Here is a brief guide to the various regions, states, or Bundesländer as they are known, of Germany:
This, the most northern German state is on the north coast, on the base of the Jutland peninsula and borders Denmark to the north. The state's islands, beaches and cities are popular with tourists and attract many visitors each year. The state capital is Kiel.
This is the least densely populated state in Germany and is also on the coastline of the Baltic sea. It is one of Germany's leading tourist destinations. The capital city is Schwerin and the beautiful Schwerin Palace is one of over 2000 palaces and castles in the state.
This state is made up of the Free and Hanseatic State of Hamburg, a large city which is an important industrial and financial centre with a population of 1.8 million. Hamburg's port is the second largest in Europe, after Rotterdam. There are many attractions in Hamburg including more bridges than any other city in the world, a variety of historical buildings, museums and music venues.
The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen is the smallest of Germany's sixteen states. It consists of two cities – Bremen and Bremerhaven in the very North of Germany. These two cities are completely surrounded by land of the neighbouring state, Lower Saxony.
This is the second largest of the German states, in the north west of the country. There are people here who still speak Low Saxon or Saterland Frisian though numbers of native speakers are in decline. This is the only German state that encompasses both maritime and mountain scenery (in the form of the northern parts of the German Central Uplands). Hanover is state capital.
Berlin is the German capital city and has a population of 3.5 million. The city is also one of the sixteen states. Berlin has now well and truly bounced back from the deprivation and darkness of the post-war years and has thrived since re-unification. It is a popular tourist destination with strong culture, arts and music scenes and a strong economy.
This landlocked German state's capital is Magdeburg, an historic town with a famous cathedral, though the largest city in the state is actually Halle, another historic town with a very slightly higher population. This area was once in communist East Germany and after the wall came down was economically depressed for a time but is now outperforming other areas and thriving. This state has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than anywhere else in Germany.
Brandenburg surrounds but does not include Berlin. This state was another formed upon re-unification. Its capital is Potsdam. This state is well known for its large protected areas of the natural environment and its nature conservation.
This is the German state with the highest population. It includes four of the ten biggest cities in Germany, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen. Major attractions of the state include Cathedrals in Aachen and Cologne, Zollverein Coal Mine in Essen and Augustusburg Palace in Bruhl, which are all UNESCO listed as well as interesting old city centres and the modern cities around them.
This state has around four million inhabitants. The state capital is Mainz. Around here you will find Germany's leading wine producing region, with six of Germany's thirteen quality wine producing regions located in this state.
Saarland is Germany's smallest state in terms of population and area except for the city states. The large scale industrial exploitation of this area and its rich coal seams, along with its location on the border between Germany and France mean that this state has had a unique history over the last hundred or so years.
The state capital of Hesse is Wiesbaden and its largest city is Frankfurt-am-Main. This is the greenest state in Germany – forest covers over 42% of it. The state has one of the largest and healthiest economies in the country and an excellent and well developed public transport system. The element Hassium on the periodic table is named after the state.
Thuringia has been known as the green heart of Germany due to the dense forest which covers much of the land. The state is famous for hiking trails, winter sports athletes, as the place where Bach spent the first part of his life and where great German thinkers Goethe and Schiller lived and worked. Erfurt is state capital. Other important places in the state are Weimar and Jena. The landscape of this state is rather diverse.
The largest cities in Saxony are Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz. Dresden, so badly bombed during the Second World War, is the state capital. High technology sectors in this region are strengthening the state's economy. Apart from the major cities, tourists visit the prison camp of Colditz but the rest of the state attracts few foreign visitors, though mountain areas on the border with the Czech Republic do attract outward-bound visitors.
This is Germany's third largest state in terms of population and size. It contains the important German city of Stuttgart, which is the state capital. Both cities and the countryside areas in this southern state are popular tourist destinations. Stuttgart is highly regarded by visitors, as is the spa town of Baden Baden and the vibrant, historic, University towns of Heidelberg, Tübingen and Freiburg. Outdoor pursuits such as hiking are extremely popular in beautiful rural areas of the state.
Bavaria is Germany's largest state by area, taking up almost a fifth of the country, and its second largest in terms of population. The capital city Munich is also the largest city in the state, which also includes the notable cities of Nuremberg, Augsburg, Regensburg, Würtburg, Ingolstadt, Fürth and Erlängen. Here you will find much beautiful scenery including the Bavarian Alps, which include the highest mountain in the country. Bavarians often think of themselves as Bavarian first, German second and have many traditions distinct from the rest of the country.
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