Winter in Germany

In this article

Germany is a popular winter destination with the famous German Markets attracting travelers from around the world, along with many other great reasons to spend winter in Germany.
There are lots of opportunities for snowsports in Germany in winter, as well as festive celebrations and the best Christmas markets in the world in cities such as Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg.
Christmas markets originated in Germany, with the first recorded Christmas market being held there as early as the 13th century. Since then, they have become an advent tradition around the world but nowhere are Christmas markets better than in Germany.
There are also lots of different types of festivals, including a chocolate festival and lots of entertainment leading up to Christmas in Germany to get people into the Christmas spirit.

Winter Climate in Germany

The winter months can get very cold in Germany with temperatures often dropping into the minuses in December and January. On average, January is the coldest month of the year in Germany, with an average temperature of -2.8°C, lows of around -6°C, and highs of around 3°C.
January averages 7 days of rain with a total of 2 inches of rainfall, while December averages 8 days of rain and 2.4 inches of rainfall. The wettest month is May, with around 13 days of rain and 4.4 inches of rainfall.
Germany often sees snowfall in the winter months, which is another reason it is a magical place to visit at Christmas. The mountainous areas in the Bavarian Alps receive the most snow, while Berlin and Munich also see quite a lot of snow.
If you do not like the cold weather then you might prefer to visit Germany in the warmer months for sightseeing instead of winter activities.

Things to Do in Germany in Winter

Due to the cold winters and frequent snow, Germany is a hotspot for snow sports during winter and you can do all types of snow-based activities from cross-country skiing, ice skating and snowboarding to sledding.
For travelers who prefer a more relaxed trip, there is plenty more to do, such as exploring the local culture in German cities and villages, visiting festivals like the Stollen Festival or wandering around the Christmas markets.

Winter Holidays in Germany

There is lots going on over winter in Germany, including:
  • ChocolART Chocolate Festival, Tubingen, 29th Nov to 3rd Dec.
    The ultimate festival for chocolate lovers, ChocolART takes place at the beginning of December each year, where you can buy handmade chocolates (great Christmas gifts!) and see the creative chocolate artwork.
  • Stollen Festival, Dresden, 3rd Dec.
    One of Germany's most famous food exports, stollen, is celebrated at this festival where you can buy tasty stollen products such as the famous Dresden Stollen.
  • Tollwood Winter Festival, Munich, 23rd Nov to 31st Dec.
    The Tollwood Festival is a magnificent celebration of Christmas, featuring acrobatic shows, live music and lots of fun entertainment.
  • Christmas Garden, Berlin, 17th Nov to 1st Jan.
    The Botanic Garden Berlin is transformed into a magical Christmas garden with impressive light displays, food stalls and mulled wine and hot chocolate to warm you up.
  • Christmas markets (many locations including Berlin and Munich).
    | If you arevisiting Germany in winter a visit to a Christmas market or two is the top attraction in the holiday season. Wherever you go to Germany, there will be traditional Christmas markets somewhere nearby.
  • Circus Krone, Munich, 25th Dec to 31st Jan.
    Amazing entertainment for all the family awaits at Circus Krone, a traditional circus with a long history.
  • Silvester NYE celebration, Berlin.
    In Germany, New Year's Eve is known as Silvester and there are some exciting events around the country, including a spectacular fireworks display in Berlin, with famous music artists playing at Brandenburg Gate.

Popular Winter Sports in Germany

Due to the frequent snowfall in Germany, it is a top winter destination for winter sports such as:
  • Skiing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Ice skating
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowtubing and sledding
  • Snowshoe hiking

The Bavarian Alps and the Black Forest are the best places to find good snow, including resorts such as Feldberg, Alpsee Grunten and Zugspitze Glacier (which has the highest peak in Germany).

Our Top 10 Places to Visit in Germany in Winter

Whether you want to explore the busiest cities or find a smaller town with fewer crowds, these are the top places to visit in Germany in winter:

1. Berlin

The largest city and the capital of Germany, Berlin is the most popular place to visit for the full Christmas experience. From the vast Christmas markets to soak in the festive atmosphere, to historical sites such as the Berlin Wall, there are some fun ways to spend winter days in Berlin.

2. Munich

Bavaria's capital, Munich is also a very popular destination in November and December, with stunning architecture such as romanesque churches and the Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall). Top attractions in Munich include the Nymphenburg Palace, Viktualienmarkt (farmers' market) and Marienplatz.

3. Cologne (Koln)

Cologne is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, spanning the River Rhine and it was one of the largest medieval cities. It is a great place for sightseeing and places to visit including the Cologne Cathedral, Museum Ludwig, and Cologne Chocolate Museum. The Cologne Christmas markets are also amongst the best in the world.

4. Nuremberg

The second largest city in Bavaria, Nuremberg is another fantastic place to visit in Germany in winter. Nuremberg Castle, the Toy Museum, and the Documentation Center Nazi are popular tourist attractions. Walking the city walls is also a great way to see the city.

5. Hamburg

The second largest city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg is best known for the harbor, the Port of Hamburg and it is one of the major transportation hubs in Europe. The city has a network of canals, beautiful architecture, and a long history to explore.

6. Fussen and Neuschwanstein Castle

Fussen lies in southwest Bavaria and is home to Neuschwanstein Castle, which is a fairytale-like castle positioned on a hill. Many people believe that the castle inspired Disney castles and it featured in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A guided tour of the castle is one of the top day trip choices in Bavaria.

7. Rhine Valley in Winter

If you prefer to visit somewhere with stunning views than a busy city center, Rhine Valley is the perfect place for a winter trip. It is a popular destination for walking holidays and the Riesling vineyards are a hit with wine lovers. A cruise along the River Rhine is a fantastic way to see this region.

8. Stuttgart Winter and Christmas Markets

For a truly traditional Christmas market experience, Stuttgart is one of the largest and most spectacular. There are great food stalls, mulled wine stalls, arts and crafts and elaborate decorations that transform the town hall into a winter wonderland that sparkles in the dark at night.

9. Zugspitze Mountain

Whether you are keen on winter sports and other outdoor activities or you want to experience some of the most breathtaking views in Germany, the highest peak in Germany, Zugspitze Mountain is an unforgettable place to visit. It is a top destination for skiing and the perfect place to enjoy a White Christmas.

10. Dresden

Another place that is famous for the Christmas markets, Dresden has loads going on over the winter months, including the Stollen Festival. There are also some stunning landmarks to visit, such as the Zwinger building and gardens, Semper Opera House and the impressive Frauenkirche Dresden.
If you’re traveling from the U.S., you might want to check out our list of top destinations in Germany for American citizens.

Travel Requirements: Visa for Germany

The ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) is due to come into effect in 2023, which will mean that non-European travelers who previously did not require a visa will now need to apply for an ETIAS to enter Germany.
The ETIAS system has not been launched yet but it will involve completing a short online form to provide information so that authorities can screen your details before being approved for entry to the Schengen Area. It is being introduced to help improve security and personal safety in Europe by monitoring visitors more comprehensively.
Before entering Germany, non-EU citizens will be required to apply for the ETIAS which will electronically link to their passport and this will be checked by border control agents. The processing times for ETIAS applications are expected to be less than a few days, as automated screening checks will take place and it will be much quicker than applying for a visa to visit Germany.
The ETIAS will be applicable for tourist purposes for visits of no longer than 90 days and the ETIAS will be valid for three years, during which time travelers can visit the Schengen area multiple times as a tourist, provided the linked passport is still valid.
Travelers who are citizens of countries that are not listed in the visa waiver countries and who currently require a visa will still need to obtain a visa to visit Germany by applying through their German embassy and attending an interview.

Final Thoughts on Winter in Germany

Germany is one of the most magnificent places in Europe to visit in wintertime for those who love Christmas. The cities and snow-filled regions of Germany make a wonderful festive setting to get into the spirit of Christmas.
Don’t forget that Germany is cheaper than the U.S. in some aspects like groceries and apartment renting.
However, the weather is cold from November through to February and spring with temperatures often going below zero. If you are looking for a sunshine holiday, visit Germany in the summer months or take a trip to a winter sunshine destination.
As long as you take some warm clothes when you visit in winter, you can enjoy a fun and festive visit to Germany, experiencing the best Christmas markets in the world or enjoying the thrill of winter sports in the Black Forest.
Germany is also renowned for its rich history, stunning architecture, great food and beer. Oktoberfest (which takes place in September) is one of the major events taking place in Germany but the winter months are just as much fun, especially if you prefer mulled wine to beer.
Written by: Fikayomi Abisola
Abisola is an ETIAS Travel and Immigration writer with several years of writing experience in the industry. Abisola has a unique enthusiasm for travels, tours, and tourism and loves to educate travellers about the criteria involved in international travelling.

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