The transition from summer to fall is a beautiful time to visit Germany when many days are still warm and sunny but not quite as hot and humid as July and August. Altweibersommer (second summer) weather days are more common than chilly, wet days, but you should prepare for both this month. Even with the approach of autumn, there are still around 12 hours of daylight this month for planning a wide range of outdoor activities.
Temperatures in Berlin, the nation's capital, and Munich, home of Oktoberfest, are similar, with average daily highs of 66°F (19°C) and lows of 52°F (11°C). The city of Frankfurt in the southwest is a touch warmer with an average daily high and low of 70°F (21°C) and 54°F (12°C). Places in the southern Bavarian Alps like Garmisch-Partenkirchen will likely feel cooler at higher elevations, especially near Germany's highest peak, Zugspitze, at 9,718 feet (2,962 m) above sea level. Meanwhile, the northern coastal areas near Hamburg are likely to benefit from sea breezes for any late summer beach visits.
The key to packing for Germany in September is to bring smart layers that can accommodate warm days and cooler evenings and a pair of good walking shoes. You should also bring a rain jacket and umbrella for wet days and sunscreen for sightseeing and outdoor adventures. Bring a swimsuit as the beaches and lakes are still prime for swimming.
Crowds & Costs
Despite it being shoulder season, September is still a very popular time to visit Germany thanks to all the festivals this month (see below)—many centered around beer and wine. That said, the country as a whole won't be quite as busy or expensive as the peak summer months, with lowering costs of accommodations and attractions.
Yet, this isn't the case for Munich mid-month, when six million visitors begin to congregate for the largest beer festival in the world. If Oktoberfest is part of your itinerary, it is essential to make travel bookings early. You can also skip the Oktoberfest mayhem and opt for smaller-scale beer festivals in Stuttgart and Berlin.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Where to Go
Thanks to the pleasant weather, there are many itinerary options and modes of transportation this month. An excellent place to start your German adventure is the buzzing capital of Berlin, which boasts the sleek new Berlin-Brandenberg airport. Without the thick crowds of summer, you can explore the historical monuments and hip neighborhoods with more space. Take day trips to nearby historic cities by train, or hop in a car and take your pick of thousands of inland lakes on the city's outskirts that will have ideal swimming temperatures this time of year.
The south and southwest regions are also ideal for road trips, especially if you want to avoid beer-swilling crowds in Munich. Leaves are starting to change in September, lending to rewarding scenic drives. Drive a section of the Romantic Road, stopping at medieval villages and fairy-tale castles like King Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disney's "Sleeping Beauty." Then spend a few days hiking in snow-free trails with stunning views of the alpine lakes and mountains.
Another scenic drive is the German Wine Road which starts in the town of Bockenheim near Frankfurt and makes its way through beautiful wine country toward the French border, where you can stop for tasting rooms and produce stands along the way. Look for wine and harvest festivals this month, especially in Dürkheimer, where the world's biggest wine festival takes place. A picturesque base for the area is the spa town of Baden-Baden, with thermal baths and easy access to more castles in the area, like Hohenbaden Castle.
You can also head to the southwest corner—the warmest part of the country—and stay a few days in the university town of Freiburg, where you'll be in the heart of the Black Forest.
What to Do
Munich takes the focus in late September, but those who want to see one of Europe's top cultural capitals can explore the city in the first half of the month with relative peace. Grab a coffee, get a front-row seat to watch the daily Glockenspiel on Marienplatz while it runs its cuckoo clock show, then head to the 200-year-old open-air market, Viktualienmarkt. The market's outdoor garden is a great place to pull up a bench to enjoy a Radler while soaking in the late summer weather. You can also wander around Munich's chic neighborhoods like the Glockenbachviertel with cafés, bars, and retail boutiques.
Once Oktoberfest hits, you may want to skip town for the Bavarian Alps. Take a train to Füssen, walking distance to the Austrian border, to learn about the area's history in violin and lute making. You can also hike to two of the most famous castles in Germany or ride a cable car for panoramic views of the area. Mountain biking trails (and rentals) are plentiful, as well. A few hours west is Germany's largest lake, Lake Constance, bordering Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. There are plenty of attractive towns to stay a few days and enjoy swimming, boating, and windsurfing.
There are too many outdoor attractions to mention. Yet, Saxon Switzerland National Park is one exemplary national park that needs to be experienced, drawing adventurers worldwide to hike and climb its sandstone rock formations.
Events in September
International Literature Festival, Berlin. This is one of the world's most important literary festivals when, for 11 days in September, Berlin's theaters, museums, and concert halls offer readings, discussions, and workshops.
Oktoberfest, Munich. A major contender on every beer drinker's bucket list is Germany's most famous event since 1810. It begins in mid-September through early October, for about 16 days. You will find gigantic tents serving glass liters of beer and hearty German food, live music, and other folk-related festivities. Plan early.
Canstatter Volksfest, Stuttgart. Starting in late September, this two-week event is the world's second-largest beer festival. It makes a less-touristy alternative to Munich's Oktoberfest with fairground attractions, rides, and even a French village with food stands.
Berlin Beer Week, Berlin. This festival celebrates Berlin's status as a mecca for craft beers in early September with an event that has become Germany's largest craft beer festival.
Rheingau Wine Festival, Frankfurt. In early September, Frankfurt puts on a wine festival featuring more than six hundred wines from the Rheingau region in the city's pedestrian shopping area, creating what is known as the longest wine bar in the world.
Wurstmarkt, Bad Dürkheim. The spa town of Bad Dürkheim in southwest Germany is the world's biggest wine festival site, with over 600,000 visitors each year. Check out festivities during the second and third weekends of September.