Germany in winter is a beautiful and magical place, a real winter wonderland with snow-dusted landscapes, cozy Christmas markets, and winter sports opportunities.
Despite the colder temperatures, winter is a great time to visit Germany. The country’s cities and towns are adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations, outside of the Christmas Market season it’s less crowded, and prices are in general lower.
Use this “ Germany in winter Ultimate Travel Guide “ with tons of travel tips to plan the perfect winter getaway to Germany!
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, for more information see my terms and conditions page.
Important note: It is important to note that many attractions in Germany have limited hours in winter, and some may be closed, so pay careful attention to opening times.
Table of Contents
German Christmas Markets and winter festivals
From festive Christmas markets to colorful carnival celebrations, it’s a festive time of year!
There’s no better way to get in the Christmas spirit than by attending a traditional Christmas Market! The holiday season in Germany is MAGICAL and during the month of December, the markets are the main attractions and in full swing!
My favorite things about the German Christmas markets? the smells! Before you ever enter the market itself the smells will greet you with the delicious aroma of mulled wine, spiced gingerbread cookies, warm candied nuts, hot chocolate, and other delightful things!
Most major cities put on a Christmas Market, but in my opinion the best ones are the small-town markets. You’ll usually find them in the city center / town center. Wooden market stalls are strung with fresh greenery and beautiful lights. Visitors can enjoy traditional German treats like mulled wine and gingerbread, and shop for unique handcrafted German gifts and souvenirs.
When are the Christmas Markets in Germany? The exact dates change from year to year, based on the advent calendar, and each town sets their own dates. Check the official website for the most accurate information.
Here are some of the best Christmas markets in Germany:
- Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt
- Dresden Christmas Market (Dresden Striezelmarkt)
- Lucia Christmas Market, Berlin.
- Leipzig Christmas Market (Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt) consider this Christmassy day trip from Leipzig to the Ore Mountains.
- Munich Christmas Market in Marienplatz.
- Frankfurt Christmas Market, Weihnachtsmarkt. Consider this private Christmas Market Tour of Frankfurt, or a guided advent stroll through Frankfurt.
- Trier Weihnachtsmarkt
- Heidelberger Weihnachtsmarkt. Consider this Christmas Market walking tour of Heidelberg.
- Dusseldorf. Consider this private Christmas Market tour of Dusseldorf.
- Stuttgart. Consider this covered wagon winter tour from Stuttgart!
- Rothenburg “Reiterlesmarkt”
Carnival Season (Fasching/Fastnacht/Karneval)
Germany has a lively and vibrant carnival season that takes place in the weeks leading up to Lent. One of the best festivals celebrating carnival can be experienced in Cologne. Other cities with notable carnival celebrations include Mainz, Düsseldorf, and Munich. During the carnival season. Eat traditional foods like Berliner doughnuts and drink beer or schnapps (to warm the belly!) Festivities include colorful costumes, massive parades with elaborate floats and marching bands.
You can get the full lowdown on the carnival festivities at the Germany Way.
New Year’s Celebrations
Germany is the perfect place to ring in the New Year! The last day in December is a big event, known as Silvester. At midnight the sky is filled with colorful fireworks displays. If you plan to spend New Year’s Eve in Germany, you’re sure to find festivities wherever you are!
You may be interested in: New Years Eve Concert, Dresden
Indoor things to do in Germany in Winter
Choose from a range of Indoor “Germany winter activities”
Attend a concert
Shelter from the winter chill at an indoor concert. Here are some special Christmas centered Concerts in Germany:
explore Castles and Palaces
Some of Germany’s most famous castles, like Burg Eltz Castle, are closed in winter but many of the fairytale castles and Palaces in Germany are open all year. Here are a few of the best: (don’t forget to check their winter hours.)
Here are some of Germany’s best, open in winter:
- Hohenzollern Castle
- Neuschwanstein castle, this stunning castle is a delight in winter! Neuschwanstein winter guide!
- Wurzburg Palace
- Heidelberg Castle
- Marienburg Castle
- Reichsburg Cochem Castle
- Herrenchiemsee New Palace
- Schwerin Castle
Museums are a great way to get out of the weather. Even if you aren’t ordinarily into museums, Germany has a wide range of interesting museums. There’s something to please everyone. The Medieval Crime and Justice Museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is my favorite!
Cathedrals and churches
Even if you aren’t necessarily religious, the churches and cathedrals in Europe are spectacular works of architecture. They are full of beautiful stained glass, paintings and frescoes, and ornate furnishings. Step inside one to get out of the cold.
These are some of Germany’s most spectacular churches and cathedrals:
- Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom)
- Church of our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) Trier
- Saint Peter’s Cathedral (aka Dom Trier.) Trier
- Ulm Minster (Ulmer Münster) Ulm
- Aachen Cathedral (Aachener Dom)
- Parish Church of St. Sebastian
thermal baths and spas
There’s no better way to warm a wintery chill like a day at a thermal bath or spa! Let Google be your guide! My favorite is Franken-Therme Bad Windsheim GmbH, located in Bad Windsheim, just a few kilometers from Rothenburg.
Check out the warm brine sensory float with lazer lights and relaxing music:
Popular Winter Destinations in Germany
Here are some popular winter destinations in Germany:
Villages and towns
When I plan a winter trip to Germany, I focus on the quaint towns and their historic buildings and beautiful architecture. Even though you are outside it’s easy to duck into a restaurant or cafe to warm up whenever you need to.
My favorite small towns include:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
In addition to the Christmas market, there is so much to see and do in the tiny medieval town of Rothenburg! The draw is the town itself, a real-life storybook village with cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and plenty of medieval charm! It is one of my favorite places in all of Germany! It’s Christmas year-round in Rothenburg. Stop in at the Käthe Wohlfahrt store or visit the Christmas Museum.
Nuremberg is another fantastic medieval town. In addition to one of the oldest and most traditional Christmas markets in Europe, the Bavarian town is home to several historic landmarks, including the Nuremberg Castle, the Gothic St. Lorenz Church, and the Albrecht Dürer House.
The charming town of Bamberg in Bavaria has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its abundance of historic buildings and historical sites. Bamberg has a very good Christmas Market but what makes this a special place to be during the holiday season is the Nativity Trail. The trail consists of over 30 nativity scenes spread out throughout the town. The trail ends at the Bamberg Cathedral, where a large nativity scene is displayed.
Special winter activities in Bamberg include: a private Christmas Market tour
Rhine River Valley
The Rhine River valley is dotted with cliff top castles, terrace vineyards, and adorable villages. While the castles along the Rhine may be hit and miss with openins this time of the year, the castle hotels are open for business! If you happen to visit the Rhine in winter, then you’re in luck because river cruises run through the winter!
Special Christmas themed cruises include: a Christmas boat cruise that departs from Rüdesheim am Rhein. (these book up well in advance)
While I’m not a city dweller I am aware that many of you are! Here are the best German cities to visit in winter:
Berlin, with its iconic Brandenburg Gate, is the largest city in Germany. This vibrant city offers a lot to do during the winter season. In addition to the Christmas markets, Berlin also has many museums, galleries, and concert and other performance opportunities that are perfect for a cold winter day. With over 170 museums in Berlin, you’re guaranteed to find something to keep you occupied! Another great option is the world class Botanical Gardens in Berlin.
Special winter activities in Berlin include: a private tour of the Christmas Markets (option 1 / option 2), a winter lights limousine tour, a guided tour of Gendarmenmarkt one of Berlin’s best markets by a local guide (extra cost: small entrance fee not included)
Munich is another city that is known for its Christmas markets. The most famous one is at Marienplatz, where you can find traditional Bavarian food and drinks, as well as handmade crafts. Munich is also a good place to go skiing or snowboarding. The city is located close to the Alps, and there are many ski resorts that are easily accessible from Munich.
Dresden is a beautiful city that is known for its Baroque architecture. During the winter season, the city transforms into a winter wonderland. The Christmas market located in Old Town is one of the oldest in Germany. In addition to the Christmas market, there are many museums and galleries in Dresden that are worth visiting.
Special winter activities in Dresden include: a Christmas sightseeing tour from a local guide, a bus tour to Seiffen Toy village, a historic city walking tour that includes the Christmas Market, a paddle steamer winter river cruise, an advent Christmas Market tour, and advent concert, a Christmassy day trip to the Ore Mountains, a private Christmas Market tour and a Bohemia and Saxon Switzerland Winter Tour
Cologne is situated on the banks of the Rhine. Not only is it the location of the famous Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it also has one of the best Christmas Markets in Germany. The city also boasts a number of museums and galleries, like the Roman-Germanic Museum, which showcases the city’s Roman history. Cologne is also famous for its vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, pubs, and clubs throughout the city, all great places to get out of the cold!
The Black Forest
The Black Forest is magical when a layer of snow dusts the dense forests, like a bit of snow globe magic. This area is also a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding, and is a great place for experiencing snowy winter hikes. Popular destinations in the Black Forest include Triberg with its frozen waterfalls, cuckoo clocks, and Black Forest cake.
Recommended reading: Triberg Germany visitors Guide
If you’re looking for a more urban experience, Baden-Baden is a spa town located in the Black Forest. Another great way to get indoors is at the casino. Baden-Baden is the location of the most beautiful casino in the world! You can find a list of spas and thermal baths in UNESCO World Heritage Baden-Baden on their website.
Special winter activities in Baden-Baden: a guided Christmas walking tour
outdoor German Winter activities
Head to most any mountain in Germany where you can take a cable car up to the top of snowy mountains for panoramic views of the winter landscapes below. Do note that many cable cars are shut down for maintenance between the fall hiking season and winter sports season. Make your way up Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, for an adrenaline rush!
Learn more: how to visit Zugspitze and the picture-perfect lake Eibsee here!
Can you imagine anything more romantic than gliding over the snow in a horse drawn sleigh ride?
These companies offer sleigh rides: (all located on the Bavarian Alps unless otherwise noted)
- The Family Blanz (Hinterstein)
- Anton Maier (Rottach-Egern)
- Rottach-Egern (Near Bertchesgaden)
- Simon Adlbert (Tegernsee)
- Kutscherei Holzmann (city of Munich)
- Gästehaus Posaunenklang (Mittenwald)
- various operators at SCHLIERSEE
- various operators (Zugspitz, Garmish area)
Since you already have your winter weather gear, why not visit an ice cave? Due to accessibility issues many of them are closed in winter. Devil’s Cave, Pottenstein, the longest in Germany, is open all year.
Germany is home to some of the best ski resorts in Europe, making it a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Options range from Nordic, Glade, cross-country skiing, and accommodate anywhere from expert skiers to those who are looking to learn to ski.
In addition to skiing these resorts offer other activities such as: (Check the websites for details)
- snow tubing
- ice skating
Some of the most popular ski resorts in Germany include:
- Oberstdorf, and Nebelhorn
- Winklmoos-Alm and Skigebiet am Benzeck
- Berchtesgadener Land (5 different ski resorts)
- Brauneck / Lenggries
- Spitzingsee/ Tegernsee
- Zugspitze (Germany’s highest peak) Garmisch Partenkirchen
- Feldberg in the Black Forest
- Harz Mountains in Northern Germany
Ice skating is a popular winter activity in Germany, with many cities and towns setting up ice rinks during the winter months. Some of the most popular ice rinks in Germany include the rink at the Berliner Weihnachtszeit Christmas market, the rink at the Munich Christmas market, the Eisarena in Dresden and the Eissporthalle in Frankfurt. Check Google for an ice rink near you!
Hiking and winter walks
Germany is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in Europe, and winter is the best time to explore them. Many of the trails offer stunning views of snow-covered mountains and forests, and the crisp winter air makes for a refreshing and invigorating hiking experience. Some of the most popular winter hiking trails in Germany include the Black Forest Trail, the Harz Mountains Trail, and the Bavarian Forest Trail.
One of the things I love the most about Germany is its abundance of trails! No matter where you land, there’s likely to be a trail! A great place to search for trails in Germany is Komoot.
Climate and Weather in Winter
The winter season in Germany usually lasts from December to February, with January being the coldest month.
I have lived in Germany through many winters as a child and can tell you that they have a comparatively mild winter than the brutal winters we have here in Kansas. However, if you are coming from a warm climate, you need to prepare for winter weather conditions.
How cold is it in Germany during winter? While I would love to lay down some facts and figures for you, it would be difficult to do so. The country’s winter weather is cold, with temperatures often dropping below freezing. Temperatures in Germany can vary widely. The higher the altitude the greater the chance of snow and the colder the temperatures. The northern coastal areas near the Baltic Sea and North Sea tend to be milder, while southern Germany, including the Bavarian Alps, can be much colder. Dress for winter weather conditions (more on that later.)
If you really need numbers, the average temperature in Germany in winter from 1960 to 2023 was around 1.5 to 3.5 degrees Celsius. (35-38 degrees Fahrenheit)
Does it snow in Germany in winter? Yes, it does. How much? That is also difficult to pin down. You can expect anywhere from a dusting of snow from low lying areas like Rothenburg, to several feet of snow in the mountains. In addition to snow, visitors should be prepared for the possibility of ice and rain.
German radiator heaters: If you are new to these you are going to love them! If you’re cold just sidle up to one of these heat sources. They seem a lot more efficient than my forced air furnace!
Winter Cuisine in Germany
Germany is known for its hearty and comforting cuisine. A hearty German meal is a great way to fill you up and warm you from the inside out! If you are new to German cuisine you may be interested in reading about the BEST German food you simply MUST try!
Glühwein, which is a hot spiced wine. It is typically made with red wine, cinnamon, cloves, and citrus fruit, and is served in mugs at Christmas markets and other winter events.
Lebkuchen is a type of gingerbread made with honey, spices, and nuts, and is often decorated with icing or chocolate.
A hot schnitzel on a cold winter day is a brilliant idea! Schnitzel is a cut of meat, usually veal or pork, pounded thin, breaded, and fried to golden brown perfection!
Start your day with a hearty German breakfast, served at most Gasthauses and Pensions.
Tips for Traveling in Germany in Winter
Winter travel in Germany comes with its own set of issues to address. It’s important to be prepared for the colder weather and potential travel disruptions. Here are a few tips to help make your trip to Germany in winter as smooth and enjoyable as possible:
It is worth noting that daylight hours in Germany during winter are shorter, with the sun setting as early as 4 pm. It is essential to plan outdoor activities accordingly and make the most of the daylight hours.
Be prepared for travel disruptions
Winter weather can sometimes cause travel disruptions, such as flight cancellations or train delays. It’s a good idea to check the weather forecast and any travel alerts before you leave, and to have a backup plan in case your travel plans are disrupted.
Pack light, stay warm tips (what to pack for Germany in winter)
- Layering is the key to keeping warm without the bulk. Warm clothes don’t have to be bulky. Layers are a good idea and can take you from indoors to outdoors and back again. Another benefit of layering is it can seamlessly take you from outdoors to indoors. The warmest layers are fleece, wool, and down. I like fleece base layers like CuddlDuds for outdoor activities.
- Fleece lined jeans, big thumbs up! (may be harder to find in summer, keep checking!)
- One pair of waterproof snow boots for outdoor activities, plus lightweight insulated boots (bonus if they are waterproof too!)
- Fleece neck gaiters, wear it as a scarf or pull it up over your face to keep it warm!
- PACKABLE down, layer them over a light fleece jacket to stay toasty warm without the bulk.
- Waterproof pants (comfortable and warm) snow pants are bulky and unless you are skiing you probably don’t need them.
- Wool socks and wool glove liners (double the heat insulation!) and something to keep your head warm.
- Hand warmers
- Waterproof outer layers like rain ponchos in case of rain, you don’t want to get wet on cold days!
Getting around in winter
Driving in a foreign country can be daunting, and driving in winter in Germany can be tricky, since weather conditions are unpredictable. You can check current road conditions in Germany on Weather Online.
If you aren’t comfortable with driving in winter Germany has an extensive rail and bus system. There isn’t much of anywhere you can’t get by either train ride, bus, or bus/train combo. The best places to seamlessly plan your bus and train routes are either Rome2Rio or Deutsche Bahn (DB).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth visiting Germany in winter?
Germany is definitely worth visiting during the winter season, especially for those who enjoy winter sports or the festive atmosphere of Christmas markets. The country offers a variety of unique experiences during this time of the year, and visitors can enjoy fewer crowds and lower prices compared to the peak summer months. It’s the perfect place for a winter holiday!
Is Germany expensive in winter?
In general winter is the cheapest time to visit Germany, EXCEPT for the Christmas market season. Room rates are at their lowest and flights can be cheaper this time of year. Visitors can save money by eating at local restaurants and using public transportation. Many Christmas markets offer affordable food and drink options. Winter sports facilities often offer discounted rates for equipment rental and lift tickets.
Overall, Germany is quite inexpensive to travel to. If you are looking to save money, be sure to read my Germany on a Budget article!
What are some free things to do in Germany in Winter?
Free things to do in Germany in winter include:
- and dreamy walk down a snow packed trail
- churches and cathedrals are often free
- there usually aren’t any fees to attend Christmas Markets or other winter festivals
- its free to explore the nooks and crannies of the beautiful towns and villages in Germany
- search out a National Park in Germany, entrance is free!
- many of Germany’s most famous landmarks are free!