The Louis XVI style of mid-18th century France was taken to Germany by the many French architects who worked there, such as Philippe de La Guêpière (Mon Repos, near Ludwigsburg, 1760-64, and La Solitude, Stuttgart, 1763-67). Many German patrons were also Anglophiles, including Prince Franz of Anhalt-Dessau, for whom the talented architect Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff created the schloss and park at Wörlitz, near Dessau (1766-90). Schloss Wörlitz was directly inspired by English Palladian country houses such as Claremont, Surrey; and Erdmannsdorff laid out the park with a range of exotic garden buildings around a lake, recalling contemporary English gardens such as Stourhead and Stowe. The association of such naturalistic gardens with ideals of political liberty is underlined by the presence at Wörlitz of the remarkable Rousseau Island, which was planted with poplars in 1782 in imitation of the island on which Rousseau was buried in the celebrated landscaped garden at Ermenonville in France.

King Frederick William II of Prussia (reigned 1786-97) decided to make Berlin a cultural centre dominated by German artists. Among the architects he called to Berlin were Carl Gotthard Langhans and David Gilly, who, with Heinrich Gentz, created a severe but inventive style in the 1790s that was indebted to Ledoux as well as to Winckelmann's call for a return to the spirit of ancient Greek architecture. The great early monument of the Berlin school was the Brandenburg Gate (1789-93) by Langhans. Distantly inspired by the propylaea on the Acropolis in Athens, it was the first of the ceremonial Doric gateways to rise in modern Europe. The Greek Revival in Germany was linked with the growth of Prussian nationalism and imbued with the supposed moral virtues of the Doric order. Key buildings in this stern geometric style include the Berlin Mint (1798), by Gentz, and the Vieweg House, Brunswick (1800-07), by David Gilly. Gilly also founded a school of architecture in Berlin, where both Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Leo von Klenze received formative training. The apogee of German Neoclassical architecture can be traced in the work of three brilliant designers: David Gilly's son, Friedrich, and the latter's disciples, Schinkel and Klenze.

Klenze, who had studied in Paris with Durand and Percier and had visited Italy, developed Munich into a monumental souvenir of the Grand Tour for his patron, Ludwig I of Bavaria. The result was an extraordinarily successful transformation of a minor court city into a great cultural capital that was intended to be the Florence of the 19th century. Klenze laid out a wide new street, the Ludwigstrasse, which he lined with palaces and public buildings. The program was widely adopted in the expansion of European capitals, notably Vienna, later in the 19th century.

More eclectic than Schinkel, Klenze created a living museum of styles in Munich, including his noble Sculpture Gallery (Glyptothek, 1816-30), with its Greek Ionic portico; his Leuchtenberg Palace (1816), modeled on the Palazzo Farnese in Rome; and his Königsbau (1826-35) at the Residenz, which was an echo of the Pitti Palace in Florence. Klenze's Sculpture Gallery, commissioned by the future Ludwig I, has some claim to be regarded as the first public museum ever erected solely for the display of sculpture. With no examples to follow, Klenze produced a novel plan with galleries around the four sides of a square courtyard. In accordance with the desire of both patron and architect to make the building a total work of art, its interiors were decorated with (now destroyed) stuccowork and frescoes that were stylistically related to the exhibits they contained. This decoration mounted in richness from the first rooms, which contained Egyptian sculpture, to the final gallery, which exhibited Roman sculpture.