When to visit Germany?

A North Sea beach at Cuxhaven (nice in summer and winter)

Friends of mine were asking me the other day, when would be the best time to visit Germany. I have not written anything for almost two years now but I thought it might come in handy if I wrote something about it down.

So, when is it a good time to visit Germany? I would say it depends what you want to do and if you have to stick to the school schedule.

We usually go in the summer since the kids are free for longer than two weeks (and we would have to organize camp otherwise), the cousins are off school, too, the days are longer and you can actually go outside without getting wet or cold (at least if you are lucky enough to catch a summery summer). We also went last winter for the holidays because we did not go in some time. Certainly long enough to make me forget how miserable winters can be. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with the family especially during the holidays (that’s why we went after all) and the Christmas markets and winter as an idea (curling up on the couch with a good book, candles and a hot tea, a fire in the oven – what else is there to do if it gets dark at ~4pm), but the weather usually really sucks. In our three weeks the sun came out on three days! Since the days are so short the jet lag seems even more painful. We are also not talking snow either but wet and cloudy. It sure reminded me how spoiled we are in the Bay Area where the weather almost always is good enough to go for a bike ride, hike or just out to play. I guess you can already tell I prefer going in the summer. But since we almost always go to hang out with family our situation is a little different. So, I am trying to be a little more objective:

Go in the spring or fall:

  • if you you want cheaper airfare (especially June – August and mid December- early January airfare can get steep)
  • good weather with less crowds (April, May, September and October) – attractions can get busy during the summer month when schools are out in Germany and booking might be easier as well since Germans tend to plan far in advance

For families with kids in school this might not be an option.

If you go in the summer:

  • weather is mostly nice
  • days are long
  • you can go to the pool and relax (no shouting at your kids because they are running, no serious checking on height restrictions on slides – just be responsible yourself)
  • go to the beach
  • enjoy nature, go for a hike or a walk or a bike ride
  • go to the beer garden
  • get an ice cream in a cafe
  • take a boat tour
  • walk the streets in old towns
  • everything is green

If you go in the winter:

  • days are short
  • go to museums
  • go for the food
  • go for the Christmas markets – some markets, especially in bigger cities, now stay open until after Christmas or even until New Year but some smaller ones (which can be really nice) happen before the school break starts
  • go for the snow (if you are lucky, more likely in southern Germany)
  • keep in mind that some attractions might close around the holidays (Christmas and New Year)

I am not saying that winters are always rainy but it is colder. I am also not saying summers are always great – we had some quite rainy summer vacations, but then you still can do all the things you can do during winter (except the Christmas markets). You might want to visit for Oktoberfest in Munich or the Carnival (about Carnival on Wikipedia). In the end you have to decide what works best for you.

I am curious: what would you want to see when visiting Germany?