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.
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.
The following are ten things for you to consider to make your trip to Germany one to remember:
10 Distinct German Traditions
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.
Where you can try it: Spreewald
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.
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
Distinct German Culture and German Traditions
Germany boasts a rich and complex history that has given rise to a diverse and multifaceted culture replete with an array of deeply-rooted traditions. These traditions, shaped by centuries of German history spanning from the medieval era to the present day, offer a rich tapestry of cultural experiences for the discerning traveler.
Foremost among these time-honored customs is Oktoberfest, a world-renowned beer festival that draws in millions of visitors from around the globe each year. This jubilant celebration of German culture is a colorful kaleidoscope of traditional music, cuisine, and beer, making it a cherished highlight of the country’s social calendar.
Another renowned tradition in Germany is its Christmas markets, which dot the towns and cities of the country during the yuletide season. These charming markets offer an abundance of holiday-themed goodies such as handmade ornaments, gingerbread cookies, and hot mulled wine. They also provide visitors with the opportunity to enjoy live music and a host of other festive activities.
The country is also home to many stunning castles and palaces, which offer visitors a glimpse into Germany’s rich and storied past. Examples include the fabled Neuschwanstein Castle, which inspired the iconic Disney castle, and the stately Dresden Castle, which boasts a plethora of art collections and museums.
Germany has also made invaluable contributions to classical music, with the likes of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart having lived and worked in the country. Their enduring musical legacy is celebrated in the country’s numerous world-renowned theaters and concert halls, such as the Berlin Philharmonic and the Leipzig Opera.
The country’s cuisine is equally renowned for its heartiness and flavor, with dishes such as sausages, sauerkraut, and schnitzel being staples of German gastronomy. Visitors can savor these traditional dishes in local restaurants or indulge in regional delicacies, such as the famous Bavarian pretzel or the luscious Black Forest cake.
Finally, Germany hosts an array of festivals and celebrations throughout the year, offering visitors the chance to immerse themselves in its vibrant and diverse cultural heritage. These events include the famed Cologne Carnival, the prestigious Berlin Film Festival, and the enchanting Christmas markets, among many others.
All in all, Germany’s culture and traditions are a source of fascination and inspiration for the avid traveler, offering a wealth of engaging experiences and insights into the country’s multifaceted and fascinating past.
Strange German Cultural Events
Germany boasts a wealth of intriguing cultural practices and events that reflect the country’s rich history and unique character. These customs offer visitors an exceptional opportunity to partake in the nation’s cultural heritage and witness its dynamic and vibrant atmosphere.
The Vogelhochzeit, or “Bird Wedding,” is one such event, which takes place during the winter months and is celebrated in various parts of Germany. Rooted in ancient folklore, it is characterized by a mock wedding ceremony between a male and female sparrow. Accompanied by children and musicians, the mock priest presides over the festivities, which culminate in a grand wedding cake made of bread, adorned with sugar birds.
Another fascinating and peculiar custom is the Schwarzwald-Bollenhut-Festival, held in the Black Forest region of Germany. This festival is renowned for its distinctive traditional attire, featuring large black hats embellished with red pom-poms, worn exclusively by unmarried women. The headwear symbolizes the region’s distinct cultural heritage and customs.
Germany’s pre-Christmas Krampusnacht celebrations are also an intriguing spectacle, taking place on December 5th. Dedicated to the Krampus, a legendary creature from Germanic folklore who punishes mischievous children during the festive season, the festivities involve individuals donning frightening Krampus costumes, replete with horns, fangs, and fur, scaring children and adults alike.
Finally, the Sechseläuten Festival, which occurs in Zurich, Switzerland, but is also celebrated in some parts of Germany, is an idiosyncratic event. It features the incineration of a snowman effigy, the Böögg, believed to augur the weather forecast for the ensuing summer. A swift burn portends a hotter season, while a sluggish conflagration indicates a cooler one.
To sum up, Germany’s rich and intriguing cultural practices and events are a testament to the country’s captivating past. These unconventional celebrations provide a remarkable opportunity for visitors to absorb the country’s dynamic culture and participate in its unique customs and traditions.
Bizarre German Traditions
Germany is renowned for its rich cultural practices and customs that have been passed down through generations. Many of these traditions are peculiar and fascinating, and may appear strange or unusual to visitors from other parts of the world. Here are some of the most notable and unique German traditions:
- Vogelhochzeit: This ancient German custom is celebrated during the winter months and is a popular children’s festival. The event involves a mock wedding ceremony between two sparrows, complete with a grand wedding cake made of bread and adorned with sugar birds. The children participate in the ceremony as flower girls and ring bearers, while musicians play lively music. The celebration is meant to symbolize the arrival of spring and the renewal of life after the long winter.
- Krampusnacht: Taking place on December 5th, this pre-Christmas celebration is dedicated to the Krampus, a legendary creature from Germanic folklore who punishes mischievous children during the festive season. Participants dress up in frightening Krampus costumes, replete with horns, fangs, and fur, scaring children and adults alike. The tradition of Krampusnacht has gained popularity in recent years and has become an important part of German culture during the Christmas season.
- Schwarzwald-Bollenhut-Festival: Held in the Black Forest region of Germany, this festival is renowned for its distinctive traditional attire featuring large black hats adorned with red pom-poms, which are worn exclusively by unmarried women. The headwear symbolizes the region’s distinct cultural heritage and customs, and the festival celebrates traditional dances, music, and food.
- Sechseläuten Festival: Celebrated in Zurich, Switzerland, but also in some parts of Germany, this unique event features the incineration of a snowman effigy, the Böögg, which is believed to predict the weather forecast for the ensuing summer. The snowman is set on fire and the time it takes for its head to explode is used to determine the weather forecast. A swift burn portends a hotter season, while a sluggish conflagration indicates a cooler one. The festival is a way for people to welcome the arrival of spring and to bid farewell to the long winter months.
- Schützenfest: This annual festival, held in various parts of Germany, is dedicated to marksmanship and firearms. It features a parade of decorated carriages and the firing of cannons and guns, culminating in a shooting contest. The festival has a long history dating back to medieval times and was originally held to promote civic pride and military readiness.
Germany’s strange traditions reflect its rich cultural heritage and unique character, providing visitors with a remarkable opportunity to immerse themselves in the country’s dynamic and vibrant atmosphere. These customs showcase the country’s deep-rooted beliefs and values, making them an integral part of German culture.
Most Unique Accommodations In Germany
Germany is a country that is known for its beautiful architecture, rich history, and delicious cuisine. It is also home to some of the most unusual and unique accommodations in the world. These accommodations provide travelers with an experience that goes beyond the ordinary, giving them a chance to create unforgettable memories.
One of the most unusual accommodations in Germany is the Baumhaus Hotel. Located in Bad Zwischenahn, this hotel features treehouses that are perched high up in the trees. The treehouses are connected by rope bridges and offer stunning views of the surrounding forests and gardens. Each treehouse is equipped with modern amenities, including heating and air conditioning, and some even have a private sauna. This hotel provides guests with a unique opportunity to reconnect with nature and enjoy a truly immersive experience.
Another quirky accommodation option in Germany is the Jumbo Stay. This hotel is located at Stockholm Arlanda Airport and is actually an old Boeing 747-200 plane that has been converted into a hotel. Guests can choose to stay in one of the 33 rooms, which range from basic dormitory-style accommodations to private suites. The cockpit has been converted into a suite with panoramic views of the airport. This hotel provides a unique opportunity for aviation enthusiasts and offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
For those looking for a more historic accommodation option, the Hotel im Wasserturm in Cologne is a great choice. This hotel is situated inside a historic water tower that dates back to the late 19th century. The tower was converted into a luxury hotel in the 1990s and features 88 rooms, each uniquely designed and decorated. The hotel also boasts a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city. Staying at this hotel provides guests with a chance to experience the history of Cologne while enjoying modern amenities.
Another unique accommodation option in Germany is the Sleep in a Wine Barrel hotel, located in Sasbachwalden. As the name suggests, this hotel offers guests the opportunity to sleep inside a giant wine barrel. Each barrel is equipped with modern amenities, including a comfortable bed, a bathroom, and heating. The hotel is situated in the heart of the Baden wine region and offers guests the chance to taste some of the best wines in Germany. This hotel provides guests with a chance to experience the unique culture and traditions of the region.
Finally, the Schloss Löwenstein castle hotel in the Bavarian countryside is another one-of-a-kind accommodation option. This castle dates back to the 14th century and has been converted into a luxurious hotel. The hotel features 30 rooms, each uniquely designed and decorated. Guests can explore the castle’s historic rooms and enjoy a meal in the grand dining hall. This hotel provides guests with a chance to step back in time and experience the grandeur and opulence of medieval times.
Germany offers some of the most unusual and unique accommodations in the world, providing travelers with an opportunity to experience something truly unforgettable. These accommodations showcase the country’s creativity, innovation, and rich cultural heritage, making them an integral part of the German travel experience.
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.