The question for many when trying to decide between France or Germany, is what separates these European holiday destinations from each other? Yet while both nations have similar climates and iconic cities, each has its own distinct histories, cultures, sights to visit, and cuisines that set them apart.
After spending a significant amount of time in each, we pit France vs Germany below. We compare both before looking at what each country has to offer, the food you can try, what natural attractions you can see in each, as well some amazing towns and cities you should visit.
France or Germany: Which is the better vacation destination?
Both France and Germany are known for their distinct cultures, unique cities and some stunning landscapes, so you’re guaranteed a great holiday whichever you choose.
However if you’re looking for holiday destination that will encompass a bit of sun, sea, and sand, then France will be the better choice. That’s because France has some stunning beaches – especially in the French Riviera.
Away from the coastline and France appears to have it all as well. This nation has a rich history, and has iconic cities like Paris and La Rochelle, and ancient fairytale-like towns and villages such as Annecy and Yvoire. On top of that France’s different regions have very unique qualities and charm – as we show you later. Some even have a German ‘feel’ to them as a result of sitting on the France/Germany border.
However Germany is one of those countries that does give France a run for its money when it comes to holiday vacations. While this nation isn’t much of a beach destination – although Germany’s islands in the north do have some beautiful stretches of coastline – it still has lots to offer.
If anything, Germany is very much a nature lover’s paradise, and its landscape is arguably more beautiful than France. The region of Bavaria – in Germany’s south – is comprised of mountains, castles, and quaint villages that look like they belong in paintings. While the mysterious Black Forest region and mountain range have inspired stories and fairytales for generations.
In our opinion, Germany’s countless mountains, forests, and lakes make it one of the best destinations in Europe for hiking, biking, and camping. So if you’re looking for an active holiday then Germany will likely be the better choice than France.
Germany is also the unofficial home of beer, with the annual Oktoberfest drawing thousands of tourists every year. The traditional costumes, fantastic beers, food, and lively social gatherings at this event are well worth experiencing in your lifetime.
However, if you’re a foodie then France will likely suit you more. France is the home of cheese and wine, and a culinary giant in its own right.
In terms of expenses though, we’ve found Germany to be slightly cheaper than France when it comes to accommodation and eating out. In particular it’s often easier to find affordable accommodation in German cities than in their French counterparts.
France or Germany: Alluring natural wonders
With pleasant weather for most of the year, alongside regions that are as diverse as they are pretty, France is one of those countries we’ve been going back to for years.
For beach lovers, the French Riviera – or Côte d’Azur as it’s also known – is the place to be based. This coastline on the Mediterranean Sea is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. One of our favourite beaches is Plage de Pampelonne which is a long stretch of coastline beside Saint-Tropez with gorgeous soft sand and lovely crystal clear water for swimming.
For a more secluded beach, then head to Calanque d’En-vau, which is just south of Marseille. This isolated beach can only be reached by boat or via a trail that takes 2-3 hours, so you won’t find crowds here. The beach sits in a cove, and the water – trapped on either side by dramatic cliffs – is different shades of blue. It’s the perfect spot for swimming.
However, France has so much more to offer than just sun, sea, and sand. The winding canal system throughout the country means you can travel through France by boat – which in itself is a great way to see just how varied this country is from region to region.
In Normandy, in France’s north-west, a trip to the breathtaking tidal island of Mont Saint-Michel is a must. The gravity-defying abbey is a pilgrimage destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Related: Camping in Normandy)
In Alsace – which borders Germany and Switzerland – you can find centuries-old towns that look like they’ve been plucked from the Swiss Alps. Surrounding them is a landscape full of wild flowers and forests that appear like something from a Van Gogh painting.
For avid walkers and hikers who want a real challenge, the French Alps and Pyrenees mountains both have countless trails that span a variety of difficulties and lengths. The Trekkers Haute Route, which starts in France’s Chamonix, and ends in Switzerland’s Zermatt, is a highly demanding multi-day trek, but possibly one of the best in Europe.
If you’re a wine aficionado then visiting the French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy will be a delight. Vineyards are spread throughout these areas and scattered amongst them are spectacular medieval towns.
While Germany isn’t known as a beach destination, there’s actually around 50 German islands off the north coast! These islands are pretty, have a slow relaxed pace of life and many are nature reserves due to their untouched landscape and unique flora and fauna.
The island of Sylt has become a trendy destination in its own right – head there for expansive sandy beaches, watersports, and fine dining. For a laid-back atmosphere and the perfect place for a peaceful cycle or walk, then the quaint island of Hiddensee would be the perfect spot.
Back on the mainland, but at the opposite end of the country, is the stunning region of Bavaria. The culture here is very distinctive from the rest of Germany, but what makes it so special are the alpine lakes, lush forests and dramatic mountains that make Bavaria Germany’s most beautiful area.
Make sure you visit Königssee, a lake in south Bavaria that is regarded by many as Germany’s most beautiful. This lake is surrounded by dramatic steep mountains on all sides, and is our favourite swimming spot in Europe. There’s some lovely hiking routes around Königssee too.
For another great hiking spot, head northwest to the Black Forest. This region has been the inspiration behind stories and legends for centuries, and is a draw for hikers from around the world. In fact the trails on offer are routinely voted as some of the most awe-inspiring hikes in the world.
One gorgeous hiking trail to try is the Belchensteig, a 15km circular route through the south of the Black Forest to the summit of Belchen Mountain. The third highest peak (1414m) in the Black Forest is also often described as one of Germany’s most beautiful climbs and has fantastic panoramic views from the top. (Related: Hiking in the Black Forest).
Don’t forget to visit the Triberg Waterfalls if you do pass by the Black Forest – this 163m tall set of waterfalls is a landmark in the region.
For something more unusual, visit the geyser in Andernach. Although geysers are more often associated with places like Iceland, this one in western Germany shoots water out of the ground every two hours, and up to 60 meters in height!
This geyser really sums up Germany too. This country is packed with natural wonders, surprises, and geographical landmarks throughout.
France vs Germany: Fascinating cities and towns
Cities like Paris are one-of-a-kind and worth a multi-day visit in their own right. The capital’s chic cafes and coffee shops are great places to watch the world go by. This city also has one of the world’s most famous shopping streets – the Champs-Élysées. The iconic Moulin Rouge remains a popular evening spot for tourists who wish to visit the place where the modern form of can-can was invented.
However French cities like Strasbourg, Toulouse, and Bordeaux all offer their own unique charm and insight into French life as well.
Strasbourg, the capital of the Grand Est region, is a fascinating city which mixes French and German influences due to its proximity to Germany.
La Petite France in the city is well worth visiting. This postcard pretty district sits on the Rhine river and is made up of centuries-old homes – some made from timber – and is full of quirky cafes and shops. It’s historically a chocolate-making district, and some small chocolate shops with delicious goods still exist here.
Away from French cities are the medieval towns that dot the countryside. Some are built around the wine trade, like stunning Saint-Émilion. With its many outside cafes and bars, this town is one of the best places in the wine region to taste France’s most famous export,
Further north, take a trip to the colourful town of Colmar in the north-east which looks as though it’s come out of a Hans Christian Anderson storybook. Colourful buildings, cobbled streets, and flower boxes hug the canals that make up the old town. It’s arguably the most beautiful town in Europe.
It’s hard to compete with a city like Paris, but Germany’s capital of Berlin is iconic in its own way.
This city is probably the most diverse in Europe, and as a result of the mixing pot of cultures, religions, and nationalities here, a lively and exciting art, music, and food scene has popped up. Berlin has subsequently become Germany’s trendy city to live, and the district of Prenzlauer Berg is the place for chic cafes, indie shops and bars.
Of course, the Berlin Wall remains a major draw for tourists visiting the city, and a trip to the barrier that used to divide Germany is well worth it. Visiting the wall is free, but you can take guided tours for just a few euros – well worth it for history buffs.
In Bavaria, beautiful Regensburg is known for its stunning 300m long 13th century stone bridge and the medieval buildings that surround it. Much of the old city remains intact – unlike many other German cities due to the bombing raids in WW2 – and a stroll down the riverside in the city is very special. The traditional beer gardens that line the river are a hotspot for tourists and locals alike, and serve up generous sized portions of food alongside ice cold Bavarian beer.
Further west is Heidelberg, a cobblestoned lined city that is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the country. The city has been the home of philosophers and writers for centuries, and inspired many – like Mark Twain – to pen some of their greatest work. The red sandstone Heidelberg Castle looms above the city and is worth visiting for the view of the city alone.
Back in Bavaria and you will find countless towns with houses made from timber, and streets from stone, that look like they’ve been plucked straight from a movie set. Rothenburg is one of our favourites, and indeed parts of the town were used for scenes from Harry Potter due to the perfectly preserved ancient walls and buildings here.
However, the crown for most special German town has to go to Nördlingen, a town encrusted with diamonds!
An asteroid strike millions of years ago compressed stone near the town and produced rock studded with impact diamonds. That stone was used in the construction of Nördlingen’s Old Town, and the result is a settlement that shimmers in the light. Cimb the tower of St. George’s Church – manned by a very friendly tower watchman – and see the town in it’s full glory from above.
France or Germany: Tempting cuisines
The traditional food of France and Spain is a cocktail of the various civilizations that have inhabited these nations.
French cuisine is famous around the world, mainly due to two exports – cheese and wine!
There are wonderful region-specific cheeses throughout the country, from Camembert in the north, to the potent Roquefort in the south. The latter is one of the world’s most famous blue-cheeses, and you can visit the caves where Roquefort is matured by visiting the village where it’s made – Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.
If you’re looking for something more meaty, then try Boeuf bourguignon. This dish hails from Burgundy and is a beef stew that is braised with red wine and cooked with a selection of vegetables like carrots and mushrooms.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to what to drink, and most red wines from the Bordeaux region are going to trump any other wine-growing region in the world. However if you want something other than wine, then try Crème de cassis – this sweet blackcurrant liqueur is a popular after-dinner drink.
When it comes to German cuisine, expect carb and meat heavy dishes. What else from a nation that produces so many beers!
Bratwurst is a traditional food, and is a sausage made from pork and spices. To go full German, pair it with sauerkraut – fermented raw cabbage.
In Bavaria expect lots of roast meats and schnitzel – meat which is breaded and fried (usually in fat). It’s common for schnitzel to come with spätzle, which is a pasta-like side dish made with eggs.
Beer is synonymous with Germany. One of the best beers in the country is Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier. It’s made in an old abbey and the brewery that brews this beer claims to be the oldest in the world as it was formed in 1040!
France or Germany: Which is the better choice?
Both France and Germany are great holiday destinations, but they provide very different vacations.
If you’re looking for a holiday that encompasses sun, sea, sand, and relaxation, alongside some great day trips then France could be the better choice than Germany. France has iconic cities – like Paris – and diverse regions like the wine country and the French Riviera.
However if you’re wanting a holiday that is more nature focused, with opportunities for hiking and enjoying spectacular landscapes, then Germany will be a better choice than France. As well as being a country packed with mountains, lakes and waterfalls, Germany also has many lovely towns and villages that look like they’ve been plucked from a fairytale.
Germany also tends to be cheaper than France, although France is probably the better destination if you’re a foodie.
Recommended for your trip to France or Germany
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