RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
The famously guarded Angela Merkel, who leads the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), shook up a sleepy campaign when she shared the secret of her potato soup recipe, revealing that she uses a masher instead of a blender. "Then there'll always be a few lumps left," Europe's most powerful woman told Bunte magazine last month.
She also opened up about her reclusive husband Joachim Sauer, a music lover so media-shy he has been dubbed the "Phantom of the Opera". Dr Merkel said: "He supports me by doing a lot of the grocery shopping."
FROM BROKEN DREAMS TO BRUSSELS
Life almost took a very different turn for Mr Martin Schulz of the centre-left Social Democrats.
After quitting high school without a diploma, he pinned his hopes on becoming a professional football player. But a knee injury crushed that dream, and he turned to alcohol. He credits his brother with getting him back on the right track.
Mr Schulz became the youngest-ever mayor in his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia. His career took him to Brussels, where he later became head of the European Parliament - learning five languages along the way.
PORSCHE-LOVING POSTER BOY
The pro-business Free Democrats have plastered black-and-white close-ups of their leader Christian Lindner's face on campaign posters across the country. Not bad for a man who was overweight as a teenager. Mr Lindner says he shed 30kg after taking up jogging and going on a strict diet.
Showing the same tenacity elsewhere in life, he started his own ad agency at the age of 17. At 19, he bought his first Porsche. "I shouldn't have done that," he says now.
After his studies, he launched a software business that went under in the dot.com bubble of the 2000s.
THE RIGHT-WING PARADOX
Former Goldman Sachs banker Alice Weidel is openly gay, and raising two children with her Sri Lankan-born partner.
She is also a leading candidate for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which prides itself on its anti-immigration and anti-elite leanings.
Acknowledging the apparent paradox, Ms Weidel said: "If we're being honest... the AfD doesn't seem like the first port of call when it comes to gay rights." But she has railed against the "Muslim gangs" who she says make it hard for gay couples to hold hands in the street.
MYSTERY OF MISSING FATHER
The leader of the far-left Die Linke party, Sahra Wagenknecht, was born behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany in 1969, to a German mother and an Iranian father.
When she was just three years old, her student father went on a trip to his home country and was never heard from again.
His fate remains a mystery.
Ms Wagenknecht is one half of a political power couple with former Social Democrat heavyweight Oskar Lafontaine, a one-time finance minister who later defected to Die Linke.
The co-leader of the Greens party, Mr Cem Ozdemir is Germany's best-known politician of Turkish origin.
Last year, he attracted the wrath of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for backing a parliamentary resolution that recognised the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians as genocide.
Such was the outrage over the resolution that Mr Ozdemir needed police protection.