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Lifestyle: Germany’s biggest public festivals

Several thousand fun fairs are held in Germany every year – we have compiled the five biggest for you, together with a small 'festival etiquette' manual.

Public festivals: merry-go-round at the Oktoberfest in Munich.
Public festivals: merry-go-round at the Oktoberfest in Munich. © dpa

Germany. The peak season of public festivals is now beginning. From mid-August to mid-October there is a non-stop string of shooting fairs, fun fairs and beer festivals. The air is thick with the smell of fried sausage; music mixes with the sirens of the merry-go-rounds; revellers stream across the fairgrounds and into the beer tents.

These five public festivals and fun fairs attract the most visitors:

  1. Oktoberfest Munich
    The Oktoberfest in Munich, also known as the 'Wiesn', has achieved cult status. It turns the Bavarian capital into a madhouse for two weeks at the end of September. About 6.4 million visitors from all over the world flock to the city to join the party.
  2. Düsseldorf's Rheinkirmes
    Everyone knows that the people of Düsseldorf know how to celebrate; they prove it every year during the February carnival season – and during the Rheinkirmes in July, the 'Largest Fair on the Rhine' attracts more than four million visitors every year.
  3. Cannstatter Wasen, Stuttgart
    Ever since 1818, Stuttgarters and their guests celebrate on the Cannstatter Wasen in late September. Nowadays they number four million people every year. Like the Oktoberfest, beer and funfair rides are the biggest attractions.
  4. Freimarkt in Bremen
    The people of Bremen don't exactly have a reputation as exuberant revellers. This is deceptive, though, because the city hosts the Freimarkt, one of Germany's oldest public festivals each October. Four million visitors are expected during these two weeks. 
  5. Cranger Kirmes in Herne
    The Cranger Kirmes is not very well known outside North Rhine-Westphalia; even so, it attracts 4 million people annually. The Ruhr Area fair runs for two weeks in August and offers 55 different funfair rides. 

You mustn't miss this

Climb aboard the Ferris wheel for a bird's eye view of the colourful hustle and bustle. Try some of the local delicacies like roasted almonds, potato pancakes or grilled sausages. Immerse yourself in the cheerful crowds in a beer tent and order a litre mug of beer. Buy a gingerbread heart for your loved one. Try your luck at a raffle booth and see if you can win a huge, colourful teddy bear. And whirl through the air on a fairground ride till you're dizzy!

Must-knows for Wiesn and Wasen

Many visitors wear traditional costumes (Tracht) at the Wiesn (Oktoberfest) and Wasen: leather trousers and a checked shirt for men, a dirndl for women. One mistake you should avoid at all costs: never wear trainers with your Tracht. Hiking boots match rustic leather trousers well. Ladies should avoid wearing high heels; otherwise, dancing on the beer benches might get a bit wobbly. Yes, you heard right: you can dance on the beer benches, but not on the beer tables in the big tents. Women who want to put on a dirndl ought to be aware of an important signal: if they tie the skirt's bow on the left, this tells everyone: I'm still available. Wearing the bow on the right signals: I'm already spoken for.


Festival dates and fun fairs in Germany at a glance

You can search for specific festivals and fun fairs by checking out the German National Tourist Board's event calendar