Germany at a Glance: Welcome to Germany!

Germany’s landscapes, cities and culture are diverse and fascinating. Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. Many groundbreaking inventions were developed here. Science and research have a long tradition in Germany and are highly valued. Around 13 % of people living in Germany come from other countries. Germany is cosmopolitan and tolerant.

by the Editors (last updated May 2019)

Student riding a bicycle in Berlin with the Fernsehturm in the background © DAAD/Jan Zappner
Cyclist in Berlin . © DAAD/Jan Zappner

Germany is located at the heart of Europe. More than 83 million people live here – the most populous country in the European Union. Germany is one of the European Union's founding members and works to promote closer integration among the countries of Europe.  As a member of the United Nations (UN), Germany is committed to safeguarding world peace, complying with international law, protecting human rights and maintaining and driving forward the promotion of international cooperation, in accordance with the UN Charter.

Landscapes and Cities

The landscapes of Germany are diverse and charming. On the North and Baltic Seas, there are island chains with long sand dunes, swaths of heath and moorland. Dense forests and medieval castles are situated in the rolling mountains of central Germany. And in the south, the Alps with their sparkling lakes rise above the lowlands. This is where Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze, towers at almost 3,000 metres above sea level.

Bridge over the River Spree in Berlin © DAAD/contentküche
River Spree in Berlin . © DAAD/contentküche

Almost half of Germany's inhabitants live in some 80 cities with populations over 100,000. The largest German cities are Berlin (3.6 million), Hamburg (1.8 million) and Munich (1.5 million). In all university towns in Germany – from the large, pulsating cities to the quieter towns – you can discover much about their long history. Historic city centres are frequently well preserved, along with their city walls which date back to the Middle Ages. In some quarters, you can admire half-timbered houses or long boulevards lined with spacious and luxurious villas built during the “Gründerzeit”, the 19th-century period of German industrial expansion.

A Wealth of Culture

Compared to many other countries, Germany has a very dense network of publicly funded cultural institutions – you can visit nearly 5,000 museums and almost 8,000 libraries. Cities and urban areas are not the only places with a wide range of things to see and do – these can be found in rural areas and towns too.

Small towns and big cities alike offer an abundance of cultural highlights. Their event calendars are filled with exhibitions, concerts, festivals, performances, trade fairs and sporting events. You can experience longstanding traditions like the Oktoberfest or folk dances in traditional costume, find inspiration at international festivals such as the Berlinale or documenta, or dance to your favourite tunes at cutting-edge music festivals.

Alongside castles and palaces that are more than 1,000 years old, you will find modern Bauhaus buildings and skyscrapers. Of the 1,092 UNESCO World Heritage Sites worldwide, 44 are located in Germany alone.

Two people discussing ideas  © DAAD/Jan Zappner
Developing innovative ideas . © DAAD/Jan Zappner

Innovation and Research

Innovative ideas have strongly shaped Germany’s past and will surely continue to do so in the future. Germany has produced a long list of revolutionary inventions, such as the automobile, the airbag, X-ray technology, Aspirin, the computer, the chip card and the MP3 data compression format. In Germany, more inventions are patented than in any other country.

Science and research have a long tradition in Germany and are still highly valued today. The oldest German university was founded in Heidelberg in 1386. The list of German Nobel Prize winners is quite impressive as well - over 80 Nobel Prize winners, of which there are more than 70 from the natural sciences and medicine alone, including Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, Robert Koch, Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Harald zur Hausen.


Today, 10.6 million people from all over the world live in Germany, approximately 13 per cent of the total population. Most of them come from Turkey, Poland and Syria. People from these different nations, cultures and religions live together here peacefully. In almost all German cities, there are cultural associations for people from other countries and regular informal gatherings. You can get to know many countries through these groups, e.g. at events. Germany is a cosmopolitan and tolerant country. And you are sure to discover something from your home country somewhere.

International students arm in arm in front of a university in Germany © DAAD/Jan Zappner
International students in front of the university . © DAAD/Jan Zappner

Economic Strength

Germany’s economy is the largest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. In 2018, German companies exported goods worth more than €1.3 trillion. Most of Germany’s exports are products made for the areas of electrical engineering, mechatronics, heavy machinery, the automotive industry, environmental technology, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Consumers around the world recognise “Made in Germany” as a seal of quality. Germany is home to many trusted and renowned market leaders, such as Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Bayer, Siemens and many others.

Because Germany maintains trade relations worldwide, German companies promote the deployment of international, qualified professionals.


The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was founded in 1949 as a parliamentary democracy. Its constitution guarantees basic rights to all people, such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression and equality before the law. Berlin was selected as the nation’s capital following the unification of East Germany (GDR) and West Germany (FRG) in October 1990.

As a nation, Germany is divided into 16 federal states. Each federal state has political freedom to make its own decisions, for example in matters of culture and education. Because of that the regulations at higher education institutions could be really different from each other.

Germany’s education system is decentralised, though there are uniform standards at national level. However, all the federal states have, to some extent, different higher education acts and regulations. Higher education institutions in Germany are largely independent, which means many matters are not regulated in the same way for all higher education institutions. That is why you should always enquire about the specific requirements and conditions that are applicable at the higher education institution you wish to apply to.

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