Directions in German: Finding and leading the way

Directions in German: Finding and leading the way

by Sandra Köktaş

Updated August 15, 2022

This way, please! If you need directions in German, you will find them here. Don’t take the long way home. Come straight to the point with the most important vocabulary and useful phrases for finding your way in a new city. If you feel lost, ask yourself where you are and where you want to go. Then take a step back and ask for help in German. Finally, look ahead to give directions in German like a pro. This guide will get you to the city center, the train station or any other place you need to go. Not to mention a new level of fluency in German.

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Asking for help with directions

If you ask for help, do your best to make sure that people want to give it. Being polite goes a long way. Speaking German instead of expecting everyone to speak English (although most Germans do) is a good start. Even better is to get people’s attention and prepare them for what is to come. This could look like this:

Entschuldigung. Darf ich Ihnen eine Frage stellen?

Excuse me. May I ask you a question?

If they give you the green light, go ahead and ask for directions in German. Maybe they can help you, maybe not. In any case, honor their time and effort by saying Danke (Thank you) and Auf Wiedersehen (Goodbye) before you go on your way.

Where: wo or wohin?

This leads us to the question of where you are and where you want to go. Have you noticed how we use “where” in English for both cases? In German, it makes a difference if you talk about a location or the movement involved to get to this location. In the first case, you will use wo (where at), and in the second wohin (where to). The same is true for answering with “there”. The German language distinguishes between dort (there at) and dorthin (thereto). The answer to wo and wohin will include one of these prepositions: an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zu, zur, zum or zwischen. They take the dative case if there is movement involved and the accusative if there is no movement involved. 

Example: 

Wohin gehst du? Wo gehst du hin? – Where are you going?

Ich gehe in die Bibliothek. – I go into the library.

Wo bist du? – Where are you?

Ich bin in der Bibliothek. – I am at the library.  

See how the German article changes? Keep that in mind when asking for directions in the German language or giving directions in German yourself.

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Basic vocabulary

While wo and wohin is about all you need to know to ask for directions in the German language, giving directions in German involves some more vocabulary. These words will be helpful when describing the location of something or how to get there. With some basic words, you won’t have to rely on sign language or breadcrumbs like Hänsel and Gretel to find or lead the way.

rechtsright
linksleft
vorin front of
hinterbehind
aufon
überabove
unterunder
nebennext to
gegenüberopposite of/ from
zwischenbetween
geradeausstraight ahead
entlangalong
zurückback
NordenNorth
SüdenSouth
OstenEast
WestenWest
Eckecorner
Ampeltraffic lights
Stadtzentrumcity center
Museummuseum
Bankbank
Krankenhaushospital
Rathaustown hall
Hotelhotel
Restaurantrestaurant

Useful phrases for asking or giving directions

So far you know the most important question words, prepositions and landmarks concerning directions. But how to ask for or give directions in German? If you want to get talking fast, you will need to practice. Read books about your destination or practice with Google maps. To make it easy, we have put together a few useful questions and answers to use.

Wie weit ist es bis zum Museum? 
How far is it to the museum?

Das ist weit weg von hier.
That’s far from here.

or

Das ist in der Nähe.
That’s right nearby.

Wo ist die nächste Bank? 
Where is the nearest bank?

Gehen Sie geradeaus.
Go straight ahead.

Biegen Sie links/rechts ab.
Turn left/right.

Gehen Sie geradeaus writer.
Go straight on.

Es ist an der Ecke.
It’s at the corner.


Directions in the German language

Directions in the German language are easy. Just remember the difference between wo and wohin. If it comes to how to give directions in German, some basic vocabulary and a few useful phrases will take you a long way. The most important lesson however is not to be shy. When in Germany, take the opportunity to practice. Put your cell phone away and ask the locals instead.

Learn languages at your pace


Sandra lives in Istanbul, together with her kids, cat and dog. As a historian she thrives exploring this ancient city with her two- and four-legged loved ones. Together, they also love to go on adventures through all of Turkey and its neighboring countries. The perfect opportunity to put all the language learning into practice. If she’s not on the road, Sandra is busy putting her experiences into writing as a freelance copywriter for the travel industry and everything related to language, culture and family. Her particular interest lies in providing information on animal welfare with her website contentrundumstier.de.

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