Geography of Germany

Germany (German: Deutschland) is a country in west-central Europe, that stretches from the Alps, across the North European Plain to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Germany has the second largest population in Europe (after the European part of Russia) and is seventh largest in area. The territory of Germany covers 357,021 km2 (137,847 sq mi), consisting of 349,223 km2 (134,836 sq mi) of land and 7,798 km2 (3,011 sq mi) of waters.

Geography of Germany
RegionWestern Europe
Coordinates51.00°N 10.00°E / 51.00; 10.00
AreaRanked 62nd
  Total357,021 km2 (137,847 sq mi)
Coastline2,389 km (1,484 mi)
Borders3,714 km (2,307 mi)

Border lengths included

Highest pointZugspitze,
2,962.06 m (9,718 ft)
Lowest point- 3.54 m
Longest riverRhine,
1,230 km (764 mi)
Largest lakeLake Constance
536 km2 (207 sq mi)[1]
Terrainlowlands in north; uplands in center; Alps in south
Natural Resourcescoal, lignite, natural gas, iron ore, copper, nickel, uranium, potash, salt, construction materials, timber, arable land
Natural Hazardsflooding and earthquake in Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg. landslide
Exclusive economic zone57,485 km2 (22,195 sq mi)

Elevation ranges from the mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze at 2,962 metres (9,718 ft)) in the south to the shores of the North Sea (Nordsee) in the northwest and the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) in the northeast. Between lie the forested uplands of central Germany and the low-lying lands of northern Germany (lowest point: Neuendorf-Sachsenbande at 3.54 metres (11.6 ft) below sea level), traversed by some of Europe's major rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe.[2]

Germany shares borders with nine European countries, second only to Russia: Denmark in the north, Poland and the Czech Republic in the east, Switzerland (its only non-EU neighbor) and Austria in the south, France in the southwest and Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in the west. Germany's position in Europe, including bordering countries, have put it at a significant disadvantage in numerous wars, including World War I and World War II.


Germany is in Western and Central Europe, bordering Denmark in the north, Poland and the Czech Republic in the east, Austria and Switzerland in the south, France and Luxembourg in the south-west, and Belgium and the Netherlands in the north-west. It lies mostly between latitudes 47° and 55° N (the tip of Sylt is just north of 55°), and longitudes and 16° E. The territory covers 357,021 km2 (137,847 sq mi), consisting of 349,223 km2 (134,836 sq mi) of land and 7,798 km2 (3,011 sq mi) of water. It is the seventh largest country by area in Europe and the 63rd largest in the world.[2]

Extreme points

Maritime claims

  • Continental shelf: 200 m (660 ft) depth or to the depth of exploitation
  • Exclusive economic zone: 57,485 km2 (22,195 sq mi) with 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi). The exact EEZ is due to conventions with neighbouring states.
  • Territorial sea: 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi)

Physical geography

The northern third of the country lies in the North European Plain, with flat terrain crossed by northward-flowing watercourses (Elbe, Ems, Weser, Oder). Wetlands and marshy conditions are found close to the Dutch border and along the Frisian coast. Sandy Mecklenburg in the northeast has many glacier-formed lakes dating to the last glacial period.

Moving south, central Germany features rough and somewhat patternless hilly and mountainous countryside, some of it formed by ancient volcanic activity. The Rhine valley cuts through the western part of this region. The central uplands continue east and north as far as the Saale and merge with the Ore Mountains on the border with the Czech Republic. Upland regions include the Eifel, Hunsrück and Palatine Forest west of the Rhine, the Taunus hills north of Frankfurt, the Vogelsberg massif, the Rhön, and the Thüringer Wald. South of Berlin, the east-central part of the country is more like the low northern areas, with sandy soil and river wetlands such as the Spreewald region.

Southern Germany's landforms are defined by various linear hill and mountain ranges like the two adjacent ranges of the Swabian and Franconian Alb (reaching approximately from the source of the Danube in the southwest of Baden-Württemberg, south of Stuttgart, across Swabia into Central Franconia and to the valley of the river Main) and the Bavarian Forest along the border between Bavaria and the Czech Republic. The Alps on the southern border are the highest mountains, but relatively little Alpine terrain lies within Germany (in southeastern Swabia and Upper Bavaria) compared to Switzerland and Austria. The Black Forest, on the southwestern border with France, separates the Rhine from the headwaters of the Danube on its eastern slopes.


Summer coastal climate on the island of Sylt in Schleswig-Holstein

The north-south difference in Germany, between 55°03"N (at List on Sylt) and 47°16"N (around Oberstdorf, Bavaria) equals almost eight degrees of latitude (or 889 km), but this can't largely be seen in different average temperatures. Instead, there is a stronger west-east cline in temperature. This is explained by the North's flat and open landscapes and its closeness to the sea, and South's higher terrain, larger distance from the sea, and the Alps. These mountains prevent much of the usually warmer Mediterranean air to blow up into southern Germany. And north of the Alps and the Carpathians, the farther away from the Atlantic Ocean with for its latitudes warm current, known as the Gulf Stream - and the closer to Russia's and Siberia's extremely cold winter winds, one gets, the local climate becomes colder, even at the same latitude and altitude. Even if Siberian winter winds are not dominating, when they do hit Germany, temperatures can in extreme cases fall to -30 C and below during the nights, and this has an effect on the average temperatures of November to March. Although rare, when such cold air reaches Germany, the Eastern parts becomes more affected compared to the Western parts. These factors results in, that Hamburg in the North has the same annual average temperature as Munich in the South has. The annual average temperature in Hamburg is +9.5 C and +9.7 in Munich[3] whilst Berlin has an annual average temperature of +9.9 C.[4]

The warmest area in Germany is the area bordering to France and west of the Schwarzwald hills. Roughly between Karlsruhe in the north, and down to the Swiss border. Whilst the coldest area (except for mountain peaks) is found in the southeastern parts of eastern Germany, around Dresden and Görlitz; roughly just two Latitudes higher. But the difference at annual average base, isn't extreme. Freiburg im Breisgau (located a little south of Karlsruhe) has an average annual temperature of +11.4 C, Görlitz has an equal value of +8.8 C. A difference of 2.6 degree C.[5] Colder meteorological stations in Germany can be found, but mainly at notably higher altitudes.

Germany's climate is temperate and marine, with cold, cloudy winters and warm summers and in the south occasional warm föhn wind. The greater part of Germany lies in the cool/temperate climatic zone in which humid westerly winds predominate. In the northwest and the north, the climate is oceanic and rain falls all the year round. Winters there are relatively mild and summers comparatively cool. In the east, the climate shows clear continental features; winters can be very cold for long periods, and summers can become very warm. Dry periods are often recorded.

In the centre and the south, there is a transitional climate which may be predominantly oceanic or continental, according to the general weather situation. Winters are cool and summers warm, though maximum temperatures can exceed 30 °C (86 °F) for several days in a row during heat waves. The warmest regions of Germany can be found in the south-west (see rhine rift, German Wine Route and Palatinate). Here summers can be hot with many days exceeding 30 °C (86 °F). Sometimes, minimum temperatures do not drop below 20 °C (68 °F), which is relatively rare in other regions.[6][7]

Land use

Germany covers a total of 357,021 km2 (137,847 sq mi), of which 5,157 km2 (1,991 sq mi) is irrigated land and 8,350 km2 (3,220 sq mi) is covered by water, the largest lakes being Lake Constance (total area of 536 km2 (207 sq mi), with 62% of the shore being German; international borders are not defined on the lake itself), Müritz (117 km2 or 45 sq mi) and Chiemsee (80 km2 or 31 sq mi). The majority of Germany is covered by either arable land (33.95%); permanent crops cover 0.57% of the land.

Germany has a total of 2,389 km (1,484 mi) of coastline, and borders totaling 3,714 km (2,308 mi) (clockwise from north: Denmark 140 km (87 mi), Poland 467 km (290 mi), Czech Republic 704 km (437 mi),[8] Austria 801 km (498 mi), Switzerland 348 km (216 mi), France 418 km (260 mi), Luxembourg 128 km (80 mi), Belgium 133 km (83 mi), Netherlands 575 km (357 mi)). The German-Austrian border crosses itself near Jungholz. The border with Belgium includes 5 German exclaves because the Vennbahn railway is on Belgian territory crossing in and out of Germany.


The main rivers in Germany are:

  • the Rhine (Rhein in German) with a German section extending 865 km (537 mi) (main tributaries including the Neckar, the Main and the Moselle (Mosel));
  • the Elbe with a German section of 727 km (452 mi) (also drains into the North Sea); and
  • the Danube (Donau) with a German length of 687 km (427 mi).

Further important rivers include the Saale and the Main in central Germany, the Neckar in the southwest, the Weser in the North and the Oder at the eastern border.


Throughout the Karst rocks many caves were formed especially in the valley of the Hönne. The biggest culture cave of Europe is located in Balve.

Natural resources


The eagle is a protected bird of prey
Current issues
  • Emissions from coal-burning utilities and industries contribute to air pollution; acid rain, resulting from sulphur dioxide emissions, is damaging forests in Germany; pollution in the Baltic Sea from raw sewage and industrial effluents from rivers in eastern Germany; hazardous waste disposal; government (under Chancellor Schröder, SPD) announced intent to end the use of nuclear power for producing electricity; government working to meet EU commitment to identify nature preservation areas in line with the EU's Flora, Fauna, and Habitat directive. Germany's last glacier is disappearing.
International agreements
Natural hazards

Flora and fauna

Deer are widespread species

Phytogeographically, Germany is shared between the Atlantic European and Central European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. The territory of Germany can be subdivided into two ecoregions: European-Mediterranean montane mixed forests and Northeast-Atlantic shelf marine.[9] The majority of Germany is covered by either arable land (33%) or forestry and woodland (31%). Only 15% is covered by permanent pastures.

Plants and animals are those generally common to middle Europe. Beeches, oaks, and other deciduous trees constitute one-third of the forests; conifers are increasing as a result of reforestation. Spruce and fir trees predominate in the upper mountains, while pine and larch are found in sandy soil. There are many species of ferns, flowers, fungi, and mosses. Fish abound in the rivers and the North Sea. Wild animals include deer, wild boar, mouflon, fox, badger, hare, and small numbers of beaver. Various migratory birds cross Germany in the spring and autumn.

The national parks in Germany include the Wadden Sea National Parks, the Jasmund National Park, the Vorpommern Lagoon Area National Park, the Müritz National Park, the Lower Oder Valley National Park, the Harz National Park, the Saxon Switzerland National Park and the Bavarian Forest National Park.

Germany is known for its many zoological gardens, wildlife parks, aquaria, and bird parks.[10] More than 400 registered zoos and animal parks operate in Germany, which is believed to be the largest number in any single country of the world.[11] The Zoologischer Garten Berlin is the oldest zoo in Germany and presents the most comprehensive collection of species in the world.[12]

Human geography


With an estimated 81.8 million inhabitants in January 2010, Germany is the most populous country in the European Union and ranks as the 15th largest country in the world in terms of population. Its population density stands at 229.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (594/sq mi). The United Nations Population Fund lists Germany as host to the third-highest number of international migrants worldwide,[13] around 20% of Germany's population do not hold a German passport or are descendants of immigrants.

Administrative divisions

Germany comprises sixteen states that are collectively referred to as Länder.[14] Each state has its own state constitution[15] and is largely autonomous in regard to its internal organisation. Due to differences in size and population the subdivision of these states varies, especially between city states (Stadtstaaten) and states with larger territories (Flächenländer). For regional administrative purposes five states, namely Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony, consist of a total of 22 Government Districts (Regierungsbezirke). As of 2009 Germany is divided into 403 districts (Kreise) on municipal level, these consist of 301 rural districts and 102 urban districts.[16]

StateCapitalArea (km²)Population
Lower SaxonyHanover47,6188,001,000
North Rhine-WestphaliaDüsseldorf34,04318,075,000


Germany has a number of large cities; the most populous are: Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart. The largest conurbation is the Rhine-Ruhr region (12 million), including Düsseldorf (the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia), Cologne, Essen, Dortmund, Duisburg, and Bochum.

Largest cities or towns in Germany
Rank Name State Pop. Rank Name State Pop.


1BerlinBerlin3,644,82611BremenBremen (state)569,352

3MunichBavaria1,471,50813HannoverLower Saxony538,068
4CologneNorth Rhine-Westphalia1,085,66414NurembergBavaria518,365
5FrankfurtHesse753,05615DuisburgNorth Rhine-Westphalia498,590
6StuttgartBaden-Württemberg634,83016BochumNorth Rhine-Westphalia364,628
7DüsseldorfNorth Rhine-Westphalia619,29417WuppertalNorth Rhine-Westphalia354,382
8LeipzigSaxony587,85718BielefeldNorth Rhine-Westphalia333,786
9DortmundNorth Rhine-Westphalia587,01019BonnNorth Rhine-Westphalia327,258
10EssenNorth Rhine-Westphalia583,10920MünsterNorth Rhine-Westphalia314,319

See also


  2. "Germany". CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. November 14, 2006. Archived from the original on September 30, 2006. Retrieved November 29, 2006.
  3. See "HAMBURG-FUHLS.(FLUGWEWA)", "HAMBURG-NEUWIEDENTHAL" and "HAMBURG-WANDSBEK" (for Hamburg)- altitudes are 3,11 and 18 meters; and "MUENCHEN-STADT (WST)" for Munich - altitude is 515 meters, at
  4. See "BERLIN-TEMP. (WST)" (altitude 48 meters) at
  5. See "FREIBURG I.BR. (AWST)" (altitude 236 meters) and "GOERLITZ (WEWA)" (altitude 238 meters) at
  6. German Climate Handbuch Deutschland. Retrieved November 30, 2006.
  7. "German Climate and Weather". World Travels. Globe Media Ltd. 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2006.
  8. "CIA – The World Factbook – Germany". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. April 26, 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-26.
  9. List of Ecoregions: Terrestrial Ecoregions WWF. Retrieved 21 November 2000.
  10. List of famous Zoological gardens in European countries Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  11. Some interesting zoo facts Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  12. (in German)Tierstatistik 2008, Zoo Berlin. Retrieved 19 November 2009. Archived June 9, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  13. "International Migration 2006" (PDF). UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  14. The individual denomination is either Land [state], Freistaat [free state] or Freie (und) Hansestadt [free (and) Hanseatic city].
    "The Federal States". Bundesrat of Germany. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
    "Amtliche Bezeichnung der Bundesländer" [Official denomination of federated states] (PDF; download file „Englisch“). (in German). Federal Foreign Office. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  15. "Example for state constitution: "Constitution of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia"". Landtag (state assembly) of North Rhine-Westphalia. Archived from the original on 17 January 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  16. "Kreisfreie Städte und Landkreise nach Fläche und Bevölkerung 31.12.2009" (in German). Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland. October 2010. Archived from the original (XLS) on April 28, 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
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