Famous Germans in History and how to add them to your Germany travel itinerary

Germany is a country with a rich history and rich German culture that has given the world countless contributions in various fields such as science, literature, music, art, and politics. The German people comprise a country of incredible variety of talent who have had a major impact worldwide. These include famous musicians, scientists, artists, politicians, and many others.

In this article you’ll read about Germany’s ultra famous, known worldwide if not for their name but for their contribution to the world. From kings and rules, authors and composers, heroes and villains, scientists, and automotive engineers.

Famous Germans in History and how to add them to your Germany travel itinerary
Famous Germans in History and how to add them to your Germany travel itinerary

The most famous Germans in History, and where to find them!

German cities are flush with places where you can find these historical figures today. From historical sites, to museums, to cultural events, and Germany’s most famous landmarks.

Visitors to Germany can enrich their experience by learning about the life and legacy of these iconic figures and in this article, you’ll learn about the best place to add these famous Germans to your Germany itinerary.

Here are some of the most famous Germans and how you can add them to your travel itinerary!

King Ludwig II (1845-1886)

King Ludwig II of Bavaria, is sometimes known as “Mad King Ludwig,” however, I prefer “Swan King.” He was eccentric, yes, “mad”? less likely. His enemies plotted against him, their intent, to have him declared insane. His life, a tragic fairytale. Richard Wagner, a close friend of the kings, was unfortunately correct in his assessment after their first meeting. He wrote: “Alas, he is so handsome and wise, soulful and lovely, that I fear that his life must melt away in this vulgar world like a fleeting dream of the gods.” (source: Wikipedia)

Ludwig’s castles reflect his romantic side and are some of the very best German Landmarks!

Add Ludwig’s Castle to your travel itinerary:

king ludwig bavaria germany
King Ludwig II By Ferdinand von Piloty (1828-1895) -wikipedia

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Anne Frank (1929-1945)

Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who is famous for her diary that she kept while hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Although her story takes place in a foreign country, Anne was of German descent, born in Frankfurt Germany. The young authors family moved to the Netherlands to escape the anti-Semitic laws in Germany.

Nazis eventually invaded the Netherlands and began rounding up Jews. In July 1942, Anne’s family went into hiding in the secret annex of a building. They lived there for two years until August 4th of 1944 when they were discovered and arrested by Nazi officers. Anne tragically died at the age of 16 in a Nazi Concentration Camp. (source: Wikipedia)

The house where Anne and her family hid away is located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. These some worthwhile Anne Franke sites in Germany:

  • The Anne Frank Educational Centre, Frankfurt am Main
  • Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, Hanover. Visit the memorial where Anne and thousands of others, died.
  • The Anne Frank Centre (Anne Frank Zentrum), Berlin
Anne Frank, the most famous Germanys in History, travel article
Anne Frank

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Albert Einstein, a German-born theoretical physicist, was not only one of the greatest German scientists, but one of the greatest scientists and physicists in the world. Einstein introduced the theory of relativity and the mass-energy equivalence formula equation (E=mc².) and was the recipient of a Nobel Prize. (source: Wikipedia)

Here are some Albert Einstein tourist sites in Germany:

Albert Einstein, the most famous Germans in History travel article
Albert Einstein, one of the great pillars of modern physics (theoretical physics)

Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese (1800’s)

You may not know them by name, but you’re guaranteed to know the festival that began with them! Ludwig, who would later become King Ludwig I, and Therese were the parents of Ludwig II of Neuschwanstein fame. The very first Oktoberfest held in Germany was in celebration of their marriage in October of 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities and so the tradition of Oktoberfest began! (source: Wikipedia)

In late September/early October annually, festival goers enjoy copious amounts of German beer and traditional German food in a lively festive atmosphere.

Here are some of the best Oktoberfest locations in Germany:

  • Oktoberfest in Munich: The original location, with its massive beer tents, is where you’ll find the biggest Oktoberfest celebration in the world! (consider: guided Oktoberfest experience with beer and lunch)
  • Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart (Stuttgart Beer Festival): is the second-largest beer festival in Germany.
  • Other popular options include: Hanover Oktoberfest, Berlin Oktoberfest, Frankfurt Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest Germany
Oktoberfest Germany

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Martin Luther was an influential German leader during the Middle Ages. He was a key figure in the Protestant Reformation that steered Germans away from the Catholic Church. Luther’s greatest achievement was founding the Lutheran Church. He also translated the Bible into the German language. (source: Wikipedia)

Here are some Martin Luther tourist sites in Germany:

  • Luther and the Witches exhibit at the Medieval Crime Museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This exhibit is a personal favorite! It’s dedicated to witches and witch hunts, sorcery, and explains Luther’s involvement in the matter. Can’t get there now? they offer a virtual tour of this fantastic exhibit!
  • Castle Church Wittenberg: now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luther is said to have posted his Ninety-Five Theses which sparked the Reformation here. Also in Wittenberg is the Lutherhaus Museum, where Luther once resided.
  • Eisleben: Luther’s Birth House and Luther’s Death House
  • Erfurt: Augustinian Monastery/Museum: Luther spent six years here as a monk. Erfurt Cathedral, where was ordained as a priest in this magnificent cathedral.
  • Luther In Heidelberg Tour – Eating, Drinking, Disputing
Martin Luther, famous Germans in History travel article
Martin Luther

Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, The Grimm Brothers (1700’s & 1800’s)

Jacob and Wilhem, the Brothers Grimm are famous for their collection of fairy tales and German folklore, including two of their most famous works, “Cinderella” and “Snow White.” The small towns and villages and the dark forests of Germany exemplify the storybook tales made famous by the pair. You can easily imagine the Big Bad Wolf waiting for his chance to pounce on Little Red Riding Hood from behind a towering tree in the Black Forest, or the Pied Piper leading the children astray through the streets of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. (source: Wikipedia)

Here are some Grimm Brothers tourist sites in Germany:

  • Grimmwelt Museum, Kassel
  • Fairy Tale Road (Märchenstraße): a scenic tourist route that connects various towns and landmarks where the brothers lived and drew inspiration.
  • Grimm Brothers National Monument Bronze Statue, Hanau
  • Brothers Grimm House Museum, Steinau: the childhood home of the brothers.
  • Sababurg Castle: is believed to have inspired the tale of Sleeping Beauty.
  • Bremen: Just minutes from the flat northern coast is beautiful Bremen, where you’ll find the Bremen town Musicians statue, an ode to one of the most popular Grimm tales.
Grimm Brothers statue Hanau Germany
Grimm Brothers statue Hanau Germany

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Bach, one of the greatest composers of all time, hailed from Germany. The famous composer crafted over 1,000 works of music. His music is commonly heard at churches and concert halls throughout Germany. (source: Wikipedia)

Here are some Johann Sebastian Bach tourist sites in Germany:

  • St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche), Leipzig: where Bach served as the music director for over 27 years. Visitors can attend concerts and experience the music in the very place where Bach worked.
  • Bach Museum, Leipzig: houses exhibits on Bach’s family, his compositions, original manuscripts, instruments, and provides insights into Bach’s musical genius.
  • Bachhaus, Eisenach: is Bach’s birthplace, a museum housed in the building where Bach was born.
  • St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche), Erfurt: features a Bach organ, and occasional performances are held to honor his music.
  • Bach Bronze Statue, Leipzig
  • Leipzig tours on Get your guide

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven, one of the most admired composers in history, is another legendary composer and pianist that hailed from Germany. Some of his most famous works include Moonlight Sonata, The Emperor Piano Concerto, Eroica Symphony, and Ode to Joy. (source: Wikipedia)

Here are some Ludwig van Beethoven tourist sites in Germany:

  • Beethoven-Haus Museum, (Beethoven’s Birthplace Museum) Bonn: The house where Beethoven was born. Other Beethoven locations in Bonn include the Beethoven bronze statue of the composer, and Beethoven-Halle (Concert Hall) which hosts orchestra performances of Beethoven’s works and other classical music events.
  • Beethoven Statue, Münsterplatz, Frankfurt
Ludwig Van Beethoven, Famous Germans in History travel article
Ludwig Van Beethoven

Angela Merkel (b. 1954-)

Angela Merkel certainly deserves a spot on this list of most famous people in German history.

Merkel had an impressive political career, serving as chancellor of the German States from 2005 to 2021. She was the first female chancellor and a pioneer in the women’s movement. “During her chancellorship, Merkel was frequently referred to as the de facto leader of the European Union (EU) and the most powerful women in the world. She was often described as the leader of the free world. (source: Wikipedia)

Here are some of the best Angela Merkel tourist sites in Germany:

  • Berlin: The Reichstag Building: this historic legislative government building offers guided tours in German, other languages offered with a minimum of 6 people. The roof terrace and dome offer spectacular views of Berlin’s sights and the parliamentary and German government district of Berlin. The Federal Chancellery: the office of the Chancellor of Germany. Visitors can take a guided tour of the building and learn more about the role of the Chancellor.
  • Leipzig College Campus: Tour the campus that counts Merkel as an alum, book a guided tour here.
Angela Merkel, the most famous Germans in History travel article
Angela Merkel

The House of Habsburg Dynasty (1500’s – 1900’s)

For centuries, the House of Habsburg was one of the most powerful royal families in Europe. The Austro-Hungarian Habsburgs bled over into other parts of The Holy Roman Empire in Europe, including the country today known as Germany. The Habsburg family dynasty held several prominent titles, including Holy Roman Emperors, Kings of Spain, Archdukes of Austria, and rulers of various other territories.

While you’ll find more Habsburg sites in Austria, here are some of the notable Habsburg castles and palaces located in the German Empire which were once owned by this powerful European Dynasty:

  • Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg: Located in the Swabian Alps, this castle was once owned by the Hohenzollern branch of the Habsburg family. It is considered one of the most impressive castles in Germany.
  • Schloss Heidelberg: was a key residence of the Electors Palatine, who were closely connected to the Habsburg dynasty through marriages and alliances.

Interesting fact: You may be interested in this article by the Smithsonian on The Habsburg Jaw, a family trait that was the result of inbreeding.

Habsburg family, the most famous Germans in History travel article
The Habsburgs

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the German Army and the Nazi Party. By all rights, he was a monster who was responsible for the extermination of 11 million men, women and children in the single worst atrocity in the history of mankind.

READ IT AGAIN, 11 MILLION human lives extinguished because of one madman and his regime. So instead, we will concentrate on the victims of the holocaust. (source: Wikipedia)

(Important note: The Holocaust and all things related to it are a touchy subject in Germany. Always be respectful and try to avoid talking about it unless THEY broach the subject with you)

These are present day travel destinations relating to World War II, some powerful and haunting reminders:

Holocaust Memorial Berlin Germany
Holocaust Memorial Berlin Germany

Gustav Otto (1883-1926 Otto) and Karl Rapp (1882-1962 Rapp)

In the early 1900’s this pair Founded the company that would eventually become known as Bayerische Motoren Werke… commonly known as BMW! If you’re into these luxury cars there are several places where you can get your BMW fix in Germany! source: Wikipedia)

Here is where you can find Gustav and Karl’s luxury cars in Germany:

Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951)

Ferdinand was the founder of the Porsche Car Company. Born in Czechia he’s one of the most famous German immigrants in history, becoming a naturalized German citizen at the age of 59. If you have ever wanted to get behind the wheel of Germany’s most popular sports car there are places where you can make those dreams come true! (source: Wikipedia)

Here are some places to get your “need for speed” Porsche inspired fix:

Carl (Karl) Benz (Mercedes-Benz) (1844-1929)

Karl Benz, a German automotive engineer, was the inventor of the automobile. His 1866 three-wheeled motor car, known as the “Motorwagen”, was the precursor to the modern-day automobile. Benz eventually founded the Mercedes-Benz Car Company. Benz is “the best or nothing!” There are several place in Germany where car enthusiasts can explore all things Mercedes-Benz. (source: Wikipedia)

Get your classy car fix here:

  • Mercedes-Benz Museum Stuttgart: a collection of Mercedes-Benz cars from throughout the company’s history. The collection includes racing cars driven by Michael Schumacher who is a former German Formula One racing driver who is widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers of all time. The museum also features automobiles that were developed by Gottlieb Daimler, who developed the forerunner of the modern gas engine.
  • Mercedes-Benz Factory Tour, Sindelfingen: See how the cars are made! This factory offers guided tours of Mercedes-Benz production facilities and includes a visit to the assembly line.
  • Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, Fellbach: is a restoration and sales center for classic Mercedes-Benz cars. See the cars being restored and browse the selection of classic cars for sale.
  • Mercedes-Benz World, Wörth: features a test track where visitors can drive Mercedes-Benz cars.
Luxury German Cars invented by famous Germans in History, Top: Porche Middle: BMW Bottom: Mercedes
Luxury German Cars invented by famous Germans in History

Neanderthal

Neanderthal is an extinct species or subspecies who lived in Eurasia until about 40,000 years ago. While not exactly ethnic Germans, Neanderthal 1 was discovered in the Neandertal Valley in Germany, near the town of Mettman. (source: Wikipedia) Germany is known for its rich Neanderthal heritage, with several sites associated with the Neanderthals and their prehistoric existence.

Here are some Neanderthal tourist sites in Germany:

  • The Feldhofer Cave, Erkrath: world-renowned as the discovery site of Neanderthal 1. Excavations in 1997 and 2000 by the Rhineland Department of Archaeological and Natural Heritage yielded, along with human bones, stone artifacts here. The cave is not open to the public but can be viewed from outside.
  • Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann: showcases exhibits on the Neanderthal’s lifestyle, culture, and their coexistence with early humans.
  • LVR-LandesMuseum, Bonn: See the actual skeletal remains of Neanderthal
Neanderthal discovered in Germany, famous Germans in history travel article
Neanderthal discovered in Germany

Honorable Mention

These didn’t make my “MOST FAMOUS” list but they are famous Germans worth noting.

Marlene Dietrich

was a German born actress and singer, famous not only in the United States, but around the world. Dietrich received an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 1930 film Morocco.

Some of the tourist attractions related to her include:

  • Berlin: Marlene Dietrich Platz: was named after the actress. Marlene Dietrich Collection at the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum: features a collection of Marlene Dietrich’s memorabilia and personal belongings.
  • Marlene Dietrich’s Grave, Berlin: located in the Städtischer Friedhof III cemetery.

Karl Marx

was a German philosopher who was known as The Father of Communism. He was, along with Friedrich Engels, the co-author of the communist manifesto. Joseph Stalin applied the socialist theories of Marx and Lenin as political expedients used to realize his plans for the Soviet Union and for world socialism.

Some of the tourist attractions related to Karl Marx in Germany include:

  • The Karl Marx House Museum, Trier: where Marx was born.
  • The Karl Marx Statues in Chemnitz and Berlin.

Käthe Wohlfahrt

Wilhelm and Käthe Wohlfahrt founded this year-round Christmas store that claims to have the largest selection of traditional German Christmas ornaments in the world. The main store is located in the charming medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, where it’s Christmas year-round! There is also an impressive Christmas Museum in Rothenburg.

The firm has a chain of shops around the world. Locations in Germany include:

  • Nuremberg, Bamberg, Oberammergau, Berlin, Heidelberg, and Rüdesheim am Rhein. (find a store here!)

Johann Wolfgang Goethe

was a German poet, playwright, and novelist. His most famous German literature work being Faust, a play about a man who sells his soul to the Devil, is sometimes considered Germany’s greatest contribution to the world of literature. Lesser-known works include The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Here are some of the notable tourist attractions related to Goethe in Germany:

  • Frankfurt Germany: Goethe House Museum: where Goethe was born, and the Goetheplatz Goethe Statue
  • Goethe National Museum, Weimar: Goethe’s Garden House

German Supermodels

Claudia Schiffer and Heidi Klum (a staple at New York fashion week) are world renowned supermodels that hail from Germany. The two are among the most recognizable German Celebrities worldwide.

Two popular Fashion Museums in Germany include:

  • the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg and the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin.

German athletes

Famous German athletes include a pair of German Tennis players: Boris Becker was the youngest ever male Grand Slam singles champion and Steffi Graf was an Olympic gold medalist in tennis. Franz Beckenbauer is a German soccer player who played in 3 World Cups.

Here are a few tourist attractions in Germany dedicated to the famous athletes:

  • Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum, Cologne
  • FC Bayern Museum, Munich: football club museum and the German: Deutsches Fußballmuseum) aka DFB-Museum, Dortmund,

Johannes Gutenberg

was a German inventor who invented the printing press. The Gutenberg Bible, was the first printed version of the Bible.

Here is a list of the top Gutenberg sights in Germany:

  • Mainz: Gutenberg Museum: where you can see the original Gutenberg Bibles, Gutenberg’s House, and the Gutenberg Statue which features Gutenberg holding a printing press.

Albrecht Dürer

was a famous German artist.

Here are some of the notable tourist attractions related to Albrecht Dürer in Germany:

  • Nuremberg: Albrecht Dürer’s House Museum the Germanisches Nationalmuseum which features a large collection of Dürer’s works. St. Sebaldus Church: features several of Dürer’s works, including a large altarpiece that he created in 1508.
  • Alte Pinakothek Museum, Munich: features several of Dürer’s works, including his famous self-portrait from 1500.

Johannes Brahms

was a German composer, pianist, and conductor. His most famous work is probably the Lullaby Song, sometimes referred to as the “Brahms Lullaby.

Here are some of the notable tourist attractions related to Johannes Brahms in Germany:

  • Brahms House Museum, Baden-Baden
  • Brahms Bronze Statue and Brahms Museum, Hamburg
  • Brahms Festival, Lübeck
  • Brahms Museum, Heide: housed in a building that was once a school where Brahms taught music.
Brahms Lullaby edit

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Wagner was a famous German composer known for his epic operas, such as “Tristan and Isolde.

Here are some of the notable tourist attractions related to Richard Wagner in Germany:

  • Bayreuth: Annual Bayreuth Festival: established by Wagner himself, the festival features performances of Wagner’s operas. Richard Wagner Museum: located in the former home of Wagner, Festspielhaus (Operahouse): the German opera house, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was designed by Wagner himself.
  • Richard Wagner Bronze Statue in Leipzig

Frequently Asked Questions

What about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

You may be wondering why I neglected to add the most famous music composer of all time to this list. Because Mozart was not technically German. He was born in Salzburg, which is today in present day Austria, which did not exist at the time. However, “Mozart…counted himself a German composer” so we’ll give him a quick mention. (source: Wikipedia)

The best place to “find” Mozart is in Salzburg (mere kilometers from the German border) where there are tons of fun Mozart attractions!

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