Oktoberfest & Co: The best public fairs and festivals in Germany

From Servus to Alaaf! Oktoberfest, Carnival and Co.

In Germany people love to celebrate. Throughout the whole year different celebrations take place all over the country. From spring to winter: Whether folk festival, village fair or harvest festival – almost everywhere in the republic there is at least one big festival per year. Not only the world-famous Oktoberfest in Munich is one of the most popular festivals in Germany. In the west and along the Rhine, carnival is the prevailing celebration, in the south people celebrate Fastnacht or Fasching, in the north the port festivals and the kermis is known throughout the country anyway. But which celebration should not be missed? We present the most popular festivals in Germany.

Experience Germany’s most beautiful celebrations with IQ Incoming

Travel groups from young to old, from home and abroad as well as business travelers from all over the world visit the many folk festivals in Germany in droves. Whether in a beer tent, on the Ferris wheel or on the Carnival Monday procession: Here visitors experience the sociability, mood and atmosphere of the festivals particularly intensively. If you too would like to immerse yourself in the rich and colorful spectacle of Germany’s festivals, we, as a long-standing hotel agency, will be happy to support you in planning and organizing your event trip to Germany’s most beautiful folk festivals.

The largest folk festival in the world: The Munich Oktoberfest

O’zapft is! With these words, meaning “the barrel is open”, the mayor of Munich opens the Oktoberfest every year. The world’s largest folk festival beats all records for a folk festival: more than six million visitors travel to the Bavarian capital every year in the two weeks starting in late September.

Oktoberfest - world's largest folk Festival - beer festival Germany
Beer tent during the Oktoberfest in Munich

The festival has been held on the Theresienwiese since 1810 and offers a colorful spectacle with 17 beer tents, over 170 rides and a wide range of culinary delights. The numbers of the “Wiesn” are impressive. Each year, an average of about 7 million measures of beer are sold, around 500,000 roast chickens and about 120 whole oxen are eaten. Only in 2020, the Oktoberfest could not take place, it was cancelled due to the Corona pandemic.

The “fifth season”: Carnival in Cologne

Strictly speaking, the carnival in Cologne is not a public festival at all, but rather a “fifth season”. The carnival session begins in the cathedral city every year in the middle of November and continues until Ash Wednesday of the following year. The opening of the street carnival on Weiberfastnacht – the Thursday before Ash Wednesday – heralds the high point of the carnival celebrations. From then on, the disguised “Jecken” parade through the streets and squares of the city, organize carnival parades and celebrate until Tuesday night in the city’s pubs and sway to local songs.

Carnival in Cologne
Cologne Carnival| Image: Festkomitee Kölner Karneval

One of the highlights of the foolish festival is the Rosenmontagszug (Rose Monday Parade), to which costumed foot groups, music bands, riders and elaborately designed floats parade through downtown Cologne. The representative figurehead of the Cologne Carnival is the triumvirate, consisting of the Virgin, the Peasant and the Prince. Accompanied by the Prince’s Guard, the Prince of Cologne traditionally represents the highlight of the Rose Monday procession. He rides on the very last and most magnificent float of the procession.     

Rose Monday procession, Carnival in Cologne
Parade float and dance group during the Cologne Rose Monday procession| Image: Festkomitee Kölner Karneval

Cannstatter Wasen in Stuttgart

In Baden-Württemberg, too, a large public festival attracts more than four million people to beer tents and rides every year. The Cannstatter Wasen in Stuttgart takes place on the large festival grounds directly on the Neckar and usually begins a week later than the Oktoberfest. This folk festival is famous for its many showman businesses and is considered the largest fairground festival in Europe.

Folk Festival Stuttgart
Folk festival Cannstatter Wasen in Stuttgart

Especially the Krämermarkt is considered the secret star of the festival. More than 50 merchants offer textiles, leather goods, jewelry, art, spices, cosmetics and gifts. And in seven beer tents, two wine tents, an alpine hut and several beer gardens, visitors can celebrate in high spirits.    

Moin, moin! Welcome to Hamburg harbor birthday

Hamburg Ahoy! There’s a lot going on in the Hanseatic city when the port birthday is celebrated on the Elbe. Founded 831 years ago on May 7th, the birthday of the port of Hamburg has been celebrated annually since 1977 with a large, three-day port festival – the largest in the world – at the beginning of May. The port birthday is opened on Fridays with an impressive parade of ships. From windjammers to steamships to icebreakers: over 300 ships from all areas of maritime life enter the port in a festive entry parade.

Harbor Birthday Hamburg
Hamburg harbor birthday| Image: Christian Spahrbier – Hamburg Marketing

The parade is traditionally opened with the ringing of the ship’s bell of the museum ship “Rickmer Rickmers”. On land, a colorful city festival with many attractions develops along the Landungsbrücken to the Speicherstadt and Hafencity. Fireworks, live concerts, games and fun with over a million visitors are on the schedule from Friday to Sunday. On Sunday, the port birthday´s crowning finale will be the departure of the ships from the port of Hamburg.   

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