Great Escapes

Germany Delights in Winter (and Every Other Season, Too)

From Michelin-starred eateries to centuries-old castles, Deutschland delivers year round.

Photography by Janan Araujo-Siam January 6, 2020

Berlin is for art-lovers, party-monsters, and more travelers.

When I bought my flights for Germany, I expected to spend most of my time drinking beer and exploring some nice countryside or museums—a relaxing, educational, maybe even a little bit boring vacation. Germany completely demolished those expectations—except for one. I did have a lot of beer.

Whether you want to relax in a spa hotel looking at a fairytale scene of a snowy castle, party like the bounds of day and night don’t matter, or sample some amazing and unique cuisine in historic cities, you’ll get all of that in Germany. Plus, if you’re a traveler seeking a strong LGBTQ+ community, look no further.


Hearty eating and drinking in Bavaria.

My wife and I started out this randomly chosen vacation in Bavaria, home of the German Alps and much of the old-school German culture that we know of in the U.S.: adorable cottage-like architecture, giant beer halls, Bavarian Volksmusik (folk music), and of course, schnitzel.

Munich is a must-visit for the sheer amount of traditional beer halls that all have giant servings of freshly and expertly made German cuisine.

The warmer months, June to September, are the best time to bike around the city and enjoy all its amazing gardens. In the winter, it’s basically one giant Christmas display. We ice-skated and shopped in the shadows of the impressively elaborate old town city hall building from the 1800s.

Snowfall in Füssen.


We took a train south to a town called Füssen near the border of Austria and Germany, and after one frigid bus ride up the road, made it to AMERON Neuschwanstein Alpsee Resort and Spa, our “Netflix-and-chill” spot for the next two days.

Instead of watching Netflix, though, we sat back and viewed the famous Neuschwanstein Castle from our well-appointed room and from the hotel’s yummy upscale restaurant, Lisl. We did the obligatory tour of the castle, but watching the daylight move across the castle and landscape from afar while drinking Glühwein (hot mulled wine) was far more satisfying. When we weren’t enjoying the view, we were in the hotel’s spa, complete with indoor pool and dry sauna.

I’d recommend going to Füssen in winter—waking up to a fresh coat of snow was one of the highlights of our trip.

Fun awaits in Cologne.


Jet lag cured, we took a long distance train to Cologne, Germany’s LGBTQ+ capital. We immediately found that fact to ring true as karaoke at the well-established “women’s club” Iron Bar and a screening of The L Word at the new and trendy Bliss Bar let us party with our people and learn more about local culture and life. Everyone we met of all orientations was just as friendly as we are in Texas. We’re happy to say we now have some new pen-pals.

Before leaving Cologne, we had to try NeoBiota, a newly Michelin-starred brunch restaurant located in one of the gay districts. Sophisticated while still rather casual, the restaurant also has a flexible menu with a three-course option, incredibly priced at 25 Euros, that actually lets you choose your courses. I had the Viking Benedict (bread, poached eggs, pickled salmon, cucumber, horseradish foam, and potato chip croutons); a grilled cheese sandwich with aged gouda, tomato, chili sauce, and guacamole; and a cardamom bun with coffee cream. Are you booking your flight to Germany yet?

Taking in the East Side Gallery.


The end of our trip took us to Berlin, where we found ourselves walking along the East Side Gallery, one of the world’s largest and longest-lasting open air art galleries, where 105 artists from the 1990s have left their work on the east side of the Berlin wall, preserved by the government, and still viewed by thousands each day. Although it was fun to take photos, especially of the most colorful parts, my wife and I were touched by the sadder memories that the wall represents for the people of Berlin.

At night, venturing out into Berlin’s infamous techno club scene is a whole ordeal—hours of waiting in line, strict dress codes, and figuring out how to ensure a bouncer will let you into a packed club. We ended up going to a special event in an abandoned building rather than a sanctioned club and had quite the Saturday night.

From their attire, Berliners seem more wild and upfront with their bodily desires, but we quickly found that while they do enjoy hedonistic freedom at these dance parties, the collective mentality is to keep everyone safe, happy, and included.

If ever you encounter a wild night in Berlin, go with a few locals like we did who can show you around. Have fun connecting to the culture, and be prepared to get back to the hotel just in time for breakfast.

On our last night, we scored a reservation at Kin Dee, another German Michelin-starred restaurant, this time for Thai fare. For under 200 Euros, we were able to devour a five-course meal and each have a few fantastically mixed drinks. Our tasting tour took us through charred pumpkin in a smoky broth, perfectly cooked beef heart and smoked eel with a super spicy mango salad, cooling tom yum coconut soup, wild boar, and a fruity sorbet with brúleed pear and fresh herbs—a unique and awesome way to end our German vacation.

Getting There

Flight deals to Germany abound, and we scored non-stop flights for $440 roundtrip. Set an alert on your favorite app and give this country a couple of weeks.

If you go in the summer, plan to bike a lot (you’ll work off all those liters of beer); in fall, prepare for Oktoberfest crowds and expensive hotels; and in winter, of course, the Christmas markets. Prost!

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