1 Riverside granary, Mannheim
This city is best-known as the home of big-brand industry, but it’s not without its selling points: its rich cultural scene saw it named a Unesco City of Music in 2014. Speicher7 is a converted riverside granary, where perks include a yoga and meditation room and a cocktail bar. Try a Mannheim mule: dry Bavarian gin with ginger beer and lime.
Saxony’s second city once had the poet Goethe in raptures, and its more recent “New Berlin” tag shows its appeal is enduring. The stylish 20-room Fregehaus hotel is in a 16th-century townhouse and makes a great base: it’s just steps from the Museum of Fine Arts. Rooms, on four floors around a courtyard, are smart without being overblown.
3 Factory chic, Berlin
The name Hüttenpalast – which translates loosely as “hut palace” –gives some idea of what to expect from Berlin’s most idiosyncratic accommodation option. It’s a former vacuum cleaner factory in the hip Neukölln district and offers “rooms” in a range of converted vintage caravans and repurposed huts in an indoor setting among fake grass and fairy-lit silver birches. If you’re keen on a bit more space, there are standard rooms too.
4 Design suites, Frankfurt
The Libertine Lindenberg in the city’s unrushed Alt-Sachsenhausen district is a new, well-priced all-suite hotel that feels genuinely different. It does away with the traditional reception desk – who needs ’em? – and focuses on home-from-home design, hand-made furnishings and a communal living room-cum-cafe. Suites range from one to three bedrooms, with short-term guests welcome. There’s even an in-house recording studio. It’s well placed for enjoying the neighbourhood’s numerous hostelries, known for apfelwein (“apple wine” – essentially German cider).
5 All-vegan B&B, Hamburg
Open since early 2015, Hamburg’s first all-vegan bed and breakfast, Green Haven, has only three rooms (one of them a single), as well as a trailer for two and an apartment for three. Owner Christiane has gone big on charm – most of the furniture is upcycled – and there’s a large living room. Breakfasts are an extra €5, although organic supermarket Alantura is a five-minute walk away for self-caterers. It’s in the Wandsbek district, eight minutes by train from central Hamburg.
6 Former monastery, Cologne
Cologne’s Belgian Quarter is arguably its most fashionable and cosmopolitan. Having escaped wartime bombing, it’s also one of the prettiest, and home to Hopper Hotel Et Cetera, a smart boutique hotel. The property was once a monastery: the floor-to-ceiling altarpiece mural in the restaurant is a nod to the fact that the space was once a chapel. Rooms are bright and sleek. A suite with roof terrace costs from €160.
7 Design hotel, Munich
A prime location in Munich doesn’t have to mean within staggering distance of the Hofbräuhaus. Family-run Hotel Stadt Rosenheim is some distance from the main tourist honeypots, but still has a plum address almost opposite the Ostbahnhof transport hub in Haidhausen, a residential district full of cafes, bars and independent shops. It has 51 modern rooms in a neo-renaissance building. Free soft drinks and a local-produce breakfast add to the attraction.
8 Hamptons-style house, Sylt
The windswept North Sea island of Sylt is part of the Frisian archipelago on the Danish border, and the 10-room Long Island House hotel is a place to hunker down for a few days of beach walks, sun loungers and lazy breakfast buffets. There’s a vintage, Hamptons feel to the property, hence the name. There’s also a large garden, but if the weather turns nippy: the rooms all have heated floors. The island is reached by train from Hamburg.
9 Island guesthouse, Fehmarn
The relaxed island of Fehmarn, off Schleswig-Holstein’s Baltic coast, is statistically one of the sunniest spots in the country. At only half the size of the Isle of Wight, it’s no mass-market getaway, but attracts windsurfers and birdwatchers in healthy numbers. In the south-west corner of the island, Haus Achtern Diek is a bright, caringly run six-room guesthouse in a prime seaside location.
10 Maritime manor house, Ahrenshoop
Since taking it over in late 2014, the owners of Landhaus Esperort, an old coastal manor house, have turned it into the kind of cosy sanctuary that a north European seaside break cries out for. The rooms have a tasteful maritime feel, and there’s a steam bath and Finnish sauna. Ahrenshoop, a fishing settlement on the Fischland-Darss-Zingst peninsula, became an artists’ colony in the late 1800s and still draws an alternative crowd.
11 Thatched house, Föhr
An all-suite hotel on the North Sea island of Föhr, Rackmers Hof occupies a thatched house built in 1845. All its suites have kitchens and garden terraces, and a small spa offers saunas and massages. Public spaces are decorated with modern art by island artists. Föhr itself, which has 15km of sandy beaches, is reached by a 45-minute ferry from Dagebüll.
12 Cool apartments, Usedom
A three-storey fin-de-siècle building reborn as roomy apartments with minimalist decor and exposed beams, Villa Albatros is a modish option on the Baltic island of Usedom, once a favourite of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Its sweeping beaches are still peered over by grandiose resort buildings, and its eastern half is actually in Poland.
13 Island life, Hiddensee
There’s nothing fancy about Pension zur Post: rooms are fresh, clean and well-priced, and it runs yoga and meditation workshops. The real draw is its location. Car-free Hiddensee island is all wind-blasted heathland and lighthouse-dotted beachscapes. There are numerous bike-hire outlets, though don’t expect to be pedalling all day – the island is just 18km long, by less than two wide.
14 Castle hotel, Rothenburg
On the edge of Rothenburg’s hilly old town, the 15-room Burg-Hotel has spectacular views across the vineyards and woods of the Tauber valley. Rooms, on five floors, are spacious and individually designed, and many have four-poster beds. The breakfast room sits 80 metres above the valley floor, adding extra pep to your morning coffee. There is a small wellness area.
15 Cyclists’ pension and hostel, Bad Berka
The green Thuringia countryside is veined with bike paths, and cyclists are well served by Velo Inn, an 11-room guesthouse 13km from Weimar. It offers guided cycle-touring, as well as a rental service and a bike garage. Shuttle transfers to a trail along the Saale river can also be arranged. Rooms are comfortable and practical, and the area also has some fine hiking routes.
16 Log cabins, Sauerland
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state in the country, not that you’d guess it at Hof Keppel, a child-friendly working farm in the wooded Sauerland region. Guest accommodation is in elegantly rustic log cabins. Kids can meet the animals and collect eggs; adults can enjoy local hiking trails or relax on the veranda.
17 Tree-top houses, Witzenhausen
Germany has a surprising number of baumhaushotels (treehouse hotels), and this one in north-east Hesse is one of the more eye-catching. Open since 2014, Baumhotel Robins Nest comprises three wooden treetop houses, a stilted cabin and a geometrically pleasing “tree ball” – a triangular-panelled sphere suspended from the canopy. The larger houses sleep four, and the cabin eight. It’s all in the grounds of a 15th-century castle, and hanging rope bridges help give the place a feel of the Ewok forest from Star Wars.
18 The hills are alive, Oberstdorf
Ignore the unprepossessing name of the Schittlerhaus. This family-run apartment hotel is at the foot of the Allgäu Alps in the south-west, and its panoramic setting is complemented by seven classy apartments and one smaller guest room. It’s been in the same family – yes, the Schittlers – since opening in 1953, but feels far from dated. The local peaks are great for both summer hiking and winter sports. Munich is about two hours away by car.
19 Tipi and cabins, Uelzen
Uhlenköper Camp in Lower Saxony is green in more ways than one. The shower block, restaurant and on-site shop run on solar power, while the well-sized swimming pool is chlorine-free. While there is space for tents and campervans, it also offers a six-person tipi and two “sleep barrels” – cylindrical wooden cabins for families of up to four. The surrounding countryside is particularly impressive in August and September, when its abundant beds of heather blush a glowing purple. Kayaks can be hired for trips on the nearby river.
20 Spa hotel, Bad Sobernheim
Less than 90 minutes from the finance towers of Frankfurt, the 50-room BollAnts im Park isn’t cheap – but you’ll soon see why. To describe it as a high-end spa hotel would be to rather do it down. Not content with having 2,000 square metres of saunas, pools and treatment suites, it also has a dreamy valley setting, broad gardens and three top-notch restaurants, one of which has a Michelin star. Yoga retreats are offered too.