities during Saturnalia. In the 16th century Martin Luther is supposed to have been the first to add candles to an evergreen tree. Certainly, by the 19th century it was seen as a part of German culture and an expression of Gemütlichkeit (warmth and friendliness).
  • Apparently there are 2,100 castles in Germany. That is more than double the 1,000 different types of sausage produced. And there are even fewer different types of bread, 300 or so. As the second largest consumer of beer in the world, Germans make over 1,500 different types of beer. There must be at least 100 such statistics.

Best Archaeological and Historic Sites in Germany

Archaeology Travel | Explore the Past in Germany | 5

Glauberg Celtic oppidum

The Porta Praetoria at Römerkastell Saalburg Archäologischer Park.

Saalburg Roman Fort

More Sites to See in Germany

The Porta Nigra in Trier, Germany.

Roman Ruins and Museums

The defeat of the Romans in Battle of Teutoberg Forest brought ended their desire and attempt to conquer Germania. Varusschlacht is thought to be the site of that battle. The border of the Roman Empire, certainly in Germania, would forever remain at the Rhine River. Along the Rhine and south of it are some truly spectacular Roman sites. Trier has some remarkably well preserved Roman architecture. Germany has a number of exceptional museums displaying artefacts recovered locally. Berlin’s Museumsinsel has substantial collections of Roman artefacts from beyond Germany.
Roman Ruins and Sites

The Baroque style Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, Germany.

Castles and Palaces

From defensive burgs to the Schlösser of medieval times and later, Germany has an extraordinary history of fortresses, castles and palaces. Perhaps not surprising given the nation is made up of what was until the 19th century a number of independent princely states, each with their own lords and nobles, royals and dynasties. All requiring their own grand, luxurious residences and palaces. Many of these historic buildings are attractions in their own right. For others, following extensive restoration, many have been transformed into museums and at galleries.

The main tribune of the Zeppelinfeld, part of the Nazi Rally Grounds in Nuremberg.

Holocaust, WWII and Third Reich

From the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg to the Schwerbelastungskörper in Berlin. From Templehof airport to the Colossus of Prora, the Nazi beach resort on the north coast. There are a number of Third Reich sites, either redeveloped since the war or left in ruins, that are open to the public. There are many more memorial sites, such as the Topographie des Terrors, the Sahsenhausen Conecntration camp near Berlin and the Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich.

The East Side Gallery, the largest standing section of the Berlin Wall.

Cold War Sites and Memorials

Perhaps the most well known and iconic Cold War historic site is the Berlin Wall. Despite official attempts to remove it, there are a number of places where original features of the Wall are still standing. As are other parts of the Iron Curtain, such as the Marienborn border crossing on Autobahn 2. There is more to the Cold War than the physical barrier that divided East and West. Many towns and cities had Stasi offices and prisons, and some of which are now museums and/or documentation centres. The Marienthal Bunker, intended to house the West Government in case of Soviet attack, is open to the public.

Find Ancient and Historical Places to Visit in Germany

Interactive map of Germany of archaeology and history sites and museums.

Interactive Map: Search for Archaeological And Historical Sites

Use the interactive map to find archaeology and history sites and museums, landmarks and memorials and other historical points of interest around the country. The map allows you to search for places of historical interest in different ways; by state or near you within a specified radius, or by keyword according to your interests. Although the map displays best on desktops and laptops, it can also be used on mobile devices – particularly to find sites and museums near your present location.

Historical Cities in Germany

Nuremberg

Hamburg

Cologne