Cover The VitraHaus on the Vitra Design Campus in Weil am Rhein (Image: Vitra)

Planning a trip to Germany via the opening of the Singapore-Germany vaccinated travel lane? Here are some design hotspots rich in history, art and architecture

Germany might be known for football, beer, and BMWs, but the country also has plenty of iconic landmarks and significant museums that offer a deep dive into the history and culture of many design periods. Interestingly, the country has more than 6,000 museums that cover all sorts of themes—there’s even one dedicated to mustard.

If you’re planning to travel to Germany ​​via the new vaccinated travel lane soon, these are the striking sites that you certainly won’t want to miss.

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1. Vitra Design Campus, Weil am Rhein

For design enthusiasts, you’ll definitely have to visit the Vitra Design Campus located in Weil am Rhein for your Germany trip. The sprawling campus by the Swiss design house features an impressive collection of buildings designed by distinguished architects.

The VitraHaus, for example, is built by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. The flagship store houses a vast collection of the brand’s designs including Vitra classics and the latest contemporary products. Another notable building is The Fire Station, which was constructed after a major fire on the site in 1981. Designed by the late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, the building initially housed a dedicated fire brigade before it was eventually disbanded. The concrete sculpture-like structure stands out from the rest of the buildings on the campus and is currently used as an events and exhibitions space.

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The Vitra Design Museum of course, is the star attraction of the Vitra Design Campus. Comprising entwined curved forms made from white plaster and titanium–zinc alloy, the museum was designed by renowned Canadian-born American architect Frank Gehry and realised in collaboration with Lörrach architect Günter Pfeifer.

Located in Weil am Rhein, the museum carries one of the world's largest collections of modern furniture design. Here, you can view the works of iconic product designers and architects such as Alvar Aalto, Jean Prouvé, Eero Saarinen, as well as a substantial amount of works that are part of the collection on the bequest of American designers Charles and Ray Eames. Many of the exhibitions held by the museums feature contemporary themes, while others have a historical focus centered on design and architecture. The privately-owned museum is also part of the Vitra campus, a group of furniture factories, offices, showrooms, and galleries.

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2. Bauhaus Building, Dessau

Arguably one of the most significant periods in the history of design, the Bauhaus principle followed one simple school of thought: form follows function. The movement, founded in 1919 by German architect and master of modernist architecture Walter Gropius, is best seen at the Bauhaus school across six sites in the German cities of Weimar, Dessau and Bernau. The most well-known site, the Bauhaus Dessau complex, is iconic with its white and grey buildings and is often regarded as the structure that best presents the Bauhaus ideas.

3. Museum for Architectural Drawing, Berlin

Opened in 2013, the ​​Museum for Architectural Drawing might not boast a rich history as compared to the other sites on this list, but it's definitely a must-see museum for architectural buffs. Located in Berlin, Germany, the private museum is run by the Tchoban Foundation, founded by Russian German architect Sergei Tchoban. The captivating facade features detailed and magnified fragments of architectural sketches.

With an aim of proving that architectural drawings are still very much a necessity even in the age of digital technology, the museum’s display exhibitions include works from renowned architects like British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, and French Neoclassical architect Jean-François Thomas de Thomon.

4. Weissenhof Estate, Stuttgart

Built in Stuttgart in 1927, the Weissenhof Estate remains one of the most iconic architectural monuments of classic modernism. As part of the German Deutscher Werkbund exhibition, German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe gathered 17 prominent European architects to design 21 buildings that comprise 60 dwellings. The housing complex quickly gained international attention for the austere and minimalist architecture of its white, cube-like buildings.

In 2016, two buildings designed by French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the World Heritage Site The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement, which consists of 17 separate sites in seven countries.

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5. Red Dot Design Museum, Essen

The Red Dot Design Awards, awarded by Red Dot GmbH & Co. KG, is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the design industry. If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of the winning products on display, head to the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen. The first museum to be built out of the current three (the other two are located in Singapore and Xiamen), the space currently houses approximately 2,000 international design projects in the historical former boiler house of the Zeche Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex.

Originally built between 1928 and 1929 by architects Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer, the museum was re-built in the mid-1990s by British architect Norman Foster. The museum is known for presenting a fine contrast of old and new, and the new interior architecture reflects that; glass and concrete are balanced with old pipework, fittings and steel staircases to create a unique stage for showcasing award-winning product designs.

6. Museum Island, Berlin

Visiting at least one of the current six museums on Museum Island in the northern part of Spree Island in Berlin is a must for anyone passionate about the arts. A popular attraction in the country’s capital and recognised as one of the most important European museums sites, the complex is made up of internationally significant museums such as Altes Museum, Neues Museum, and the Alte Nationalgalerie.

Each museum is centered around a distinct and specific theme: for example, the Altes Museum—the oldest on the island—displays Greek and Roman art objects on its first floor, while the Alte Nationalgalerie exhibitions cover 19th-century art and design. While the museums occasionally hold special exhibits for a limited time, their main highlights lie in their rich permanent collections that's strikingly impressive. 

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