Autumn is a lovely time to be in Europe. The air is crisp with remnants of summer warmth. Locals return from their summer vacations and settle back in the swing of things. Leaves don their vibrant fall disguises and flutter to the ground in snatches of fiery red and glowing yellow. And in Germany, locals gear up for their fabulous annual harvest, wine, and beer festivals.
Munich’s Oktoberfest is an obvious choice for beer enthusiasts. From elaborate tents and traditional music to lederhosen- and dirndl-clad attendees enjoying roast chicken and carnival rides, this festival has it all.
In Stuttgart, the Cannstatter Volksfest (“Wasan” to the locals”) dates back to 1818 and is Oktoberfest’s largest beer festival rival. Packed with all the rides and traditional clothing and fare as Oktoberfest, Wasan offers a lest touristy alternative to Munich’s world-renowned hootenanny.
Established around 1035, the Bremen Friemarkt is the oldest fair in Germany. Attendees revel in fresh seafood from the North Sea, local handmade crafts, and, of course oodles of beer.
If large crowds aren’t your thing, seek out one of the smaller beer festivals in villages across Bavaria throughout the year. The Bergkirchweih (“Berg”) takes place in May in Erlangen, while Bamberg hosts its Kulmbach Bierwocke in July.
Germany is a wine powerhouse. Most of its vintages comes from the west, along the fertile banks of the Rhine River. White wines like Riesling and red wines like pinot noir (“spätburgunder” in German) have launched the country to international wine acclaim. From large and lively to small and low-key, festivals across the country celebrate this most precious of libations. Here are seven wine regions (and accompanying festivals) you can’t miss on your next autumn trip to Germany.
This is Germany’s oldest wine region and the birthplace of some of its most acclaimed wine whites. Most wines produced here feature Riesling grapes and tend to be sweet rather than dry. If you want to visit Moselle during a fall wine festival, pay a visit to the lovely villages of Bernkastel-Kues, Traben-Trarbach and Winningen (home to the oldest wine festival in Germany).
While you’re in the area, make a stop in the historic town of Trier, just north of Saarburg on the banks of the Mosel River. At over 2,000 years old, UNESCO-listed Trier is one of the oldest towns in the country.
Other towns to consider include Braubach, Lorch, Bacharach, Boppard and Sankt Goar. A relaxing river cruise is a great way to experience this stretch of the Rhine, with its numerous castles and scenic vineyards.
This region is home to Schloss Johannisberg, one of Germany’s most prestigious wine producers. Should you wish to visit the estate, it conducts regular tours and tastings. Afterward, head to nearby Wiesbaden to enjoy its thermal springs. Look for more terrific red wines (mostly pinot noir) in villages like Assmannshausen.
The city of Mainz and the surrounding villages along the river host wine festivals and markets throughout the year. Established in the first century as a Roman fort, Mainz is the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. The city’s cathedral is also worth a visit. Over 1,000 years old, it is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture.
In this region you’ll also find the historic city of Worms—the only German city that’s a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network. The Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther also have deep roots here.
Compared to Germany’s other wine regions, the Palatinate enjoys warmer temperatures and clearer skies. Almost all of its wine-making towns host wine festivals throughout the year. One interesting difference is that in the Palatinate, it’s common to add sparkling water to the local wines.
The town of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse (literally “new town on the wine route”) hosts a lively grape harvest festival every October. Locals celebrate with costumes, processions, and the crowning of German wine queens.
Known for its excellent wines, Baden is one of the prettiest corners of Germany. Nestled on the Rhine River across from the French region of Alsace, Baden is the warmest and longest wine region in Germany.
In addition to its vineyards, this area has a wealth of attractions at its doorstep. Lake Constance and the famed Black Forest are both nearby. Natural thermal springs offer opportunities for relaxation after a day of sightseeing. Don’t forget to visit the beautiful cities of Heidelberg, Freiburg, and Baden-Baden.
Franconia lies to the east of the Rheingau and Rheinhessen regions, along the banks of the Main River. In recent years, it has garnered increasing recognition for its top-quality wines. This is Bavaria’s only wine region, so if you want to taste amazing beer and wine on your vacation, this is a fantastic area to consider. Franconia’s wine villages and medieval towns host a variety of traditional wine festivals.
For a day of sightseeing, pay a visit to the historic city of Würzburg. Should you to Franconia from Munich, don’t miss the charming Bavarian town of Regensburg. Its medieval city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.