The amount of truly hilarious things to do in Germany is something that astounds me daily.
Did you know, for instance, that Germany is home to world’s largest festivals dedicated to beer, wine, sailing, and pumpkins? Or that there’s a sausage-themed hotel where you can sleep under a sausage sky? Or amusement parks built on nuclear power plants, tropical spas in airplane hangars and ice cream shaped like pasta?
It’s things like this (and the carb-heavy food scene of course) that makes good old Deutschland such a wonderful place to base myself. I’ve always struggled with the probing question of why I chose Germany of all places to call home, but with this list, I’m sure the secret will soon reveal itself.
So if you’re looking for unique things to do in Germany, read on. From bucket list festivals and fairytale sights to quirky spas, hotels and theme parks, here are some of the best things to do in Germany that you can’t do anywhere else.
Unique Events + Seasonal Things to do in Germany
Some of the best things to do in Germany are seasonal events that only happen at certain times of the year, but make no mistake: these items are real bucket list material, and well worth travelling for. Here are some of my favourite seasonal things to do in Germany:
1. Get belligerent at the world’s largest (and probably sloppiest) beer festival
Oktoberfest is one of those things that I can’t talk about without my eyes glossing over with drunken nostalgia.
Truly, there is no experience like it in the world, and it’s something that I believe everyone needs to experience once in their lives. Not only is it the biggest beer festival on Planet Earth (and probably the galaxy, unless Mars is lit-ter than previously thought), it’s also a giant fun fair complete with mind-bending rollercoasters, a wonderland of delicious eats, and the happiest, reddest people you’ll ever meet…
Once upon a time, I drunkenly proclaimed that Oktoberfest was like a Disneyland for adults… and I stand by that!
2. Swish, sip and stumble at the largest wine festival in the world
Contrary to popular belief, Germany isn’t all about beer. In fact, there are countless states and citizens who far prefer a few barrels of vino over kegs, so, rather unsurprisingly: Germany also lays claim to the largest wine festival in the world.
Yup, the Bad Dürkheim Wurstmarkt (literally translated to Sausage Market) is an annual event that takes place in September. The wurst part about it? It has nothing to do with sausage at all! Rather, it’s the world’s largest wine festival, welcoming upwards of 600,000 visitors each year. Think hundreds of wines, mobs of tipsy humans, fairground rides and stall after stall of greasy food… What a delightful low-risk recipe for fun 😛
3. Have a gourd time at the world’s largest pumpkin festival
The beautiful Baroque town of Ludwigsburg (located just outside of Stuttgart) is one of my favourite hidden gems in Germany. Its flagship event? A giant pumpkin festival in the Fall hosted on the scenic grounds of a palace.
Let me tell you, this festival is the best. From impressive pumpkin sculptures and delicious pumpkin-flavoured food and drink, you’ll be exposed to a frightening variety of pumpkin-related activities you never realized you wanted. No lie, you can even paddle across a lake in giant, hollowed out pumpkin-canoes. What a time to be alive.
4. Go batsh*t bananas over white asparagus
I can’t lie to you: there are some periods of the year in Germany that are perhaps more sacred than even Christmas itself: I’m talking of course about spargelzeit – the short window of time during which asparagus comes into season… usually mid-April until the end of June.
For reasons unbeknownst to my peasant foreign self, Germans are highly passionate about white asparagus in particular. Think Beatlemania if John, Paul, George and Ringo were rigid stalks of bland nutrition. During spargelzeit, restaurants cart out their seasonal white asparagus features and you’ll spot maniacal Germans lugging baskets of the stuff home from the shop, as if the Apocalypse were nigh. It’s really all very confusing.
So, if you want an authentic cultural experience – go hoard some spargel and make sure to bring it up in casual small talk. You’ll fit right in.
5. Attend Cowchella
Okay, so this is a popular event in Austria as well, but it’s so cute I needed to include it.
In the late summer, one of the cultural highlights you can experience in southern Germany/Austria is something known as the Almabtrieb (or Viehscheid in the Allgäu). It’s this amazing little ceremony when alpine cows are brought back down from their scenic mountain pastures, parade-style.
It goes like this: the cows wear special colourful crowns called Fuikl, a brass band plays, there will probably be a man in tight leather pants playing a very long alphorn, and yes, it’s just the most wholesome and wonderful Alpine tradition.
I witnessed my first Almabtrieb in Bregenzerwald last year and I can’t wait to watch another. You can click here for a list of upcoming dates once they’re available.
6. Get naughty-cal at the largest sailing festival in the world
Ahoy, sailors – there’s something for you too!
That’s right: Kiel Week, the largest sailing event in the entire world, takes place in the North German city of Kiel, usually in the last week of June. With attendance from millions of visitors from around the world, this festival is (as with most things around here) a great excuse to drink copious amounts and party. Not only are there epic regattas, but it’s a full-on Volksfest, complete with a music festival, plenty of food stalls, and even fireworks.
7. Ponder the enormity of the world’s largest Christmas tree
In addition to having one of Germany’s top football teams, the city of Dortmund extends its bragging rights to also include the largest Christmas tree in the entire world.
And, unsurprisingly, this beastly creation acts as the centerpiece of Dortmund’s glittering Christmas market, which sets up shop for a magical few weeks during the Advent season. With a height of 45m, a weight of 40,000 kilograms and almost 50,000 lights, lamps and ornaments hanging from it, this gigantic tree is one you definitely don’t want to be responsible for decorating!!
Literally, even the angel topper weighs 200kg.
8. Witness the pure athleticism of finger wrestling (fingerhakeln)
While we have all surely played thumb wars as children, this childhood favourite is taken one step further in parts of Southern Germany, where grown men settle disputes through finger FIGHTING.
At least, those are the supposed origins of fingerhakeln, my new favourite sport to watch, which does indeed have championships every year.
Practiced in the Alpine regions of Bavaria/Austria, fingerhakeln consists of two grown azz lederhosen-donning men at a table, hooking their fingers around a leather loop, then trying to pull the other guy to their side. The winner gets limitless glory… and probably a beer, I assume.
Check out this video to see it in action:
Unique Things You Can Do in Germany Year-Round
Wondering what else to do in Germany besides attending all these incredible festivals? Luckily, there’s a wide range of unique, bucket list worthy things to do in Germany that are available to you year-round. Here are some of my favourites:
9. Whizz across the AutoBahn
If you’re looking for a totally safe and non-risky activity in Germany, might I suggest….. driving without a speed limit?!
Okay, sure, I know it sounds a little reckless, if you’re looking for one of the most exhilarating things to do in Germany, I’m sure Usain Bolt-ing your way around the German national highway system will satisfy your thirst for adventure.
After all, the Autobahn is world famous for having sections with no speed limit to adhere to, so why not test out the strength of your engine (and stomach) by driving as quickly as you want..?. That is, if there’s no traffic 😉
10. Walk across water (kind of)
Up in the North Sea in parts of Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, the squishy, sweaty thrill of Wattwandern awaits you.
Also known as mud flat hiking, this is a unique hiking experience where you literally walk between islands in low tide, with your feet squishing into the seabed. While walking on water isn’t a thing we can do as mere mortals, walking between islands is pretty cool too, and just about as close as we can get. Learn more about the experience here.
11. Conquer the tallest church in the world
With a steeple measuring 530 ft, the Ulmer Münster in Ulm is officially the tallest church in the world, pending the completion of the Sagrada Familia.
And so, if it’s bragging rights you seek, strap on your comfiest shoes, crush a few Red Bulls and climb the 768 steps up to the top for some sure vertigo (and an excellent view). I’m no fitness guru, but I believe that would earn you three donuts after.
12. Soak in the world’s largest spa complex
The illustrious Therme Erding located just outside of Munich bills itself as the world’s largest spa, and although the new Therme in Bucharest may have dethroned it of this honour, one thing remains true: this place is massive.
Therme Erding is a wonderland of splashy (partially nudist) fun containing 46 acres of waterslides, saunas and pools… and yes, in true Bavarian fashion, there’s even a special Alps-inspired section where you can book a wooden cabin instead of a usual cabana, and YES I’ve booked a day here myself so I will report back soon with my verdict. Something tells me I’ll be pruney though.
13. Walk across the world’s longest inhabited bridge
… and I don’t mean inhabited by trolls either (which was honestly my first thought when I read about it).
Instead, I’m talking about a bridge that human people live on… Specifically the Krämerbrücke (Merchant’s Bridge) in Erfurt, a sight straight out of a fairytale lined with half-timbered residences, cafes, galleries and boutiques. Besides being Instagram crack, it also has the (probably not too competitive) honour of being the longest inhabited bridge in the world. Not bad, eh?
Quirky and Unusual Things to do in Germany
Well, you can’t make a list of the best things to do in Germany without getting a little weird, so here are some of my top picks if you’re after something quirky or unusual to do… I warn you, it gets pretty strange.
14. Binge drink at a theme park located on a former nuclear powerplant
Wunderland Kalkar is a place so strange, it can’t be made up.
Built on the site of a nuclear power plant that (thankfully) was never actually used, this amusement park is found just north of Düsseldorf, and is beloved among children’s parties and stag dos alike, thanks to their all-inclusive policy, meaning you can have ALL the wine, beer, fries, ice cream and more that you want. for no extra cost!
I visited this oddly-located wonderland on a dreary April day, and can confirm, it’s one of the strangest places ever. Where else in the world can you gorge on all-you-can-eat fries, ice cream and soda, then hurl yourself on rollercoasters and rides on a nuclear power plant? Did I mention the underground network of bars and hotels with all you can drink booze included in the room rate?
… The only thing weirder is I came here to watch a biathlon. [Another story for another time]
15. Sip cocktails in a tropical oasis… in an old airplane hangar
Imagine baking in the heat of a tropical rainforest amidst bright blue seas and beach bungalows… only 60km from Berlin.
… while chilling in a former airplane hangar.
It sounds like a bad dystopian novel, but alas, Tropical Islands Resort is a real place, and it’s also the world’s largest indoor water park. Think tropical plants, balmy temperatures and even installations/architecture made to mimic tropical bucket list destinations like Bali and Thailand. That’s definitely one way to escape the dreary weather…
16. Visit the world’s largest Cuckoo Clock
With a cuckoo that weights 150kg, and the most charming half-timbered facade, the world’s largest Cuckoo clock is a beastly attraction plucked straight out of a Wes Anderson movie.
Located in the Eble Uhren-Park in Germany’s Black Forest, this feat of craftsmanship was accomplished by master watchmakers Ewald and Ralf Eble who managed to take all the goodness and mechanics of a regular cuckoo clock but made it…. 60 times bigger. Go big or go cuckoo, am I right?
17. Daschund-to a museum dedicated to sausage dogs
You know, I honestly thought I was obsessed with dogs, then I read about the Daschund-dedicated museum in Passau, and I realized just how out of my league I am compared to these museum curators.
Yes, this museum is a passion project that devotes itself to the almighty Daschund, with literally 4500 items connected to the world’s favourite sausage-shaped canine. I vow to one day visit this place with a punny sweater and not leave until I’m kicked out.
18. Sleep at the world’s wurst hotel
Yes, only in Germany… a sausage-themed hotel, fittingly located in a small Bavarian town, and created by (you guessed it) a butcher!
With only 7 rooms, all appropriately sausage-themed, this bite-sized hotel is an ode to the almighty wurst, a logical next-door addition to the town’s butcher shop. Run by Claus Bobel, a real life Willy Wonka of sausage, this venture is a creative ploy to keep his business fresh and relevant… and it’s clearly working! Having stayed here a few weeks back (as Claus’ first-ever Canadian guest), I can confirm this hotel is a most delightful experience that’s well worth a visit.
NOTE: Germany is also home to a potato hotel, because of course it is.
19. Listen to drain pipes singin’ in the rain
If you enjoy live music but like I, fear human interaction, might I suggest a concert by some lovely drain pipes?
Yup, this exists. Found in Dresden’s Kunsthofpassage, the whimsical (almost Dr Seussical) “Courtyard of Elements” is a lovely and charming spectacle that turns rainfall into music… which means you’ll need to brave some rain to hear it, but for a show like this, the wet boots and frizzy hair are more than worth it!
20. Wedge yourself into the world’s narrowest street
It’s a dangerous combo for sure, stuffing oneself with the carbo-loaded glory of German cuisine, then meandering down the tighest, narrowest street in the entire world, but nonetheless, it’s a thing you can do in Germany, so step right up, daredevils and those with fast metabolisms!
Spreuerhofstraße in Reutlingen is the street that holds this distinct honour as certified by the Guinness World Records.
21. Get dizzy in an upside down house – the first of its kind
Das VERRÜCKTE HAUS (literally, the Crazy House) is a random little attraction at Tierpark Gettorf in the town of Bispingen. Its claim to fame? It’s a house that’s upside down….! *cue Stranger Things theme song*
And while it’s (surprisingly) not the only upside down house in the world, it IS the first in the world to be completely built the right way then turned over with the aid of two cranes, which I’ve been told is impressive and well worth celebrating.
Everything in this house is upside down, from mixers and dining tables to toilets and sinks. Plus, the mangled Google Translate of its tagline is “super cool selfie location with laugh guarantee!” so you know it HAS to be good.
Intrigued? Click here for more info.
Fairytale Things to do in Germany
With the weird stuff out of the way, let’s tackle the magical! One of the things that has drawn me most to Germany is the fairytale side of the country, where charming half-timbered buildings and castles co-mingle with plentiful beer and wine. Wondering where to go in Germany to chase your fairytale dreams? Here are some ideas.
22. Visit the castle that inspired Walt Disney
Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most famous places in Germany. After all, it’s said to be the castle that inspired the iconic one created by Walt Disney, so if that doesn’t make you want to go, then you should probably leave now before I spear you with a tiara.
23. Follow the Brothers Grimm fairytale route
German brothers Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, also known as the Brothers Grimm, penned hundreds of fairytales throughout their lives, including a few bedtime staples like Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.
The most magical part? It couldn’t be easier for you to follow in their footsteps. That’s right, the Deutsche Märchenstraße AKA German Fairytale Route was created back in the 70s to help tourists follow in the fairytale footsteps of the Brothers Grimm, and it’s still a route you can do today!
This 600km stretch covers a variety of important places to the lives of the Brothers Grimm, including where they lived and worked, but more importantly, the magical destinations that inspired their tales.
And while truthfully, sometimes the connections between the fairytales and destinations can be a bit loose, there’s no doubt the route takes you to some pretty picture perfect places.
24. Immerse yourself in a real land of fairies
Okay, sooo fairies may not be real, but the Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes in Thuringia certainly are.
These caverns, located in a former mine in near Saalfeld, are famous for such colourful mineral formations that they attract over 160,000 visitors annually, although the official number of fairy visitors is a stat I’ve yet to find.
Intrigued? Click here for more information.
25. See dozens of castles in like, 30 minutes (on the Romantic Rhine)
The Rhine is an epic river that snakes 1200km from Switzerland up to the North Sea. The most wonderful part of this river however is known as the Romantic Rhine, a stretch that goes between Düsseldorf and Mainz, passing through an endless stream of fairytale villages, picturesque vineyards, and hilltop castles every few seconds.
I did this journey once upon a time when I worked on board river cruises in Europe and I can confirm that it is, to date, one of the most magical travel experiences of my life.
Food and Beer-Related Things to do in Germany
Last but not least, how can we not cover food and beer? Seeing as how some of the best things to do in Germany involve the hefty consumption of both, here are some must-dos to add to your list:
26. Drink the purest beer on Earth
Created in 1516 in Ingolstadt, the Bavarian Purity Law has been in effect for well over 500 years.
This law simply states that ‘nothing other than barley, hops and water be used’ to create beer. As simple as it may sound, many credit this law for being why German beer is so delicious and beloved around the world.
Is pure beer really better? Well, I’d say you have to taste it for yourself! Maybe try a few litres just to be sure…
27. Savour a beer that tastes like a sauna
Bamberg has developed a reputation as one of the most famous places in Germany for a lot of reasons, its perfectly preserved Old Town, its curious Town Hall floating in the river, and of course, its frothy and beloved smoked beer.
Made with malt that’s been dried over an open fire, this beer has a distinctly smokey and unique flavour that’s certainly an acquired taste… but weirdly delicious after a few sips! If you’ve ever wanted a beer that smelled like a sauna and salmon smokery, this it your chance. My recommendation? Try it at the (frighteningly) crooked brewery Schlenkerla, where they’ve been making it for centuries.
28. Prost at the world’s oldest brewery
While its status as the world’s oldest brewery is often a point of contention, it’s still commonly acknowledged that the Weihenstephan brewery in Freising (near Munich) is among the oldest still operational breweries on Earth…
But what’s even more interesting is it’s home to a modern brewing university! So, whether you simply want to kick a few beers back in a historical setting OR perhaps become a certified beer geek, this is one piece of boozey history you don’t want to miss.
29. Squish into the world’s tiniest pub
If you ever feel like drowning your sorrows in a claustrophobic death trap, then huddle into the tiny seaside pub at Vareler Harbor, who holds the (likely) honour of being the smallest pub in the world, at a grandiose 4.5m squared.
(Rather obvious) NOTE: This mini-watering hole is standing room only!
30. Slurp some spaghetti and meatballs…. made of ice cream
Invented by a genius Italian man in Mannheim back in the 60s, spaghettieis is THE way to eat ice cream in Germany, with vanilla ice cream shoved through a press to look like strands of spaghetti, all topped with strawberry sauce and some kind of coconut or almond flake to mimic parmesan. You’ll never want to eat peasant non-pasta ice cream ever again.
31. Fall weirdly in love with the strangest-sounding foods
Last but not least, one of the best things you can do in Germany is simply lose yourself to the confusing vortex of baffling foods that dot the German culinary landscape.
After all, it’s not all carbs, gravy and potato in different shapes around here… Sometimes, German cuisine gets real weird. In fact, think of the weirdest food you’ve ever heard of, and Germany probably has some iteration of it, but like, topped with sauerkraut and pickled with raw fish in a creamy sauce.
Raw minced pork sculpted like a hedgehog? Leathery smoked eels? “HAND CHEESE WITH MUSIC?” Yes, yes, and yes.
…. but there’s a strange magical property in these German foods, like a built-in Stockholm syndrome… because no matter how weird they sound, oftentimes, you just start to enjoy it.
… And that my friend, is when you know Germany has finally got you.
So, tell me: did I miss any of your favourite things to do in Germany?
Let me know in the comments, and I hope you plan a fun trip to Deutschland soon!