Tourism in Germany

physical map

Germany is the eighth most visited country in the world,[1][2] with a total of 407.26 million overnights during 2012.[3] This number includes 68.83 million nights by foreign visitors, the majority of foreign tourists in 2009 coming from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland (see table). Additionally, more than 30% of Germans spend their holiday in their own country.According to Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Reports, Germany is ranked 3 out of 136 countries in the 2017 report, and is rated as one of the safest travel destinations worldwide.

In 2012, over 30.4 million international tourists arrived in Germany, bringing over US$38 billion in international tourism receipts to the country.[4] Domestic and international travel and tourism combined directly to contribute over EUR43.2 billion to the German GDP. Including indirect and induced impacts, the industry contributes 4.5% of German GDP and supports 2 million jobs (4.8% of total employment).[5] The ITB Berlin is the world's leading tourism trade fair.[6]

According to surveys, the top three reasons for tourists to come to Germany, are the German culture, outdoor activities and countryside, and the German cities.


The history of tourism in Germany goes back to cities and landscapes being visited for education and recreation. From the late 18th century onwards, cities like Dresden, Munich, Weimar and Berlin were major stops on a European Grand tour.

Spas and Seaside resorts on the North and Baltic Sea (e.g. Rugia and Usedom islands, Heiligendamm, Norderney and Sylt islands) particularly developed during the 19th and early 20th century, when major train routes were built to connect the seaside spas to urban centers. An extense bathing and recreation industry materialized in Germany around 1900. At rivers and close to natural landscapes (along the Middle Rhine valley and in Saxon Switzerland for example) many health spas, hotels and recreational facilities were established since the 19th century.

Since the end of World War II tourism has expanded greatly, as many tourists visit Germany to experience a sense of European history and the diverse German landscape. The country features 14 national parks, including the Jasmund National Park, the Vorpommern Lagoon Area National Park, the Müritz National Park, the Wadden Sea National Parks, the Harz National Park, the Hainich National Park, the Saxon Switzerland National Park, the Bavarian Forest National Park and the Berchtesgaden National Park. In addition, there are 14 Biosphere Reserves, as well as 98 nature parks.

The countryside has a pastoral aura, while the bigger cities exhibit both a modern and classical feel. Small and medium-sized cities often preserved their historical appearance and have old towns with remarkable architectural heritage - these are called Altstadt in German.


Bavaria is the German state with the most visitors.
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern with its beaches at the Baltic Sea has the highest density of tourists. It is favourably located between Germany's major cities Berlin and Hamburg.

The table below shows the distribution of national and international visitor nights spent in each of the sixteen states of Germany in 2017.

Germany overall had 178.23 million visitor nights in 2017, of which 37.45 million were of foreign guests (21.01 percent). With 94.3 million nights spent in hotels, hostels or clinics, Bavaria has the most visitors. With 18.472 nights per 1.000 inhabitants, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has the highest density of tourists per population (German median: 5.568 nights per 1.000 people).[7]

state # of nights
in 2017
in million
of whom
foreign visitors
in million
nights per
Germany 178.23 37.45 5.568
Baden-Württemberg 52.93 11.39 4.833
Bavaria 94.36 19.12 7.298
Berlin 31.15 13.98 8.714
Brandenburg 13.09 0.962 5.247
Bremen 2.44 0.49 3.607
Hamburg 13.82 3.44 7.635
Hesse 34.1 7.67 5.489
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 29.75 1.0 18.472
Lower Saxony 43.49 3.73 5.474
North Rhine-Westphalia 51.51 11 2.879
Rhineland-Palatinate 22.22 5.24 5.466
Saarland 3.08 0.46 3.099
Saxony 19.51 2.05 4.781
Saxony-Anhalt 8.13 0.63 3.638
Schleswig-Holstein 29.89 2.01 10.372
Thuringia 9.92 0.62 4.600

Most visitors arriving to Germany on short term basis are from the following countries of nationality:[8][9]

Rank Country 2014 2016
1  Netherlands 4,237,865 4,477,100
2   Switzerland 2,778,455 3,115,456
3  United States 2,371,086 2,558,495
4  United Kingdom 2,415,477 2,551,061
5  Austria 1,725,259 1,818,872
6  France 1,617,901 1,725,854
7  Italy 1,642,443 1,651,933
8  Denmark 1,466,561 1,592,500
9  Belgium 1,310,693 1,424,482
10  China 1,256,800 1,363,979
Total international arrivals 32,999,298 35,555,391


The official body for tourism in Germany is the German National Tourist Board (GNTB), represented worldwide by National Tourist Offices in 29 countries. Surveys by the GNTB include perceptions and reasons for holidaying in Germany, which are as follows: culture (75%), outdoors/countryside (59%), cities (59%), cleanliness (47%), security (41%), modernity (36%), good hotels (35%), good gastronomy/cuisine (34%), good accessibility (30%), cosmopolitanism/hospitality (27%), good shopping opportunities (21%), exciting nightlife (17%) and good price/performance ratio (10%) (multiple answers were possible).