Fall is a great time to visit Germany. The summer crowds are back home, local wine festivals are in full swing, and temperatures have dropped to positively comfortable. Plus, the deciduous forests that cover huge parts of the country put on vibrant fall foliage displays that will make you believe you're in New England. With the high season of summer behind you, enjoy traveling with fewer tourists and cheaper rates for an even more special experience.
However, there is an exception to this autumn slowdown. The biggest festival of the year, Oktoberfest, takes place in Munich for about two weeks every fall from late September to early October. During the event, expect for airfares, transport, and hotel rates to skyrocket, especially in Munich but also around the country. Oktoberfest is a force in and of itself, but don't let that deter you. Whether you're a beer lover or not, Oktoberfest is worth going to as it is the largest folk festival in the world and a mandatory cultural event in Germany.
Autumn Weather in Germany
The climate of most of Germany is moderate with four distinct seasons, and fall means cooler days, brisk nights, shorter days, and changing leaves. Autumn is a transitional time, so in addition to what region you're visiting, the climate can change drastically from month to month or even week to week. Some areas, such as the northern coastline, feature a maritime influence and experience more temperate weather. Meanwhile, the Alps of Bavaria in the south will get much colder must faster, and likely have already accumulated snow by the end of autumn.
|Berlin||65 F / 50 F||56 F / 44 F||45 F / 36 F|
|Munich||65 F / 48 F||56 F / 41 F||44 F / 32 F|
|Frankfurt||67 F / 51 F||57 F / 44 F||46 F / 37 F|
|Hamburg||65 F / 50 F||55 F / 43 F||45 F / 37 F|
|Dusseldorf||67 F / 52 F||59 F / 46 F||49 F / 40 F|
|Stuttgart||68 F / 50 F||58 F / 43 F||46 F / 35 F|
In September and October, the weather in Germany is still pleasant with golden days ablaze in colorful fall foliage. Germans call these last warm days of the year altweibersommer and revel in the last long, light-filled days. Germany's relatively high latitude means the warm months have especially long days where the sun sets surprisingly late in the evening.
Nevertheless, German weather is unpredictable. Be prepared for cold and rainy spells and observe the colorful leaves before they are blown away. As fall nears its end in November, the days shorten considerably and can be quite cold and grey. It is not unheard of for snow to make an early appearance, although winds and ice are more common in this precursor to winter.
What to Pack
Regardless of where you go or what month you visit, a fall trip to Germany should include comfortable walking shoes, long pants, and light layers that you can add on or remove without difficulty. You'll also want something in case it rains, such as a water-resistant jacket or a compact umbrella that's easy to carry around.
Apart from these essentials, you'll need to pack based on your itinerary. If you're heading to the coast or even one of Berlin's beaches in September, make sure you have a swimsuit on hand for sunny days by the water. On the other hand, if you're visiting Germany in November, make sure you have a heavy jacket and gear to stay warm in case it snows, such as a scarf and gloves. October is more fickle and harder to plan for, so pack plenty of layers and keep an eye on local forecasts before departing.
What to Pack for Oktoberfest in Munich
Another thing to consider is if you are attending Oktoberfest. While tracht (traditional dress) is not required, plenty of visitors dress up for the event. There are plenty of places that sell the proper gear in town at all price points, ranging from about 100 euros (about $117) for a full outfit to much more if you want to invest in high-quality gear.
For men, this means lederhosen. This actually only refers to the traditional leather pants, but the whole outfit can include a white or colorful checkered shirt with wood or horn buttons, knee-high cable-knit socks, Haferlschuh (Bavarian shoes) which tie up the side, and even a jacket and hat.
For women, dirndls are the usual outfit. This includes a rock (skirt) and mieder (bodice), schürze (apron), and bluse (blouse). Colors range from black to gray to blue to soft pink with charming edelweiß (alpine flower) decoration.
Autumn Events in Germany
Despite Oktoberfest's overwhelming reputation for what to do in autumn, wine is also on the menu this time of year. Autumn is the season of German wine with seasonal specialties like federweisser (young fall wine).
- Oktoberfest: This is the highlight of the season, and—for many visitors—the whole trip. Every fall from late September to early October, over 6 million visitors from all over the world come to Munich to drink beer, eat bratwurst, and join together for this massive party. The festival is a colorful celebration of Bavarian culture and cuisine and perhaps the quintessential German event. In 2020, Oktoberfest was canceled for the first time since World War II.
- Wine Festivals: The peak season for wine festivals are in August and September, and there are literally over a thousand of them that take place around the country. Just a few examples include the festivals in Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Bad Dürkheim, and Neustadt.
- Day of German Unity: Held every year on October 3, this is a national holiday commemorating the reunification of East and West Germany. You may see special events or parades happening around the country on this day.
- Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival: While Halloween doesn't really have a place in German culture, pumpkins have their own festival in the fall with dramatic chainsaw sculpting and pumpkin boat races at a palace. It takes place in the town of Ludwigsburg, just a few miles south of Stuttgart.
- St. Martin's Day: Held on November 11, this quaint festival is celebrated mainly by school children in torchlit parades after dark or with bonfires built by locals to celebrate this religious feast day.
- Christmas Markets: The holiday season kicks off in November when Christmas markets start appearing in town centers across the country. Almost every city has its own version and it's one of the most authentically German ways to get into the Christmas spirit, especially if you have a cup of hot mulled wine in hand.
Autumn Travel Tips
- On October 3, the Day of German Unity, most businesses will be closed for the national holiday, including banks and grocery stores. Many restaurants, however, remain open, especially in the tourist areas of big cities.
- This is the perfect time to explore the German Wine Road in the southwest of the country. The largest of the many wine festivals is the Wurstmarkt ("sausage market") in Bad Dürkheim. This culinary event has been celebrated every September for almost 600 years.
- Outside of Oktoberfest, this fall is considered the low season and you can often find great deals on airfare and hotel rates.
- Germans set their clocks back by one hour every year on the last Sunday in October, along with most of the countries in Europe. If you're visiting at this time, be sure to keep that in mind.