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German States - Die Bundesländer

Basic Facts & Famous Travel Destinations


The 16 German states couldn't be more diverse!

From the rugged alpine scenery in the south to the lakes and sea shores in the north, well-known and secret holiday destinations abound.
Fascinating traditions and delicous foods vary throughout the country, facts that amaze first-time visitors again and again.

Discover the 16 states of Germany with me, and find your personal hightlight for your next holiday.

map of the 16 states states

Map of Germany's States
Map by kgberger - License

Recent History - The States of Germany post WWII

The modern German states were built after World War II during the allied occupation.

The states in West Germany joined and formed the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) in 1949. Only 7 of the 16 new states existed before: Bavaria, Bremen, Hamburg, Baden and Saarland in the west, Saxony and Thuringia in Eastern Germany.
All other states were amalgamations of formerly much smaller states and Prussian provinces.

In 1952 three south-western states (Baden, Württemberg-Hohenzollern and Württemberg-Baden) merged to form Baden-Württemberg. Five years later, France returned the Saarland to Germany.

Berlin was not a state until the German reunification on 3rd October 1990. Berlin was under the sovereignty of the allies, USA, Great Britain, France and the Soviet-Union.

There are 13 area states in Germany (Flächenländer), and 3 city states (Stadtstaaten), Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. The latter actually consists of Bremen and Bremerhaven.
Head of a state is the Ministerpräsident in the area states, and the Bürgermeister in the city states.

Overview of the 16 States

exlamation mark
This is a long page, so click on a link below for a quick jump to a state. You can always come back here using the "overview" link. Enjoy the information about the states in Germany.

Baden-Württemberg     Bavaria     Berlin     Brandenburg     Bremen     Hamburg     Hessen     Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania     Lower Saxony     North Rhine-Westphalia     Rhineland-Palatinate     Saarland     Saxony     Saxony-Anhalt     Schleswig-Holstein     Thuringia

The Southern German States

Click on an image for a gallery of larger pictures:

Bayern - Bavaria

Size: 70,551 km²
Population: 12,494,781
Capital: Munich

Bavaria is the largest state in Germany, and one of the oldest in Germany.

After WW II Bavaria rehabilitated from an agrarian to an industrial state. Audi, BMW, Siemens and some major insurance companies are based in Bavaria.

german states bavaria
The culture of Bavaria is distinct, and Bavarians love to be different. They are proud of their traditions, wear their Tracht (Lederhosen and Dirndl) and perform their folk music (Volksmusik) on special occasions. The most famous Volksfest in Germany, you know it, is the Octoberfest in Munich.

The Catholic religion is also an important part of Bavarian culture. Bavarians are extremely proud that pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger) was born in their state.
There are a lot of jokes about the German-Bavarian relations, some are even rather nasty.
Nevertheless, Bavaria is another favourite holiday destination for Germans and international travellers around the year. After all, Bavaria has a small portion of the Alps within its territory, most enjoyed among ski enthusiasts, hikers and mountaineers.

Apart from the alpine region, other favourite Bavarian tourist attractions include the picturesque towns along the romantic road like Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Hey, I don't need to tell you that Neuschwanstein castle is one of the best known attractions in Germany at all.

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Baden-Württemberg

Size: 35,751 km²
Population: 10,744,383
Capital: Stuttgart

Baden-Württemberg is one of the most prosperous German states and one of the Four Motors of Europe.
Despite world concerns like Daimler AG, SAP and Robert Bosch AG, mid-sized companies are the backbone of the economy.

black forest scenery
People of Baden-Württemberg are known for being inventive and industrious. "Wir können alles, ausser Hochdeutsch (We can everything except (speaking) proper German) reflects the hard-working people and their distinctive dialects.

Baden-Württemberg is also a popular holiday destination (Black Forest, Lake Constance, Swabian Alb). These are the areas where I love to spend my holidays.

This state of Germany also has the oldest German university (Heidelberg) and people enjoy an outstanding quality of life.

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Hessen - Hesse

Size: 21,114 km²
Population: 6,060,841
Capital: Wiesbaden

Hessen is one of the smaller German states, but a fine one. What else can I say, Hessen is where I live :).

Hessen is home of the Grimm Brothers, and Hanau is the start of the German fairy tale road that goes north to Bremen.

ronneburg hessen
The Rhine-Main-area is the second-largest metropolitan region in Germany. Frankfurt is the largest city in Hesse, and the only German city with a "world city" status. Germany's busiest airport, railway station and motorway intersections are also located in Frankfurt.

Want to get away from the hustle and bustle? You don't have to go far. Taunus, Odenwald and Spessart are beautiful mountainous areas in central Hesse, and easy to reach from Frankfurt.
Hesse is the most wooded state in Germany. It has placid spa towns, lovely rivers & lakes, and romantic villages.

Kassel is the major centre in north Hessen, famous for the "Documenta", an exhibition of modern art. The Documenta takes place every 5 years.
The 13th Documenta opens on the 9th of June 2012.

North Hessen is the fairy-tale country. It was in Kassel where the Brothers Grimm collected many of their tales.
Visit the Sababurg in the Reinhardswald forest, it is the home of Sleeping Beauty.
If you've got some time, you can discover the country following the Grimm Trail in the Kasseler land.

Related articles you will enjoy. Discover the best holiday regions in the southern German states.

The Central German States

Sachsen - Saxony

Size: 18,418 km²
Population: 4,183,404
Capital: Dresden

Saxony is the economical leader of the five "new" states of Germany. Silicon Saxony is not just a nickname, it is an association of nearly 300 companies in the electronics and microsystems industry, including science and consulting organisations.

dresden

Dresden has been known as Elb-Florenz (Florence on the river Elbe) because of its baroque architecture and art collections.


Thüringen - Thuringia

Size: 16,172 km² Population: 2,261,236 Capital: Erfurt

Thuringia is a state where you can delve into German culture and history.
Discover towns where famous German people were born, or lived for many years. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Erfurt, Jena, Weimar), Friedrich Schiller (Weimar, Meiningen, Jena), Johann Sebastian Bach (Eisenach) and Martin Luther (Wartburg, Erfurt, Eisenach) have left their traces in Thuringia.

The Rennsteig is a famous ridge walk in the Thuringian forest. At the end of the day a hearty Thuringian Bratwurst is waiting for you.

Nordrhein-Westfalen - North-Rhine Westphalia

Size: 34,086 km²
Population: 17,904,653
Capital: Düsseldorf

Germany's westernmost and most populous state also includes the largest metropolitan area, the Rhine-Ruhr region. The subdivision Ruhr (Ruhrgebiet) is also known as the Ruhrpott and the Revier. Since the 19th century, coal mining and the steel industry have been the major industries for more than a century.
Coal mining declined in the 1960s. Many of the industrial sites are now home to museums and event locations. Actually, Ruhr was the European Capital of Culture 2010.

Apart from industrial cities, North-Rhine Wesphalia has lovely regions to spend a holiday. The Münsterland is a cycling paradise, and the Sauerland is a favourite holiday region all around the year.

aachen cathedral

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Rheinland-Pfalz - Rhineland-Palatinate

Size: 19,853 km²
Population: 4,020,917
Capital: Mainz

Rhineland-Palatinate is Germany's wine state. 80 to 90 % of Germany's wine exports are grown along the rivers Rhine, Mosel and Ahr.
The most beautiful part of the middle Rhine valley is situated in Rhineland-Palatinate. Explore medieval castles overlooking the river, enjoy a wine sample tour in small villages with beautiful half-timbered houses.
In the industry sector Rhineland-Palatinate is home of the largest chemical company in the world (BASF), one of the largest breweries, and car manufacturers.


Saarland

Size: 2,568 km²
Population: 1,027,700
Capital: Saarbrücken

The Saarland is the smallest German state, both in area and population.
The area consisted of several territories, ruled by different sovreigns for centuries. The region became part of France during the French revolution, but only until Napoleon's defeat. 1870 the French invaded the Saar region again, this was the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War 1870/71. The back and forth continued until Saarland joined the Federal Republik of Germany in 1957.
With its history, and the fact of being close to France, many people in Saarland speak French fairly good.

The Northern German States

Schleswig-Holstein

Size: 15,799 km²
Population: 2,830,889
Capital: Kiel

Schleswig-Holstein is the land between the seas. Bordered by the North Sea in the west, and the Baltic Sea in the east, it is the ideal holiday destination for everyone who loves to sail and surf.

north sea coast
Even if the weather is not perfect for a day on the beach, you can explore beautiful towns and cities like Kiel, Flensburg, Schleswig and Lübeck.
The Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park is a highlight on the west coast and a delight for bird watchers. The North Frisian Islands (Sylt, Amrum, Pellworm and Föhr) are favourite holiday destinations.


Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Size: 23,185 km²
Population: 1,659,023
Capital: Schwerin

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is the state with the least population density.
The "land of thousand lakes" offers great holiday resorts and unspoiled nature. Rügen and Usedom, are both beautiful islands in the Baltic Sea, and favourite destinations.

Old cities and towns like Rostock, Schwerin and Greifswald have beautiful buildings in the "Hanseatic style", and are worth a visit.

schwerin castle

Sachsen-Anhalt - Saxony-Anhalt

Size: 20,447 km²
Population: 2,373,485
Capital: Magdeburg

The chemical industry plays a major role in the industrial sector, while the food industry counts on the best soil in Germany around Magdeburg. The oldest German chocolate factory is in Halle. The state is also famous for its Baumkuchen.

The Harz mountains and beautiful old towns like Wernigerode, Osterode and Quedlinburg are favourite tourist spots.

Niedersachsen - Lower Saxony

Size: 47,625 km²
Population: 7,937,280
Capital: Hanover

Lower Saxony is the second largest state in Germany. The country rises from the flat plains in the north to the beginning of the German central highlands in the south of the state.

lighthouse
Agriculture has always been a major part of the economy. The biggest employer in the industry is of course the Volkswagen concern in Wolfsburg.
The coastline and the East Frisian islands are favourite holiday destinations, as well as the Harz mountains and the Lüneburger Heide.


Bremen

Size: 404 km²
Population: 661,166
Capital: Bremen

Although Bremen is considered a city state, it actually consists of two enclaves, Bremen and Bremerhaven. Both cities are surrounded by the state of Lower Saxony, both are located on the river Weser.
Bremerhaven is an important container port and home of the German Maritime Museum.

The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (Freie Hansestadt Bremen) is a very old city with a long history in trading. The Old Town (Altstadt) is the main attraction for visitors with the impressive Town Hall and the Cathedral St. Petri lining the market place.

The statues of "Roland" and the "Bremer Stadtmusikanten" (from Grimm's fairy-tales) can be seen on the market square.

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Hamburg

Size: 755 km²
Population: 1,775,333

Hamburg's official name, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg) refers to Hamburg's status in history. The city was a member of the Hanse, and a free imperial city during the Holy Roman Empire.

hamburg harbour
The port of Hamburg is the second-largest port in Europe and a major tourist attraction.

The harbour area with the old warehouse district (Speicherstadt) is fascinating, the church St. Michaelis (Michel) is a famous landmark, and sure everyone knows the red-light district Reeperbahn.


Berlin

Size: 891 km²
Population: 3,429,525

Berlin is the capital city of Germany, and one of the 3 city states in Germany as well. Located in the north-east, only 70 km from the Polish border, it is also Germany's largest city.
Politics, culture, sports, recreation and a vibrant nightlife - you can get all that in our thriving capital.

berlin attractions


Brandenburg

Size: 29,480 km²
Population: 2,517,726
Capital: Potsdam

Brandenburg's capital Potsdam, just 24 km south-west of Berlin, was the residence of Prussian kings until 1918. Sanssouci Palace and the surrounding park are a major attraction, and the largest UNESCO world heritage site in Germany.
Brandenburg has the second least population density of all German states. A friend of mine who used to lived here, called it the German Outback.
So it is no surprise that nature parks and biospheres are a big draw for visitors to Brandenburg. The Spreewald, about 100 km south-east of Berlin, is listed as a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO.

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