Seasonal Planning for Germany Travel
Considering its size—smaller than the US state of Montana—first-time visitors are often surprised to discover Germany's enormous supply of culture, scenery, and activities, with endless options for things to see and do every month. Germany is also firmly planted at the crossroads of northern, central, and western Europe; and boasts an excellent transportation system (not to mention the speed-limitless autobahn for stretching the use of your German car engine), so it's a breeze to get around.
All these factors help make this dynamic nation one of the most visited in the world. Picking the best time to visit Germany largely depends on which of the four seasons you plan to travel, determining what activities, crowds, and prices you'll experience. In winter, you should plan on very cold temperatures, wind, and gray skies, with the chance for rain, sleet, and snow. This is not the time to skimp on a thick winter coat, and staying comfortable in the elements will make sightseeing much more fun and enjoyable.
The summer months, which comprise the peak tourist season, can get hot and humid, though many inland lakes are scattered around the country for leisurely swims and coastal beaches and islands in the north. Meanwhile, the spring and autumn shoulder seasons bring a mixed bag of transitional weather patterns that can quickly span from chilly and wet to sunny and dry; you'll want to prepare for both by bringing layers and an umbrella.
In addition, Germany has regional differences. Hamburg's coastal climate offers milder, wet winters and moderate summers. The Bavarian Alps will get cooler at higher altitudes, with more snow during the winter months and refreshing summer temperatures that are delightful during challenging hikes. Southwest Germany tends to be warmer than the rest of the country, and visitors who travel here may luck out with early springs and lovely late autumns.
|Seasons||Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
Spring flowers in April and May; shoulder season with fewer visitors in museums and popular tourist sites; lower prices than summer
|March and April can still be cold and overcast; Easter week can get crowded||
Cultural activities, blooming city parks, spring road trips in the warmer southwest
|Spring events like Hamburg's Cherry Blossom Festival|
|Summer (Jun-Aug)||Prime summer weather for exploring Germany's cities, parks, and beaches; long daylight hours||
Peak travel season with busy crowds; prices are at their highest
Park picnics, scenic road trips, boat trips, active outdoor adventures
|Free outdoor classical music concerts in places like Bonn, Munich, and Nuremberg|
|Fall (Sept-Nov)||Beautiful autumn foliage; shoulder season with fewer crowds and lower prices than summer in most places||
Late October and November can get cold and rainy; huge crowds in Bavaria during Oktoberfest
|Exploring cities and museums, castle-hopping, winery road trips, autumn hiking||Munich for Oktoberfest, Stuttgart, and Berlin for lesser-known beer festivals|
|Winter (Dec-Feb)||Quiet cities (except for December); fewer crowds at popular tourist attractions; lower prices in January and February||
Cold, often wintry weather and overcast skies; short daylight hours
|City exploration and historic sights (bundle up!), Christmas markets in December, winter sports and activities||Buzzing ski resort towns like Garmisch-Partenkirchen|
Spring in Germany (March to May)
After a long winter, Germany wholeheartedly celebrates springtime. Yet it's important to note that March is often just as cold and wintry as previous months, with only slight temperature increases by the end of the month. However, the shift is noticeable when daylight hours start increasing, boosting serotonin levels of locals who take advantage of the extended hours with more time outdoors.
Though there is a surge during Easter week (March or April depending on the year), spring is a fantastic time to beat the summer crowds and prices. Time your trip right, and you could find yourself exploring the cities and countryside amid cheerful budding greenery and daffodils and tulips. The bursting colors of Japanese cherry blossom trees are a particular delight, replacing the dull gray skies of winter, and are found in various cities like Bonn, the hometown of Beethoven, and Hamburg, which hosts a festival in honor of the bloom.
Regardless of where you venture, springtime travels in Germany often include visits to famous city parks and gardens, like Dresden's Zwinger Palace, with sculpted gardens surrounding stunning Baroque architecture. May is a reliable time to head to one of Germany's 16 national parks when the weather becomes more reliable. Saxon Switzerland National Park is one option, with enthralling sandstone rocks, walking bridges, and thousands of climbing routes.
Another excellent alternative in spring is to rent a car and explore Germany's southwest region of Baden-Württemberg. Bordered by France, Switzerland, and Austria, travelers can explore lakes, rivers, forests, wineries, and charming cities like Freiburg, Baden-Baden, and Stuttgart. With warmer temperatures than the rest of Germany, the climate can feel Mediterranean and is perfect for enjoying spring hiking and cycling.
Events in Spring
Starkbierfest, Munich. This lesser-known March beer festival beloved by locals celebrates Bavaria's stronger beers for a few weeks between Lent and Easter.
Easter and Holy Week, nationwide. Easter may fall in late March or April, depending on the year, and it's a major holiday in Germany.
Spring Fairs, various locations. Many cities mark the end of winter with fairs and festivities in April. Look for celebrations across Germany, especially in Munich, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart.
Cherry Blossom Festival, Hamburg. This spring fling in May celebrates the donation of thousands of cherry trees in the 1960s with a range of cultural events and fireworks.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Summer in Germany (June to August)
No surprise, Germany's summer season is the highlight of the year. June introduces the longest daylight hours—and coupled with the consistent warm weather through August, you'll want to join the locals and relish as much time outdoors as possible. While there is more sunshine and blue skies, there will likely be an occasional rain shower or thunderstorm, so make sure to pack an umbrella and waterproof jacket just in case.
As summer offers the most enjoyable weather, this means the most crowds and the highest prices. But there are many places to spread out. In addition to the usual attractions, Germany's summer months are loaded with festivals. You can look into options all over the country, including smaller cities like Nuremberg and Leipzig—an excellent opportunity to see the historic sights by day and live classical music by night. The ultimate summer dinner? Find a patch of green grass and set up a picnic while listening to the music of famous German composers.
Like the Romantic Road, Scenic road trips provide opportunities to travel at your own pace and stop at picturesque castles and half-timbered towns, like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, as well as wineries across 13 central wine regions that offer tastings, tours, walking trails, and notable restaurants. Summer hiking is spectacular in the Black Forest and Bavarian Alps this time of year, as well as in the national parks. For instance, in the country's southeast corner, you can hike to the dramatic cascade of Röthbach Waterfalls in Berchtesgaden National Park.
If all you have is time for a city break in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, or Hamburg, you can spend time biking around the city and exploring the sights and dining outside, perhaps adding a day trip to a nearby body of water for a refreshing swim. Berlin offers thousands of lakes in the Brandenburg region, while Hamburg is a lovely place to base yourself in summer with sailboats and paddlers for rent in Lake Alster and access to many beaches along the North and Baltic coasts.
Events in Summer
Mozart Festival, Würzburg. This is the oldest festival in Germany dedicated to Mozart's music. Look for events in the buildings and gardens of the UNESCO-listed Würzburg Residence in June.
Whit Monday, nationwide. The Monday after Pentecost (in June) is a public holiday making this an annual three-day weekend for locals.
Freiburg Wine Tasting, Freiburg. Taking place in late July, this annual gathering in Freiburg celebrates wines from the Black Forest vineyards.
Classic Open-Air Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin. The capital hosts its music series in July with opera, classical, and modern performances in an open-air setting at the historic square of Gendarmenmarkt.
CSD, Berlin. Colorful gay pride celebrations and parades in Germany are usually held in late July. The largest takes place in Berlin (dubbed Christopher Street Day) and the city of Cologne.
Fall in Germany (September to November)
Autumn is here—a time when the temperatures begin to cool down, and local life quiets after a busy summer. The kids are back in school, adults are back to work, and it's shoulder season for most of Germany. But in Munich, that is not the case. Despite the misnomer, Oktoberfest kicks off in September. For about 16 days each year, millions of international visitors flock to the city to participate in a range of folk-related events—none more important than spending quality time in gigantic tents serving glass liters of beer and hearty German food.
If it sounds a bit much, Stuttgart offers a lesser-known two-week beer festival called Canstatter Volksfest with far fewer tourists, as well as fairground attractions rides and a French village with food stands. Or maybe you want to join one of several wine festivals this time of year during harvest season, especially the Deutsches Weinlesefest (German Wine Harvesting Festival) in October along the Germany Wine Road. There are also non-alcoholic festivals with events dedicated to literature, jazz, and pumpkins.
The fall season is also a time to seek respite in the forests and mountains. Once the Oktoberfest crowds have departed by mid-October, slow down and explore the scenery in the Bavarians Alps with dreamy hikes amid peak autumnal foliage overlooking famous castles, like Neuschwanstein Castle. Or take advantage of one of 350 spa towns and focus on health and wellness, many of which are pleasantly located near the French border with lots of sunshine even in late autumn.
By the end of November, the country starts gearing up for the Christmas markets, which usually open their stalls during the last week of the month; this is the perfect time to join locals for the first sips of Glühwein before the December tourists arrive.
Events in Fall
International Literature Festival, Berlin. This is one of the world's most important literary festivals when Berlin's theaters, museums, and concert halls offer readings, discussions, and workshops in September.
Oktoberfest, Munich. Germany's most famous event since 1810 begins in mid-September through early October. Plan early.
Wurstmarkt Wine Festival, Bad Dürkheim. Taking place in September, this spa town in southwest Germany is the world's biggest wine festival, with over 600,000 visitors annually.
German Unity Day, nationwide. This annual public holiday is held on October 3 to commemorate German reunification in 1990. Look for festivities taking place all over the country.
JazzFest, Berlin. This annual festival is held at the Philharmonie in November and attracts world-famous jazz artists and ensembles playing everything from Big Band to contemporary jazz.
Winter in Germany (December to March)
As fall turns to winter in December, the daylight hours are the shortest of the year—less than eight hours a day. Despite the early evenings, this is a special time in Germany when more than a thousand Christmas markets pop up around the country, adorned with twinkling lights. Berlin, for its part, offers more than 70 markets, so you won't have to walk far in the capital to find a festive market selling gifts, German food, and drink—follow your nose to the scent of roasted almonds and grilled meats in tube form.
The weather in Berlin often dips below freezing, and frost and snow are expected, so you'll want to prepare to explore this vast city. The locals will likely inspire you, many of whom get around on foot or by bike (even in winter), as well as public transportation. However you plan to travel, bring a hat, scarf, and gloves—you'll be grateful for them. As for temperatures in other cities, Munich is on par with Berlin, though Frankfurt and Hamburg are typically milder due to their geographic locations.
After the markets close for the season, Germany's cutting-edge cities quiet way down, leaving intrepid travelers more elbow room to explore museums, historic sites, cinemas, and performance centers like Hamburg's sleek Elbphilharmonie. Break up your sightseeing with stops in cozy cafés and wine bars, and snag hard-to-get reservations at the country's best restaurants.
Then there are the mountains. Though neighboring France and Austria often steal the show when it comes to winter sports, Germany offers hundreds of ski resorts in its own right. Many are located in the Bavarian Alps, where you can stay in a town that offers views of impressive peaks, including the highest in Germany: Zugspitze. Other winter activities around Germany include ice skating, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking—and what better to cap it all off than to soak in one of the country's many thermal hot springs.
Events in Winter
Christmas markets, nationwide. In December, there are thousands of festive Christmas markets all over Germany in December offering gifts, German food, and Glüwhein.
Hanukkah, nationwide. Germany's Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah in December with events around the country, especially at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate with the largest menorah in Europe.
Winter DOM Fest, Hamburg. From November to December, families in Hamburg gravitate to this open-air winter festival that dates back to the 14th century with rides, concerts, and weekly fireworks.
Christmas, nationwide. Christmas Day (December 25) and Boxing Day (December 26) are public holidays in Germany; expect closures.
Karneval or Fasching, nationwide. In February, look for pre-Lent street parades and costume balls leading up to the Tuesday (Mardi Gras) before Ash Wednesday, especially in Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Munich.