Top 15 Most Popular Holidays & Festivals in Germany
Germans like their festivals.
From city to village, wherever there are people there’ll usually be a festival of some kind, whether a major event for thousands that programmes international artists or just a summer fair.
The diversity is astounding – high-quality classical music and theatre events, wine festivals, unbridled parties and atmospheric Christmas markets.
Notwithstanding the latter, most are staged from May to August, when you’re almost sure to roll into a good-humoured town centre crammed with stalls and stages, with much food and beer being consumed by all.
On top of local secular events, Germany observes a large number of pagan and religious festivals in its calendar.
1. Oktoberfest, Munich
What started as a royal wedding celebration is now the largest folk festival in the world, drawing crowds of nearly 7 million people who consume almost 8 million liters of beer. The Bavarian capital of Munich is among Germany’s most beloved tourist destinations and is filled with castles, palaces, monuments, and gorgeous architecture. Oktoberfest is the most famous of all traditional German festivals. During the two weeks of Oktoberfest each fall, the entire city dons dinrndl and lederhosen and huge crowds join in on the drinking, eating, and merriment on the Wies’n.
2. Festival - Mediaval in Selb
Festival-Mediaval in Selb features folk music, fire shows, and theatres dedicated to medieval times in Germany. The 4-day event takes place at Goldberg State Park in September, drawing crowds dressed up in traditional costumes. Tents are available at the festival grounds if you plan on staying for more than 1 day. The festival also hosts numerous workshops on traditions from the Middle Age, Renaissance, and early Baroque periods. From fencing and archery to bagpiping and belly-dancing, there’s something for everyone at Festival-Mediaval.
3. DFB Pokal, Berlin
If you’ve ever believed Germans to be stoic, you’ve never seen them at a soccer game. Like most Europeans, Germans are crazy for football and often have a deep-seated loyalty for their regional team. Held annually, the DFB Pokal is a knockout tournament for 64 of Germany’s top qualified football teams. The final, which takes place in summer in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, is the German equivalent of the Superbowl. Rivalries run high. Face paints and banners as far as the eye can see. Singing, cheering, open weeping, and the occasional streaker make the DFB Pokal Final one of the wildest and most emotional annual events in Germany.
4. Karneval, Cologne
Originating in Venice, Carnival is now celebrated all over the world from New Orleans to Rio de Janeiro. Each has its own unique flavor, and the German version is something like a two-week long costume party. This is especially true in Cologne, a city famous for its Karneval celebrations. The biggest event of the season is Rose Monday. Performers in the parade toss sweets, flowers, and plush toys to the spectators, the vast majority of whom are dressed in their wackiest costume. The parade also tends to be filled with political satire, with many floats featuring caricatures of European politicians.
5. Beethovenfest, Bonn
This is a breathtaking festival that introduces people to Germany’s classical music, dedicated to the legendary music of Ludwig van Beethoven. The year 2020 is going to mark the 250th birth anniversary of this legendary artist. This annual event features more than 70 concert performances by some of the world’s best orchestras, ensembles, soloists, etc. This is a paradise of music lovers.
6. Asparagusfest and Onionfest, Schwetzingen & Weimar
Thanks to Germany’s long and persisting farmer culture, there are festivals throughout the country to celebrate each important harvest, with two crops in particular reigning supreme. Though German food festivals dedicated to each foodstuff can be found in most any region where the crop is grown, the Onionfest (Zwiebelnfest) in Weimar and Asparagusfest (Spargelfest) in Schwetzingen are two of the largest and most well-known harvest festivals in the country. Not only can you buy the freshest picks of the season, you can also try plenty of dishes based around the vegetable of the moment and pick up asparagus- or onion-themed costumes.
7. Reeperbahn, Hamburg
Europe’s largest club festival and the German equivalent of SXSW, Reeperbahn is a music festival spread out the beautiful northern port city of Hamburg. Instead of being held in one dedicated location, the majority of bars, clubs, and music venues throughout the city host upwards of 800 concerts over the course of four days in September. Reeperbahn is where music labels’ newest darlings make their debuts and the next stars are discovered. Label scouts, indie hopefuls, and underground music fans turn out by the tens of thousands.
8. Berlinale, Berlin
Although it is of the most hyped red-carpet events in all of Europe, Berlinale is distinct from many other film festivals in that it is accessible for people outside of the film industry. While many renowned film festivals are invite-only (Cannes) or require purchasing an access badge for thousands of dollars (Sundance, SXSW), Berlinale sells public tickets for single screenings. And, at around 12 euros a pop, it’s really not much pricier than seeing a movie in theaters.
9. Wurstmarkt, Bad Dürkheim
Drawing crowds of more than 600,000 people each September, Wurstmarkt is the world’s largest wine festival and dates back to 1417. Wurst means sausage, which is just as plentiful as the wine, making this traditional German festival a gluttonous good time. With 36 historic wineries in the region that cultivate primarily Riesling, Pinot, and Gewurztraminer, there is lots and lots of tasting to be done. Locals say that there are only two seasons in Bad Dürkheim: before and after Wurstmarkt. No one has much recollection of what happens in between.
10. Walpurgisnacht, Heidelberg
On the top of Heiligenberg Mountain in the quaint university city of Heidelberg, a massive open-air amphitheater lays in ruin. The ruins are known as the Thingstätte, and are one of the only remaining relics of architecture built by the Nazis in the area. The Thingstätte is no longer in use, and today is only visited by hikers. That is, except for on the night of April 30th each year, when tens of thousands of torch-bearing people hike up the mountain and pile inside of it.
11. Hafengeburtstag, Hamburg
The sparkling northern city of Hamburg has huge significance in western culture. As a major seaport founded at the end of the 12th century, Hamburg has been a historical trade hub without which the rest of the world may have never discovered The Beatles or the hamburger. To honor the port that has contributed so much to western culture, the people of Hamburg celebrate its birthday each year on the first weekend of May with a massive festival called Hafengeburtstag. More than one million people attend sprawling festival complete with boat shows, fireworks, concerts, and an open-air fair.
12. Rock Am Ring And Rock Im Park, Zeppelinfeld
German music festivals list is never-ending. Topping the charts is the massive twin festival of Rock am Ring and Rock Im Park. This hurricane of music is the largest of all and is the perfect amalgam of the music of different genres like rock, pop, metal and some rap. We guarantee you cannot stop yourself from trying out some dance moves. The energy is incredible and the performances by each of the artists will surely make your heart ponder.
13. Three King's Day (Dreikönigstag).
Many nations celebrate the full 12 days of Christmas, through to the feast day of Epiphany, on January 6th. In Germany, the twelfth day of Christmas is celebrated as Three King’s Day (Dreikönigstag) and commemorates the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem.
14. Cannstatter Volksfest, Stuttgart
This wonderful funfair and beer festival is held yearly and lasts for three weeks. People from every corner of the world come to celebrate Cannstatter Volksfest, the world’s second-largest beer festival. Replete with colorful festival tents, joyful rides, vibrant flea markets and much more, this wonderful attraction is a hub of complete entertainment.
15. Unity Day, Berlin
October 3rd is the largest national holiday in Germany, the German equivalent of the 4th of July. It commemorates the 1989 reunification of East and West Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. While most every German city holds official celebrations on the holiday, there is no celebration quite like the one in the capital city, where the effects of the wall were most acutely felt.
Every year, Berlin celebrates this momentous occasion with a huge city-wide festival. Fair grounds are erected, open-air concerts take place at the Brandenburg Gate, a parade marches through downtown, and art and history exhibits are installed all along the remains of the Berlin Wall. In a city where the memory of the Wall and separation is still relatively fresh, the annual celebrations in Berlin take on a distinct character that are unrivaled by any other German city. Being in Berlin for German Unity Day means you’ll have no shortage of things to do and see.
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