1. Get spiritual at Altenberger Dom
Set in a forested area, surrounded by meadows of wild flowers and grazing cattle, this impressive gothic church has a serene atmosphere and outlook. Built in the 13th century, the adjacent Cistercian monastery dates back to 1133. Decor is simple, but the stained glass windows are intricate
Top tip: Organ concerts are a regular event and the area is ideal for hiking or a picnic, but if you’re passing through, it’s also a great place to pause for contemplation.
2. Experience Roman times
Head to Xanten to wander around Germany’s largest open-air archaeological museum, with reconstructed buildings recreating the atmosphere of the former Roman city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. The adjacent LVR-Römermuseum recounts the 400-year Roman history of Xanten, with exhibits revealing the lives of emperors, citizens and gladiators.
Top tip: The amphitheatre seats up to 10,000 people — it hosts Roman games and music concerts in the summer.
3. Photograph Freudenberg
The medieval town of Freudenberg is famous for having more than 80 identical 17th-century houses.
Top tip: Bring a camera; these white houses with their slate roofs and sloping beams, arranged in uniform rows are a photographer’s dream.
4. Ride the Wuppertal Railway
This ‘hanging’ monorail is the only one of its kind in the world. Construction began at the end of the 19th century and today, the aerial tram travels suspended at a height of 40ft along an 8.2-mile route, mostly above the Wupper river, giving passengers fantastic aerial views of the city. It remains the fastest way of traversing the city.
Top tip: The original imperial carriage used by Emperor Wilhelm II in 1900 has been restored. It can be hired privately, or visitors can simply hop on board for a one-hour historic tour, with staff dressed in period costumes.
5. Stargaze at Eifel National Park
There are fewer than 40 regions worldwide where dark night sky is protected. This 42sq mile park is one of them — and where it’s possible to see the Milky Way with the naked eye. Top tip: Visit after dark for an astronomy workshop to observe the twinkling sky with telescopes.
6. Trek the land of 1,000 mountains
The Sauerland-Höhenflug is a 155-mile hiking trail that traverses woods and valleys from Altena to Korbach. Breathtaking views can be enjoyed from the many mountain peaks, and hikers will also pass through 19 towns as well as protected nature reserves.
Top tip: Visit the labyrinth of stalagmites and stalactites at Atta Cave — Germany’s largest.
7. Straddle three countries
Go to Dreiländereck in Aachen to walk through three countries. The park, located between Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, has excellent trails.
Top tip: Pack some local beer and cheese for a sunset picnic.
8. Soak up the views from Schloss Drachenburg
Close to the historic city of Bonn, the fairytale Drachenburg Castle took just two years, from 1882-1884, to build.
Top tip: Visit the Christmas Market to watch the play of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.