10 Distinct German Traditions and Culture for Visitors to Germany

Spreewald, Germany

Are you jonesing to experience German traditions and culture first hard? Well, I can tell you some of the best opportunities come outside of the biggest cities in the more rural areas.

While many travelers to Germany may visit to explore the larger cities (such as Berlin) or popular tourist attractions (such as Europa Park) there remains untapped German cultural opportunities, German cultural attractions and German traditions worth partaking in that will take you off-the-beaten-path.

10 distinct German traditions, customs and culture
10 distinct German traditions, customs and culture

In order to delve deeper into German heritage consider places such as Spreewald, Rügen Island, Stralsund and Wustrow. What you’ll find is a more laid back pace of life with ample opportunities to sample traditional German cuisine.

You can also visit open-air museums, take unique forms of transportation and engage in activities that will get you out of your comfort zone.

The following are ten things for you to consider to make your trip to Germany one to remember:

10 Distinct German Traditions

Punting in Spreewald, Germany down a canal
Punting in Spreewald, Germany down a canal

1) Punting Down A Canal

Sit back and relax in a comfortable flat-bottomed boat as you’re pushed down a canal by your guide wielding a pole. This was easily one of the most memorable experiences I had on my return trip to Germany.

The slow pace of the journey allows you to snap plenty of photos, casually chat with other passengers or quietly take it all in. We had the opportunity to try it in Spreewald.

Scenic canal views with lush green trees in Spreewald, Germany
Scenic canal views with lush green trees in Spreewald, Germany

Punting down a canal is a cherished tradition in some parts of Germany. This leisurely activity involves navigating a flat-bottomed boat (known as a “Punt”) using a long pole. It’s a peaceful way to explore the scenic waterways from a unique vantage point.

A Timeless Tradition

Punting in Germany is more than just a boat ride; it’s a traditional activity that dates back centuries, especially in academic circles. Originally used as a practical means of transportation, it has evolved into a cultural activity that offers a glimpse into the historic and academic life of the cities.

Why It’s a Must-Experience

Serene Escape What makes punting so epic? It’s the tranquility of gliding over water, the gentle sound of the pole stirring the riverbed, and the picturesque views of city skylines and nature. It’s a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle and immerse yourself in nature and history.

Access to Hidden Gems Punting allows access to parts of the city that are less accessible by other means. You can see hidden architectural details of buildings, secret gardens, and wildlife along the urban waterways that you would miss from the streets.

Great Experience for Visitors

Engaging with History As you float under ancient bridges and past historic buildings, local guides often share stories and facts about the city’s past and the significance of the waterways in its development. This narrative adds a rich historical layer to the experience.

Ideal for Everyone Punting is a leisure activity suitable for all ages and interests. Whether you’re with family, friends, or solo, it offers a relaxing yet engaging experience. It’s also a favorite among photographers and nature lovers.

How to Arrange Your Punting Experience

Choosing Your City

  • Popular Destinations: Tübingen and Leipzig are renowned for their beautiful canals and vibrant punting scenes. Each city offers a slightly different experience reflecting its unique history and landscape.
  • Seasonal Considerations: While punting can be enjoyed from spring through early autumn, the best times are often late spring and summer when the weather is most favorable.

Booking Your Trip

  • Tour Operators: Look for local tour operators that offer punting tours. Many provide various packages, including group and private options.
  • Online Booking: Check availability and book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to ensure your spot.

Preparing for the Trip

  • What to Wear: Comfortable, casual clothing and a hat for sunny days are recommended. It’s also wise to bring a light jacket in case the weather changes.
  • What to Bring: Don’t forget your camera, sunscreen, and perhaps a small snack or drink to enjoy along the way.

A Parting Thought Punting down a German canal is an enchanting experience that offers relaxation, scenic beauty, and a deep connection to the cultural and historical aspects of the region. It’s a gentle adventure that leaves a lasting impression, combining the joys of outdoor activity with the enriching context of a guided tour. Whether you’re seeking tranquility or eager to explore German culture from a new perspective, punting provides an unforgettable way to see the country’s historic waterways.

Open air museum with a rustic wagon wheel and doors in Spreewald, Germany
Open air museum with a rustic wagon wheel and doors in Spreewald, Germany

2) Open-Air Museum Experience

Open-air museums in Germany are like a time machine back to a simpler period of life. Old farming tools, thatched homes and realistic theme rooms are some of the top highlights of a visit to this kind of museum.

Some of our favorite activities included learning how to punt, riding a penny-farthing, and competing in a potato sack race. It’s like being a kid all over again. In fact, if you do have a family this might be pushed to the top of your list.

Thached roof house at an open-air museum in Germany
Thached roof house at an open-air museum in Germany

Where you can try this: All over Germany

3) Sauna To Sweat It Out

Strip down naked and enter a small room where you’ll sweat profusely while experiencing dry or wet heat. This may be a bit out of your comfort zone, but I guarantee you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you do decide to wear a bathing suit.

Instead, embrace being in your birthday suit because locals won’t even notice and you’ll enjoy the health benefits of a thorough detox.

Where you can try it: Spreewelten

Bismark Herring sandwich in Stralsund, Germany
Bismark Herring sandwich in Stralsund, Germany

4) Bismarck Herring For Lunch

If you’re a fan of pickled fish be sure to try a Bismarck herring sandwich. The Baltic herring packed in small wooden barrels originated in Stralsund when Johann Wichmann, an admirer of Otto van Bismarck, sent a barrel to celebrate Bismarck’s birthday.

Bismarck apparently loved it to such an extent that he agreed to have it named after him. I recommend trying it in a sandwich – it makes a nice snack or light lunch.

Where you can eat it: Stralsund (specializes in it)

Trabant car ride on Ruegen Island, Germany
Trabant car ride on Ruegen Island, Germany

5) Trabant Car Ride

Why rent a regular car when you can turn back the clock and cruise the town inside a Trabant. This vehicle was built back in the days of the German Democratic Republic, and it is a bit of a boat in terms of handling.

That being said, you’ll garner all sorts of looks as you drive it around.

Where you can experience it: Rügen Island

Trabant license plate in Ruegen, Germany
Trabant license plate in Ruegen, Germany
Vintage Train Ride on Ruegen Island, Germany
Vintage Train Ride on Ruegen Island, Germany

6) Vintage Train Ride

Nothing is cooler than having an opportunity to take a vintage train ride. If you’re visiting Ruegen Island you’ll have a chance to board the Rasender Roland (“Rushing Roland”) on a steam-powered journey that’ll allow you to take in some of the most scenic stretches of the island.

Where you can ride it: Ruegen Island

Strotenbekker German Medieval Theatre
Strotenbekker German Medieval Theatre

7) Störtebeker (German Medieval Theatre)

If you fancy sword fights, explosions and all sorts of theatrics, you’ll want to check out Störtebeker Festspiele. Based on the life of Klaus Stortebeker (German privateer) it reminded me a bit of the story of Robin Hood.

Where you can watch it: Rügen Island

Strotenbekker traditional wooden ship
Strotenbekker traditional wooden ship
Regatta race in Wustrow, Germany
Regatta race in Wustrow, Germany

8) Regatta Boat Race

It may not be easy to watch a boat race but if you visit Wustrow in late June you may have the opportunity to witness a regatta. I found it just as fascinating to watch the reaction of the crowds as I did the actual sailboats.

Where you can witness it: Wustrow

That Backpacker relaxing in a Strandkorb beach chair in Germany
That Backpacker relaxing in a Strandkorb beach chair in Germany

9) Strandkorb – Beach Basket

Strandkorb? That’s German for beach basket and if you’re a fan of comfort, you’ll want to sit in one of them while enjoying some beach time. It’s hard to believe these unique chairs have only been in existence for just over one hundred years.

Aside from being comfortable, the chair provides protection from the sun, rain and sand. If you fall sound asleep while lounging in one, I don’t blame you 😉

Where you can try it: Most beaches along Germany’s coasts

Gurken Pickle Museum in Spreewald, Germany
Gurken Pickle Museum in Spreewald, Germany

10) Gurkenmuseum (Pickle Museum)

If having a pickle from a jar just doesn’t cut it, head over to the Gurkenmuseum (Pickle Museum) where you’ll learn all about the process of making and preserving pickles. Aside from that you’ll find lots of new innovative recipes.

Every year there are pickle competitions where participants compete to be crowned the Queen of Pickle production for that given year.

Where you can visit it: Spreewald

We tried/experienced all of these activities in the following videos: Visiting Spreewald, Germany

Germany Travel Videos (German Culture and Traditions)

Punting in Spreewald and feeding penguins at Spreewelten, Germany

Störtebeker Festspiele (Medieval German Theatre) – Rügen, Ralswiek, Germany

Visiting Rügen Island, Germany

Stralsund City Tour, Germany

Regatta Boat Race and Wustrow City Tour, Germany

Which of these German culture and traditions most interests you? Do you know of any particular German culture and/or tradition that you felt I left out here? Please let me known in the comments section below. Our trip was part of a partnership with the Germany Tourism board this past summer.

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  1. says: Adam Johnson

    You have created an excellent content about the tour. I think proper guidelines are needed to make a tour enjoyable. Our meticulously crafted guidelines, especially for the Best Vatican City Tour, allow travelers to enjoy a hassle-free splendid time. A proper guide can give a traveler a unique and enriching experience.

  2. says: importando com sucesso

    Here in Brazil we appreciate and respect the German culture, a very decent and hard working people who also helped to create our country and our cultures, we are very grateful to the Germans. The article is wonderful, my congratulations Samuel

  3. says: Silke

    Hi Sam, You bring back memories from my home country! Pretty much spot on! How beautiful is the Spreewald? I have fond memories of the East German countryside (I used to live in Berlin for a while), in particular the castles. Many of them had been quite neglected during GDR times and it was interesting to see what would become of them: some were in private hands, others converted into luxury hotels and convention centres, others into museums. Ha! Now I am straying too far from the topic. Anyway, lovely article 🙂

  4. says: Linda March

    The vintage train ride is an amazing experience. I’ve been on three ocasions with vintage trains in Germany, Romania and Slovakia. Steam locomotives, nice wagons and friendly people. A good weekend trip, I would say.

    If it happens to have a sunny day, that’s a bonus 🙂

  5. says: Alexander

    Hi Sam, thanks very much for sharing your post and the terrific pictures!
    To tell you the truth: your article only reflects a small number of traditions of the Northeastern regions of Germany. The largest country of the European Union has a lot more to offer – a long and rich history, culture and very different landscapes!
    You’ll probably find another billion different perspectives on to my country – if you keep on searching…

  6. says: Laura @Travelocafe

    Germany has so much to offer… something for every visitor. I would love to set sail in an medieval ship. OK, at least to get on board of one.

  7. says: Yvonne

    When you live near a place you don’t find it special or worth exploring, at least not me… but when I see this post I feel like I’d definately have to start exploring our neighbouring country more often. Thanks for sharing.

  8. says: Aaron Jade

    Looking forward to heading to Germany over xmas. It seems like there are some very unique aspects to the culture, especially to be seen outside of the big cities and tourist locations. Cheers for the tips. Def keen for a bit of punting, not so sure in winter though, will have to rug up!

  9. says: Michael Russel

    It’s awesome ,such type of ruegen island, Stoertebeker festival, stralsund, wustrow regatta travel trip we find in Germany. you also get this type of amazing trip when you plan visit London.

  10. says: Ana D

    I went German few years back but not visited all the places. Your blog is very informative and I will go again for spending my time in German in coming holidays.

  11. says: Intakt Reisen

    Hi Sam!!!
    I love Vintage train ride !!! Ahha!! Germany is most comfortable & organized country. You will find the best combination of beer & sea food.
    Amazingly described blog.. and what I loved the most is the video part.. I like the way you came up with this post.

  12. says: Noemia Lima

    Oh I really want to spend more time in German.
    The last time that I went, only stayed one day and can’t visit any place.

    Your blog is so amazing!

    Kisses from Italy

  13. Although I’ve been to Germany several times, I’ve never heard of these places or attractions. Definitely means they’re on the list for the future. Love quirky museums so Gurkenmuseum is a must-see. Good to get your recommendations for something different.

  14. says: Ryan

    Medieval ships and vintage trains? Seems like a childhood fantasy I made up with my imagination. Damn, I went to Munich but I didn’t explore anywhere else in Germany and kicking myself for it now. I’ll be back sometime soon though, always loving your Germany features. Great photos man!