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Germany

When to go

Any time is a good time to be somewhere in Germany, but when is the best time to visit pretty much depends on what type of holiday you envision. Most people arrive between May and September when roads are often clogged, lodging can be at a premium and you’ll be jostling for space at major attractions. Still, summer is fabulous because skies are more likely to be sunny, much of life moves outdoors, beer gardens are in full swing, and festivals and outdoor events enliven cities and villages. Hiking, cycling, swimming and outdoor pursuits are popular during these months.

The shoulder seasons (from March to May and from October to early November) bring smaller crowds and often pleasant weather. In April and May, when wildflowers brighten meadows and fruit trees are in bloom, it can be mild and sunny. Indian summers that stretch well into autumn are not uncommon.

With the exception of winter sports, activities between November and early March are likely to focus more on culture and city life. In these months, skies are often gloomy and the mercury drops below freezing. On the plus side, there are fewer visitors and shorter queues (except in the winter resorts). Just pack the right clothes and keep in mind that there are only six to eight hours of daylight. In December the sun (if there is any) sets around 3.30pm.

The ski season usually starts in early to mid-December, moves into full swing after the New Year and closes down again with the onset of the snowmelt in March.

Festivals

Germans are a fun-loving bunch, and you're guaranteed a rollicking good time if you time your trip there to coincide with one of their festivals...

January & February

Karneval/Fasching (Carnival) The pre-Lent season is celebrated with costumed street partying, parades, satirical shows and general revelry, mostly in cities that are located along the Rhine such as Düsseldorf, Cologne and Mainz, but also in the Black Forest and Munich.

April

Walpurgisnacht Celebrated on 30 April throughout the Harz, this festival of pagan origin has villages roaring to life; young and old dress up as witches and warlocks and parade through the streets.

May

Maifest (May Festival) Villagers celebrate the end of winter by chopping down a tree (Maibaum), painting, carving and decorating it, and staging a merry revelry with traditional costumes.

Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames) Huge fireworks festival in Rhine villages; May to September.

June

Christopher Street Day (www.csd-germany.de) Major gay celebration with wild street parades and raucous partying, especially in Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg but also in Dresden, Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt.

July & August

Love Parade (www.loveparade.net) No longer techno only but all types of electronic music at the world’s largest rave in mid-July; Berlin.

September, October & November

Oktoberfest (www.oktoberfest.de) Legendary beerswilling party, enough said. Actually starts in mid-September; Munich.

Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse; www.buchmesse.de) October sees the world’s largest book fair, with 1800 exhibitors from 100 countries.

December

Christmas markets Popular across the country.

Silvester The German New Year’s Eve is called Silvester in honour of the 4th-century pope under whom the Romans adopted Christianity as their official religion; there’s partying all night long.