Know European Places in German

Munich, Germany

Munich, Germany

Some places have different names in German. Save yourself trouble (and ensure you’re on the right train) when traveling through Germany, Switzerland, or Austria.

While some European city names are the same in German as in English (Berlin, Salzburg, Bern, Innsbruck, Hamburg, et cetera), there are plenty of place names, from countries and cities to lakes and rivers, with a completely different German name. Add these names to your German vocabulary list to avoid getting lost or confused during your travels:

A Few European Countries with Tough-To-Identify Different Names

Though the English-to-German spelling difference between many European countries is only slight (Italien, Finnland, Polen, Spanien, Irland, Turkei, and so on) there are several places with names that may be more difficult to recognize.

  • Austria: Oesterreich (Oos-tur-rike)
  • Czech Republic: Tschechien (Chehkh-ee-in)
  • Estonia: Estland
  • France: Frankreich (Frahnk-rike)
  • Germany: Deutschland
  • Greece: Griechenland (Gree-khin-lahnd)
  • Hungary: Ungarn (Oon-garn)
  • Latvia: Lettland
  • Lithuania: Littauen (Lit-tau-win)
  • Netherlands: Niederlande (Nee-dur-lahn-duh)
  • Russia: Russland (Roos-lahnd)
  • Switzerland: Schweiz (Shveitz)
German Names of European Cities

Some German-speaking (and non-German speaking) cities are called something other than their English name, or are spelled differently, in German. Rome, for instance, is spelled “Rom” but pronounced the same as in English; Prague is spelled “Prag” and also pronounced the same. Zurich is spelled Zürich in German, and the pronunciation difference is only slight, with a more rounded “u.”

  • Brussels: Brüssel (Broo-sell)
  • Ceske Budejovice, CR: Budweis (Bood-vice)
  • Cesky Krumlov, CR: Krummau (Kroo-mau)
  • Cologne: Köln (Koohln)
  • Geneva: Genf
  • Lucerne: Luzern (Loo-tsern)
  • Milan: Mailand (My-land)
  • Munich: München (Moon-chen)
  • Nuremberg: Nürnberg (Noorn-bairk)
  • St. Petersburg: Sankt Petersburg (Sahnkt-Pay-terz-bairk)
  • Venice: Venedig (Vay-nay-dik)
  • Vienna: Wien (Veen)
  • Warsaw: Warschau (Vahr-shau)
Lakes, Rivers, and Other Miscellanous Locations with Different German Names

In German, the Rhine is spelled Rhein and the Danube is the Donau. Lake Constance, which is located between Switzerland and Germany, with a small portion of the shore touching Austria, is called the Bodensee. As a side note, the German word for “lake” and “sea” is “See,” and the term used for “river” is “Fluss.” Remember, in German, the double “s” is sometimes replaced with the symbol “ß.” Keep your eyes peeled for that when reading signs, because it’s not just a weird-looking letter “B.”

Groups of countries with different names include Great Britain (Grossbritanien) and Scandinavia (Skandinavien). And if you’re a tourist from the U.S., it would be useful to know the name of your own country in German: Die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika (dee fur-aiyn-ig-ten staht-in fon a-mayr-ih-kuh). If that seems like a mouthful, which it is, just refer to the U.S. as the “USA” (prounounced “ooh-ess-ah”).

Recognizing these names on train tickets, train platforms, bus schedules, in airports, and so on, will give you peace of mind in terms of knowing that you’re heading to the right place.

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