Britain or Germany – which is better for sausages, pints and scenery?

Thousands of Brits will be in Germany over the next month for the Euros
We have rated the two nations across 10 categories. Pictured: Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh and Mount Watzmann, Bavaria - Getty

At last, for English and Scottish football fans, the long wait is nearly over.

On Friday June 14, Scotland kick off this summer’s UEFA European Football Championship (aka Euro 2024) against Germany, the host nation, in Munich.

On Sunday June 16, England play their opening game, against Serbia, in Gelsenkirchen.

Can Scotland make history, by progressing beyond the group stage? Can England make history, by winning the tournament (rather than losing on penalties in the final, like they did last time)?

Thousands of British fans will be travelling to Germany to follow their national teams – hopefully all the way to the final, in Berlin on July 14.

If you’re one of them, you’re bound to see quite a bit of Germany along the way. You’ll be familiar with the football rivalry, especially if you’re English (the 1966 World Cup final, the penalty shoot-outs in 1990 and 1996, that disallowed Lampard “goal” in 2010, the long-awaited 2-0 victory in 2021), but how do Britain and Germany compare as tourist destinations?

As an Anglo-German mongrel (I have a parent from each country), here’s my rundown of the relative merits of these friendly – and sometimes not-so-friendly – foes.

Food

British and German grub is much maligned, by people who don’t know any better. In fact, the cuisine of both countries is sorely underrated.

British food has experienced a remarkable renaissance in recent years, and British chefs like Jamie Oliver enjoy celebrity status in Germany. At the top end of the market, the Germans are way ahead, with many more Michelin-starred restaurants, but Britain is far better for international food – a British curry beats a German doner kebab hands down.

Sausages are a German staple
Sausages are a German staple - Getty

Traditional German dishes are frequently very heavy, but in rural restaurants you’ll find lots of locally sourced staples: delicious breads and cheeses – and sausages, of course (British local specialities are just as good, but they’re often harder to track down).

Score

Germany 2 – Britain 2

Drink

If this contest was about beer alone, Germany would be clear winners. From crisp cold lagers in the north to fruity wheat beers in the south, its regional breweries are unrivalled. Germans have a soft spot for British ales, but overall there’s no comparison. It’s much the same story when it comes to wine: English wines have come on in leaps and bounds, but there’s still nothing in England that surpasses a good German riesling. However, British spirits reign supreme thanks to Scotland’s magnificent malt whiskies, which are rightly revered in Germany – infinitely better than boring German schnapps.

Score

Germany 2 – Britain 1 (4-3 on aggregate)

Music

In 1904, the German music critic Oscar Schmitz dismissed Britain as “a land without music”. Back then, even the most patriotic Briton would have been hard pushed to disagree. Germany could boast musical giants like Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Strauss, Mendelssohn and Wagner. The best that Britain could come up with, conversely, was Edward Elgar – undoubtedly a fine composer, but hardly in the same league.

German electronic band Kraftwerk
German electronic band Kraftwerk are 'influential, but not a patch on the Beatles,' says our writer - WireImage

However, 120 years later those positions are reversed. Britain is the undisputed champion of popular music, with an endless list of stars, while the finest group that Germany can muster is Kraftwerk – immensely influential, but not a patch on British bands like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.

Score

Germany 2 – Britain 3 (8-8 on aggregate)

Art

Overshadowed by France before the Second World War and the USA thereafter, neither British nor German art receives the worldwide recognition it deserves. Reynolds, Gainsborough and Constable are relatively unknown outside the UK.

Likewise, German artists such as Caspar David Friedrich and Max Liebermann are little known beyond the Bundesrepublik – and so for art lovers, a visit to a British or German gallery is full of wonderful surprises.

With modern masters like David Hockney and Peter Blake (in Britain), and Gerhard Richter and Anselm Kiefer (in Germany) still going strong, this is a golden age of fine art, in Britain and Germany alike.

Score

Germany 2 – Britain 2 (6-5 on aggregate)

Cities

No German city is a match for London. Berlin is about the same size, but it has less than half the population, and the eastern sector is still being patched up after 45 years behind the Iron Curtain.

Dresden is one of Germany's most beautiful cities
Dresden is typical of Germany's cosmopolitan regional capitals - Getty

Sure, the reinstated German capital is invigorating, but it’s not nearly as diverse as London – an international metropolis where all the cultures of the world collide. Where Germany does better is in its smaller cities. Because of its history, as a patchwork of small independent states (reflected in its modern federal structure), its state capitals, like Dresden and Wiesbaden, have a cosmopolitan stature which belies their compact size.

No major German city can equal Edinburgh for architectural beauty, but bustling conurbations like Leipzig and Düsseldorf have a restless energy that’s often lacking in similar industrial cities in Britain.

Score

Germany 2 – Britain 2 (10-10 on aggregate)

Countryside

Germany is a country of two halves – not east and west, but north and south. The northern plains are fairly flat and rather uninspiring. The south is a lot more hilly and hence a lot more attractive. For British visitors, the big surprise is the abundance of natural woodland.

Scotland's Outer Hebrides are far more remote than any part of Germany
Scotland's Outer Hebrides are far more remote than any part of Germany - getty

About a third of Germany is forested, more than twice the amount in Britain (for Germans a walk in the woods has an almost spiritual dimension). What’s lacking in Germany is the wide-open spaces of the Scottish Highlands.

In Germany, you’re never far from nature, but there’s nowhere so remote as Shetland or the Outer Hebrides.

Score

Germany 2 – Britain 2 (12-12 on aggregate)

Beaches

Germany has some pleasant seaside resorts (Sylt on the North Sea coast, Kühlungsborn on the Baltic) but its coastline can’t compare with Britain’s.

Britain's coastline reigns supreme
Britain's coastline reigns supreme. Pictured: Prince's Beach on the island of Eriskay, part of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland - Getty

There’s a lot less of it – about 1,500 miles, compared with nearly 8,000 miles in the UK. There’s also a lot less variety. Germany’s North Sea coast is sandy and windswept, its Baltic Coast is tree-lined and tranquil, but it has few of the cliffs and coves which make Devon and Cornwall so beguiling. Islands like Norderney (in the North Sea) and Rügen (on the Baltic) are charming, but they shrink into insignificance beside the rugged mystery of the Scottish Isles.

Score

Germany 1 – Britain 3 (13-15 on aggregate)

Lakes and mountains

There’s nothing in Germany quite like the English Lake District, where every valley is a little enclave, hidden from the wider world. And there’s nothing quite like the Scottish Lochs, which feel like primeval relics of a forgotten age.

The English Lake District promises spectacular scenery
The English Lake District promises spectacular scenery - Getty

Yet Germany’s lakes have their own appeal, especially the Bavarian Lakes, just south of Munich. Fans of Mad King Ludwig, Bavaria’s brilliant, demented monarch, should head for Chiemsee, where he built a bizarre replica of Versailles, and Starnbergersee, where he drowned, mysteriously, in a few feet of water.

South of here lie the Bavarian Alps, Germany’s southern borderland. Though smaller than the Swiss or Austrian Alps, they tower over anything in Britain (the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak, is more than twice the height of Ben Nevis).

Score

Germany 1 – Britain 1 (14-16 on aggregate)

Public transport

Germany’s national rail network, Deutsche Bahn, used to be a byword for punctuality, but lately its peerless reputation has been badly dented as it upgraded its tracks and trains.

Yet having suffered numerous delays in recent years, I reckon the worst may now be over. My last few trips have gone like clockwork, and it almost felt like the good old days, when British travellers used to marvel at the reliability of Deutsche Bahn, and rant about the utter uselessness of British Rail.

German's trains are historically reliable
Germany's trains are historically reliable. Pictured: Cologne Central Station - Getty

In fact, German railways have never been quite as good (nor British ones quite so bad) as folk suppose, but even when they don’t run on time, German trains are much cheaper, and the ticketing system is a lot simpler (trams and buses tend to be better value, too).

By comparison, British public transport is often expensive and unreliable (especially in rural areas), but one network which impresses visiting Germans is the London Underground.

My German friends love travelling by tube – not just for the efficiency of the service, but for the rich architectural history of the stations (German stations tend to be a lot more drab).

Score

Germany 2 – Britain 1 (16-17 on aggregate)

Football

“Two World Wars and one World Cup,” English football fans used to chant, unsportingly – and forgetting the awkward fact that Germany has won four World Cups to England’s one. Thankfully, that crude jingoism is on the wane (Scotland’s Tartan Army, conversely, have always made good friends abroad) and now, for the first time in a long time, England actually have the stronger team.

England's team is stronger than Germany for the first time
England's team is widely believed to be stronger than Germany's - Getty

The English Premier League has become the world’s top league, eclipsing the German Bundesliga, while German football remains closer to the Scottish model – less expensive, less exclusive, closer to the community that spawned it. In England, football has become much slicker, but a lot of the old terrace culture has been lost along the way.

In Germany, some of that old terrace culture still survives, not only in the stadiums, but in the streets and parks of the host cities. Even if you go to Germany without a ticket, you can still soak up the big match atmosphere in the dedicated fan zones – a concept pioneered at the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and now copied all around the world.

Score

Germany 2 – Britain 4 (18-21 on aggregate)

Final score

A narrow victory for Britain, with three wins, five draws and two defeats – but will Britons also triumph on the pitch, or will Germany have the last laugh? For German fans, a semi-final appearance is the minimum requirement. For Scotland, a place in the knockout rounds would be a personal best. For England to lift the trophy for the first time in Berlin would be sweet revenge for Germany’s triumph at Wembley in 1996.

Maybe then, and only then, we’ll finally forget Gary Lineker’s famous dictum: “Football is a simple game – 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end the Germans always win.”