Munich is full of wonderful contradictions, said William Boston in the International Herald Tribune. “There is hardly a more German city or one more proud of its clichés—from Lederhosen-clad locals downing liter-mugs of beer in leafy parks to the clinical appearance of white-frocked scientists at the Max Planck research institute.” There are also plenty of ways to relax here, “whether it’s drinking beer in the English Garden or in the shade of the tall trees at Viktualienmarkt, sunbathing on the banks of the Isar River, attending the theatre or concerts, or hanging out in the smart bars around Gärtnerplatz.”

Since the Berlin Wall came down just 18 years ago, it’s amazing how Berlin has transformed itself into “a thriving capital that combines the best of Europe’s other big cities,” said Harry Shattuck in the Houston Chronicle. Berlin’s “sidewalk cafes, fashionable boutiques and irreverent nightlife mirror Paris”; its abundance of green spaces and the “architectural splendor of restored palaces, churches and museums resembles that of London”; and the River Spree brings to mind “the canals of Amsterdam.” It’s also quite modern, especially around Potsdamer Platz, which is “a beehive of beer gardens, restaurants, cinemas, galleries, shopping arcades and showrooms.”

Frankfurt is “a user-friendly Hessian town with big-city accouterments,” said Mark Landler in The New York Times. After Berlin, Frankfurt’s “museums are the best in Germany,” and its ballet and opera are “top notch.” Its population is Germany’s “most international,” with “dozens of nationalities, including a large Turkish contingent.” No visit is complete without “a stroll through Römerberg, the heart of what used to be the largest medieval quarter in Germany.” Be sure to also check out the Main, “a graceful tree-lined promenade that can be reached from the north bank over a pair of pedestrian bridges.” And don’t miss Sachsenhausen, Frankfurt’s “most beguiling quarter”—a “warren of cobblestone streets” that is “lined with cider taverns.”