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10 unmissable events happening in Germany in May

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected] • 3 May, 2023 Updated Wed 3 May 2023 12:18 CEST
10 unmissable events happening in Germany in May
Ships in Hamburg harbour. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Hamburg Messe und Congress GmbH | Romanus Fuhrmann

With summer around the corner, get ready to explore some of the best events and festivals that Germany has to offer with our guide to the top 10 events in May.


Though we'd argue that Germany has something to offer all year round, there's something particularly special about the late spring season, where every rural community in the country seems to be hosting a Spargelfest - and if it isn't Spargel, it's world-class wine. 

Though we sadly don't have space to list all of the local asparagus festivals going on around the country this month, we do recommend a trip to your nearest Spargel farm to pick up the freshest asparagus around and get the lowdown on any upcoming events. Or simply take a shortcut and search online for "Spargelfest" in your area - there's bound to be a knees-up or two.

In the meantime, though, here are ten of the top events from around the country to keep you entertained this May. 

May 1st: Labour Day throughout Germany

This may sound like an obvious one, but May 1st is always a special date in Germany, where numerous festivals and events take place around the country in honour of workers' rights. 

In Cologne, for example, the German Trade Union Association (DGB) is organising a rally under the motto "Unbroken solidarity" to call for fairer working conditions in the future. Meanwhile, a left-wing group in Frankfurt is organising a "revolutionary" protest to fight against "war, crisis, capitalism". In Berlin - where things can tend to get just a little bit heated - the primary May 1st protests will take place as usual in Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, and numerous nightclubs will be opening their doors for Labour Day parties.


If you have the day off on Monday, be sure to look out for what's going on in your area and even take part in a march or two.. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why is May 1st significant in Germany?

May 1st-September: Disney retrospective in Munich

Anyone who has fond childhood memories of Disney films should definitely book a trip to Munich this summer, as the film studio has made the Bavarian capital the first stop on its centenary tour through Europe. 

To mark the momentous occasion, Disney has put on a gargantuan exhibition mixing images, sound, and text - as well as items pulled from the Disney archives, including screenplays, photos, movie props, letters, and memorabilia.

Some 250 original pieces have been put on display, including drawings from the 1937 film "Snow White", the snow globe from Mary Poppins and the first entry ticket to Disneyland. The exhibition promises to take visitors on a journey from the original Mickey Mouse sketches to the recent blockbuster Marvel films. 

READ ALSO: Disney marks centenary with retrospective in Munich

May 5th-7th: Hafengeburtstagsfest in Hamburg 

In case you needed a reminder of the Hanseatic city's long history, Hamburg harbour is celebrating its 834th birthday this month - and the residents won't let it pass without a bang.

Come for the delicious seafood, stay for the music and don't forget to witness the spectacle of the tugboat ballet before you go - a carefully choreographed boat show where colourful vessels bob around on the waves to a classical music accompaniment.

Polish sail boat Hamburg Hafengeburtstag

The Polish sail training ship "Dar Modziey" is moored at Hamburg's Landungsbrücken during the 833rd Hafengeburtstag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

If you love all things nautical, there are also plenty of opportunities to explore some of the historic ships in the harbour: around 300 ships dock in Hamburg during the festival and many welcome visitors onboard. 

May 6th: Rhine in Flames in Bonn

After a three-year break during the pandemic, the renowned Rhine in Flames event is back in North Rhine-Westphalia, giving visitors a chance to experience Germany's most famous river come alive beneath an electrifying display of fireworks.

Travelling on boats along the river Rhine from Rheinauen Park in Bonn, you'll stop off at numerous scenic locations where you can get the best view of the flaming pyrotechnics. 

The Bonn event kicks off Rhine in Flames season, followed by Rüdesheim and Koblenz in July and August. After such a long hiatus, it's bound to be an event to remember. 


May 6th: Long Night of Music in Munich

No matter what genre of music you're into, you're bound to stumble across something you love at Munich's Long Night of Music - a marathon music festival than runs from 8pm through to 2am. 

With over 80 venues - from the Bavarian State Opera to local pubs and clubs - the locations are as diverse as the performers, and a free shuttle bus between the venues is included in the ticket price.

If you want something a little bit different, keep an eye out for some of the more quirky venues - from swimming pools to the Hungary Consulate - and experience something truly out of the ordinary. 

READ ALSO: REVEALED: Germany's longest regional train journeys with the €49 ticket

Munich state opera house

Munich State Opera House. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Matthias Schrader

May 12th-26th: Berliner Theatertreffen 

Germany's most famous theatre festival returns to Berlin this May, featuring ten exceptional plays handpicked by a panel of critics. These are split into 10 "Treffen" - or meetings - where discussions, exhibitions and performances frame the play and explore a central theme.

This year, Berliner Festspiel have chosen to meditate on the present and future, and aim to explore how current issues and societal changes are affecting how theatre is made today. As part of each meeting, they also want to look at how the stage can represent diverse perspectives while still remaining a safe environment and tackling the complex issues of our time.


May 13th: Japantag in Düsseldorf 

Around a quarter of Germany's Japanese population live in North Rhine-Westphalia - and more than half of these in Düsseldorf - so it's probably fitting that the city is home to the largest celebration of Japanese culture, food and art in the whole of Europe.

Düsseldorf Japantag

Three young girls from Japan wear kimonos at the Düsseldorf Japantag. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Ralph Sondermann

Among colourful craft stalls and performing arts stages set up along Rheinweft on the east banks of the river, you can find a diverse range of attractions and entertainment, including samurai presentations, sake seminars, boardgames, calligraphy lessons, and kimono fittings. 

And if you work up an appetite, there's plenty of lovingly prepared Japanese dishes on offer, including fresh sushi and tempura.

READ ALSO: Where to enjoy cherry blossom trees in Germany this spring

May 18th-21st: St Paul's Church Festival in Frankfurt 

It may look like your standard gothic church, but St. Paul's in Frankfurt is a place of worship with a long and significant history. Back in 1848, members of the newly formed German congress met there to deliberate over the new constitution and the creation of a unified German state. This document formed the basis of Germany's Weimar Constitution and, later, the Basic Law.


To celebrate this significant landmark and its impact on German democracy, Frankfurt is putting on a huge festival to mark St. Paul's 175th anniversary. 

Stages with music and other performances will be dotted along the banks of the Rhine, making it the ideal place to stroll and sample some of the delicious street food on offer. At the sprawling urban festival, you'll also find talks, workshops, theatre, art installations, and much more.

May 20-21st: Chilli Fest in Berlin

The fiery Berlin Chili Festival is returning once again for its spring edition, and will be taking over the Berliner Berg Brewery for a two-day celebration of chilis, hot sauce, craft beer, and delicious food.

The popular event will again see some of Europe’s finest chilli growers come together to offer attendees the chance to purchase over 1,500 of the best chilli plants on the market and even start growing their own at home. In addition to that, there will be 35 hot sauce stands, hearty food from ten carefully selected vendors, and a huge range of craft beers and cocktails.

Once you've had your fill of spice, there's live music, comedy, and burlesque on the main stage to enjoy, not to mention an exclusive talk from Texas-born chilli expert Alexander Hicks - a legendary name in the chilli industry.  

READ ALSO: How a Berlin balcony project led to a chilli revolution


May 25th-June 6th: Würzburger Weindorf in Bavaria 

It may not have the reputation of the Pfalz or Mosel Valley, but Würzburger Weindorf in Franconia welcomes a good 100,000 wine lovers to its festival every year, making it one of the most significant wine festivals in Germany.

With over 100 delectable local wines on offer, traditional eateries and a celebration of Franconian culture, it's the idea place to find your new favourite tipple while enjoying the picturesque landscape of northern Bavaria. 


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