What’s New in Germany, Hungary, and Austria for 2013

By Rick Steves Modified: February 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013

Three countries with a rich heritage--Germany, Hungary, and Austria--each have a constantly evolving sightseeing scene. Here’s the latest:

            Getting into the Reichstag, Berlin’s parliament building (with its striking 155-foot-tall glass cupola), has been difficult over the last few years due to changing security and entrance procedures. Things have finally settled down and the process is clear: To visit the dome, it’s best to make a free reservation online several days in advance at www.bundestag.de. Once you have a reservation, simply report to the visitors center at the appointed time.

            In Munich, sights are closing and opening. In the Residenz, the downtown palace of the Bavarian kings, the mythological scenes decorating the Halls of the Nibelungen are not on view, undergoing restoration at least through 2014. Reopening in Munich this May is the Lenbachhaus, home to the world’s largest collection of early Modernist Blaue Reiter paintings. The refurbished galleries now also host a first-rate collection of international contemporary art.

In Bavaria, the new Museum of the Bavarian Kings occupies a grand former hotel on the shore of the Alpsee, adjacent to the fairy-tale Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles. If you have free time between your castle tours and a higher-than-average curiosity about arcane Teutonic dynasties, this might be worth a stop. For most visitors, though, the highlight is the view of the lovely lake from the museum’s top floor.

St. Kilian’s Cathedral--the main church in Wurzburg, and the fourth-largest Romanesque cathedral in Germany--has reopened following a 3.2 million-euro renovation. The ornate stucco decoration inside has been spiffed up and the cathedral's two organs restored.

            Hamburg’s city center is taking on a new look, thanks to the urban renewal project called HafenCity. Built on 400 acres reclaimed from disused docklands right along the Elbe River, this roughly 15-block area in the city center is filling up with “starchitect”-designed buildings and waterside cafés. The anchor is the gigantic, architecturally striking Elbphilharmonie complex, home to a concert hall, hotel, apartments, and shopping center (due for completion in 2015).

            Towns in Germany are already preparing for 2017 and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the movement started by Martin Luther that led to the establishment of the Protestant Church. In Wittenberg, where Luther began his challenge to papal authority, the Luther Garden is a leafy statement of cooperation between Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox faiths. Hundreds of trees from as many Christian communities from around the world have been planted here, and each has a sister tree growing in its community of origin. Erfurt, Luther’s spiritual home, is welcoming visitors with Wednesday evening organ concerts at the Preachers’ Church and open-air opera performances on the steps of the cathedral in summer.

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