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CULTURE

REVEALED: The best events and festivals in Germany this July

Summer is the best time of year to get out and about and experience some of the incredible cultural events that Germany has to offer. From electronic music to scrumptious food fests, here's what's on this July.

Visitors ride on a pedalo at Hannover's Maschsee festival.
Visitors ride on a pedalo at Hannover's Maschsee festival. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ole Spata

Tollwood Summer Festival, Munich Olympiapark (June 15th – July 17th) 

Tollwood Olympiapark

A sign for the Tollwood Festival at Munich Olympiapark. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

The Bavarian capital of Munich is gorgeous in the summer months, and if you fancy a trip, there are few better times to go than during the city’s iconic summer festival.

For 32 days each year, Olympiapark in the north of the city is transformed in a bustling festival site with markets, street food, beer gardens, music and cultural performances. It’s free to get onto the site just to walk around and soak up the atmosphere with a refreshing beer, though some of the performances are ticketed.

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €9 ticket

This year, visitors to the Olympiapark in the first few weeks of July can see adventurous walks and tricks from some of the world’s best tightrope walkers on a slackline installed 15 metres above the ground. The dreamy art installation, “Museum of the Moon”, treats visitors to a dazzling projection of the moon at eye-level in the park accompanied by specially composed soundscapes. 

The festivities are set to go out with a bang on July 16th during the “Midsummer Night’s Dream” party with music, world cuisine, dancing and fireworks.

KeNaKo Afrika Festival 2022, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1st – 11th July)

Performers at the Kenako Festival in 2019

Performers at the Kenako Festival in 2019. Photo: Kenako Festival

Not to be outdone by the Bavarians, Berlin will be bringing the warmth and vibrancy of Africa to Alexanderplatz at the start of July with the KENAKO Africa Festival.

There’ll be a sprawling African market complete with arts, crafts and clothing from around the continent, as well as lively podium discussions, concerts and workshops. Arrive early to browse the stalls before tucking into some traditional cuisine and enjoying the music. 

The festival is partly about education and discussion, so if you feel like you don’t know enough about the countries of this fascinating and diverse continent, you’re in the right place. Entry to the festival ground is free of charge. 

Hong Kong Street Food Festival, Berlin Gleisdreieck (July 7th)

Dim sum

Traditional Chinese dim sum. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa-tmn | Elke_Wentker

If you’re a fan of Hong Kong street food (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) you won’t want to miss this pop-up festival at Jules B-Part in Berlin’s Gleisdreieck park. Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Bureau, you’ll be taken on a whirlwind tasting tour of the region’s vibrant culinary culture, from mouthwatering dim sum to refreshing desserts like Mango Pomelo Sago and deliciously sweet Milk Tea.

You’ll need to be on your toes to catch this one, since the food vendors are only setting up shop in the park from 11am to 4pm. Food and refreshments are all completely free – but it’s first come first served, so get their early if you can. 

Podfest Berlin, Berlin House of Music (July 16th & 17th) 

A speaker at Podfest Berlin 2021.

A speaker at Podfest Berlin 2021. Photo source: Podfest Berlin

Berlin’s podcasting community has grown rapidly in recent years, with new success stories emerging all the time. If you fancy mingling with this talented crowd – and even catching some of them in-action – there’s no better place to do it than at Podfest 2022.

For one weekend action-packed weekend, the House of Music will be turned into one big podcast recording studio where visitors can attend live recordings, seminars, panels and enjoy general festival fun and networking.

To reflect Berlin’s general international vibe, podcasts will be recorded in numerous different languages, including English, Spanish and German – so there really is something for everyone.

Early bird passes are on sale now and cost €34 for two days.

Düsseldorf “Kirmes”: The Biggest Funfair on the Rhine, Oberkassel Rheinwiesen (July 15th-24th)

A woman sells fairground tickets at the Düsseldorf Rheinkirmes

A woman sells fairground tickets at the Düsseldorf Rheinkirmes. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Martin Gerten

More than just a funfair, Düsseldorf Kirmes is pretty much a world of its own, complete with beer tents, food and exhilarating rides of all shapes and sizes.

This ginormous fairground is the perfect place to release your inner child this summer and experience a bit of Rheinische Frohheit – the joyful nature that people from this area are known for.

Enjoy soaring above the city on a rollercoaster in the scenic Rheinwiesen, sip on a local beer or two and make sure you block out some time to see a bit of Düsseldorf – the North Rhine-Westphalian city with a “dorf” (village) feel to it. 

One thing you may not be aware of is that Düsseldorf has the largest Japanese community in Germany, so once you’re tired of stodgy fairground food, we recommend grabbing some sushi at some of the city’s authentic Japanese restaurants. 

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €9 ticket

Duckstein Beer and Culture Festival, Hamburg HafenCity (15th-24th July)

Stalls at the Duckstein Festival in Hamburg.

Stalls at the Duckstein Festival in Hamburg. Photo: Thomas Panzau

Up north in Germany’s famous port city, Hamburg’s harbour is set to become a hub of music, art, culture and food throughout mid-July. Against the stunning backdrop of the the International Maritime Museum, musicians from all around the world will perform in the “unplugged” concert series. To add to the intimate feel of the concerts, many of the sets will be acoustic and the artists will perform at eye-level with the audience. 

If it’s markets you’re after, you also won’t leave disappointed: the city’s best designers, artists and craftspeople are set to descend on Osakaallee and transform it into the aptly named Design Boulevard for the 10 days during the festival. There are also set to be a range of pop-up international food hubs on Dar-es-Salaam-Platz, Störtebeker Ufer and Busanbrücke, where visitors can sample exotic dishes from far and wide, washed down with a Duckstein beer.  

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Parookaville Electronic Music Festival, Weeze Airport, North-Rhine Westphalia (July 22-24th)

Crowds at the main stage at Parookaville Festival

Crowds at the main stage at Parookaville Festival. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marius Becker

Electronic music fans won’t want to miss this one: the three-day Parookaville festival is back, returning to its iconic location at Weeze Airport just a stone’s throw from the Dutch border.

Since its inception in 2015, Parokaville has become something of an institution in Germany’s electro scene – and many people say it’s worth going just for the spectacle alone. The organisers pull out all the stops to make visitors to Parokaville feel like they really have entered a genuine “city of dreams”, complete with a massive steampunk zeppelin adorning the main stage and a seven-meter high “monument” to Bill Parooka, the legendary founder and mayor of Parookaville. You’ll also find a town hall, post office, a power plant, the town “jail” (a tattoo parlour) and even a Parooka church where people can tie the knot. 

This year, some of the headliners include Fisher, Afrojack and Yellow Claw. 

Maschsee Lake Festival, Hannover (July 27th – August 14th)

Maschsee festival

Visitors enjoy a beer on the east bank of the Maschsee Festival. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Hannover Marketing und Tourismus GmbH (HMTG) | Kevin Münkel

Long lazy days and balmy evenings spent at the lake are an essential part of German summer, and there’s no bigger celebration of this cultural tradition than the Maschsee lake festival in Hannover. 

Every year, two million visitors descend on Hannover’s Maschsee over three weeks in summer to enjoy the best of world cuisine and art in stalls and stages peppered along the waterfront. There are also boat rides, activities for kids and sports on the lake itself – and don’t forget to pack swimming stuff for a refreshing dip!  

READ ALSO: Five German foods to try this summer

If you don’t live close enough to Hannover for a daytrip, the organisers offer experience packages complete with a 3* or 4* overnight stay, a cocktail at one of the festival bars, a boat trip around the lake and entry to the festival. It sounds like the perfect way to while away a few days this summer. 

Bayreuth Wagner Festival, Bayreuth, Bavaria (July 25th – September 1st) 

Bayreuth festival performance 2021

A performance of ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremburg’ at the Bayreuth Festival in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Festspiele Bayreuth | Enrico Nawrath

For classical music lovers, the Bayreuth festival should need no introduction. It’s an epic weeks-long event dedicated to a single composer – Richard Wagner – and has been held in the same venue that Wagner himself commissioned for almost 150 years.

Traditions and history are a major part of the festival, with the same ten Wagnerian masterpieces being played each year, including The Flying Dutchman and all four parts of the Ring Cycle. Attendees will also see the intermission musicians play their specially composed fanfare – a tradition that dates back to the first performances at the Bayreuth Festival Theatre in 1976. 

You can also learn more about each of the performances through a series of introductory talks or (if you’re a skilled musician) take part in one of the masterclasses in singing and composing.

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DISCOVER GERMANY

8 of the quirkiest Christmas markets in Germany

Want to try something different from the classic German Christmas market? Here are eight unique alternatives.

8 of the quirkiest Christmas markets in Germany

1. Erotic Christmas market – St. Pauli, Hamburg

If you want to spice up your advent this year, then head to “Hamburg’s hottest Christmas market” in the city’s Sankt Pauli district.

Alongside the typical festive offerings of Glühwein and traditional stands, this market also hosts regular strip shows and features numerous stands selling erotic gifts and sweets.

Visitors walk through the Santa Pauli Christmas Market on Spielbudenplatz. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Bockwoldt

The Spielbudenplatz stage in the market also plays host to live music almost every evening throughout the season.

On Mondays, a special Glühwein “pharmacy” offers unicorn mulled wine – a glittery pink beverage with a choice of special flavours. 

Open from November 14th to December 23rd

2. Underground Christmas Market – Traben-Trarbach, Rhineland-Palatinate

The town of Traben-Trarbach in Rhineland-Palatinate is home to a particularly special type of Christmas market.

The Mosel Wein Nachts Markt, as it’s officially called, takes place underground in a series of former wine cellars which date back to the 18th century.

A festively decorated wine cellar in Traben-Trarbach – at the Moselle Wine Night Market. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Weinkeller Traben-Trarbach | Jan-Gerrit Baumann

As the name suggests, this Christmas market has a lot to offer in terms of wine, as it is set in the heart of the Mosel region which is famous for its Riesling.

READ ALSO: 5 things you need to know about German Glühwein

There’s an emphasis on art, antiquity and culture in this market too. International and national artisans and exhibitors sell decorative items, antiques, clocks and creative fashion and jewellery.

Open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 18th to December 18th, 2022

3. Forest Christmas market – Velen, North Rhein-Westphalia

For a fairytale festive experience, visit the forest Christmas market in Velen, North Rhein-Westphalia.

The market has been running here on the land of the Krumme family in North-Western NRW since 1999 and is well-known throughout the region for its special brand of Christmassy magic.

Huts scattered throughout the forest serve up culinary delights and homemade goods and those wanting to warm up can visit the historic farmhouse café or nestle inside one of the winter huts.

Children can ride on the nostalgic train, bake stick bread at the crackling fire or meet Santa Claus.

Open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 25th to December 18th, 2022

4. 19th Century Christmas market – Werben, Saxony-Anhalt

The Biedermeier Christmas Market in Werben is one of the most beautiful and unusual markets in northern Germany.

The theme is the Biedermeier period from 1815 to 1848 and, accordingly, stall owners, local theatre groups, merchants and friends of the town, participate in creating this early 19th century themed market.  

The Biedermeier Christmas market in Werben an der Elbe takes visitors back in time. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | Jürgen Sturtzel

The market is always bustling with men in tailcoats and top hats, and ladies in long dresses and bonnets and is full of stalls selling contemporary knickknacks. There are theatrical and musical performances and, in the evening, candle lanterns and kerosene lamps bathe the hustle and bustle in atmospheric light.

Open on December 10th and 11th, 2022

5. Ecological Christmas Market – Berlin

For those feeling bad about the excesses of Christmas already, the Ökomarkt at Kollwitzplatz in Berlin is a good place for guilt-free shopping and celebrations.

The assortment of sustainable stalls ranges from Christmas decorations to textiles, toys and jewellery from all over the world that meet social and ecological standards.

READ ALSO: Seven unmissable Christmas markets that open this week in Germany

There is also a wide range of organic and fair trade food on offer, from sweet treats such as crêpes, vegan waffles and pastries to hearty dishes such as bratwurst and pizza.

Open on November 27th, December 4th, 11th, and 18th

6. Japanese Christmas Market – Berlin

Since 2014, the Japanese community in Berlin has been laying on a colourful celebration of Japanese culture with a Japanese Christmas market.

Stalls selling paintings, photography, ceramics, illustrations and fashion cover traditional and modern designs – from kimonos to kawaii, from kokeshi to kendama. A taste of Japanese cuisine is also on offer along with hot sake.

There are workshops for those wanting to deepen their knowledge of Japanese culture and the entertainment program includes Japanese music, karaoke, dance and sumo.

Opening in December – dates not yet released (check here for updates)

7. Pink Christmas Market – Munich

The pink star amongst Munich’s Christmas markets will be back again this year on Stephansplatz in the heart of the Glockenbach district in Munich. 

The Pink Christmas on the Stephansplatz in Munich. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | Pink Christmas

With its elegant white pagoda tents and atmospheric light design – and abundance of pink – this Christmas market is a special spot to enjoy the festive season. Organisers call it “the place to be” for the LGBTIQ* community, neighbours, friends and Christmas market fans from all over the world.

READ ALSO: How do Germans celebrate Christmas?

Stalls offer delicious food, drinks and gifts, while unique, nightly shows keep the bustling crowds entertained. 

Pink Christmas is open from November 21st – December 23rd. 

8. Christmas Market by boat – Spreewald, Brandenburg

Spreewald is a magical place to visit at any time of the year but at Christmas, it’s something truly special.

The Spreewald Weihnacht – zwei Märkte, eine Kahnfahrt (two markets, one boat ride) offers a very unique Christmas market experience.

Visitors wait at the port of Lübbenau (Brandenburg) to take a Spreewald barge to the Christmas market in the open-air museum of the Spreewald village Lehde. Photo: picture alliance / Patrick Pleul/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa | Patrick Pleul

The first port of call is the Great Spreewald Harbor, where – amongst the usual Christmas market offerings – stalls and booths sell smoked fish, Christmas plinse and hot grog. Then, market-goers are taken on a wintry boat trip to the open-air museum in Lehde through the tranquillity of the Spreewald nature in hibernation.

In the Open Air Museum Lehde visitors can taste regional delicacies at the market stalls, stroll along the craftsmen’s market and meet some ancient mythical figures who offer good wishes for the coming year.

Open on November 26th, 27th and December 3rd and 4th

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