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The Christmas Trees are being put away, the magical feeling of the best Christmas markets in Germany are quickly fading, and the skies seem to never turn blue. Welcome to Germany in January! While the start of the new year isn’t my top pick for the best time to visit Germany, there are still plenty of things you can go do.
In this article, I’ll give you some ideas of things to do in January in Germany, what to pack for winter in Germany, and more.
Celebrate New Years Eve
Germany seriously knows how to celebrate the new year. And yeah, I guess you could argue that this is December, but hey, if you are ringing in the new year, it will be January as of midnight! So, it’s going on the list!!!
I will never forget the first year I was in Germany. There is the typical countdown to the new year, but then what happens next is nothing short of amazing. Forget a little ol’ ball dropping. When the clock strikes 12 every single village, town, hamlet, and city alike goes gang busters!!!
Every single church tower begins ring-a-linging and the sky becomes ablaze with fireworks.
And this goes on for a solid 30 minutes- sometimes longer! It feels neverending! Even if you just stay home or inside the hotel for a peaceful New Year, nothing beats watching (and hearing) the show. My favorite was last year as I poked my head out my bathroom window (hey, it was my best view to the church and I wasn’t exactly partying it up with 2 sleeping kids and another on the way) and neighbors across the cobblestone streets could be heard singing Auld Lang Syne from their balcony. It was perfect!
The 4th of July seriously has nothing on a German New Years Eve!!!!
If you are in the bigger cities, it can actually get quite intense. In fact, pretty much every year, people die (yes, die) from a fireworks mishap because things get so wild. But, if you are willing to take that risk for an absolutely crazy night, it can be quite the experience.
Where to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Germany:
- Berlin: Millions of people celebrate in Berlin. While the Brandenburg Gate is probably the biggest party area, all the major town squares will have plenty of festivities.
- Munich: Marienplatz is the place to be in Munich, with the iconic Rathaus as the backdrop for a night to remember
- Rügen Island: If you want pure romance, head to this sea side town and spend the entire night on the beach, complete with bonfires and fireworks over the ocean
- Any big city: All the main cities (Dresden, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, etc) will have plenty going on and more than enough fireworks to light up your night
While I actually think that skiing is a better thing to do in February (more/ better snow), if you go to the higher mountains in the Alps, you might still be able to get some decent enough powder in January. However, truth be told, I think that if you really want to ski in January, then going just a tad further into Austria (depending on where you go, it will be higher elevation) will ensure more snow. However, there are still plenty of places to ski in Germany that you can look into to see if the slopes are good enough this year. Alternatively, there are also plenty of places that will make snow starting in late December to help ensure plenty of ski/ snowboarding days.
Where to go skiing in January in Germany:
- Garmisch Classic
- Fellhorn/ Kanzelwand
Get High (no, not that kind) at the Zugspitze
You don’t even need to be a skier to enjoy the highest mountain in all of Germany. And while winter in Germany can be awfully dreary, when you head to the top of the Zugspitze, you climb high above those grey clouds and are greeted with fantastic views out over the Alps.
There is a restaurant, sledding, and even an ice bar at the top of the mountain to enjoy any day in January!
And if the weather IS nice, while you are there, head to the Eibsee which is the lake at the base of the Zugspitze for some stunning winter wonderland vibes!
Find the “Drei Königs”
2023 Date: January 6th, 2023
In regions like Bavaria, which is a very Catholic state, Three Kings Day is actually a public holiday (so expect many things to be closed on January 6th) But what exactly is Dreikönigsfest?
The Epiphany is celebrated in Christianity each year on the 6th of January as the day that Jesus was baptized. It is also celebrated as the day that the 3 wise men (Drei Königs) visited the baby Jesus.
Which is why you shouldn’t be surprised when you see groups of three children wandering the streets dressed as kings (their bathrobes often doubling as their costumes!) The kids will go door to door, where it is customary for the household to donate money to the kids that will go towards a charity (and a few chocolate coins for the pockets of the Kings, of course!). The “Kings” will then bless the home and give it the markings of the Three Kings’ Names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar) and put the new date in chalk above the front door as a sign of luck for the coming year. So 2023 would be: 20*C*M*B*23.
If you are in Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, and Saxony-Anhalt it is fun to hang out outside and watch the Three Kings. In some places, there may even be a Three Kings Procession (parade).
Jam Out at the Düsseldorf Acoustic Festival
2023 Dates: January 14, 2023
Leave the heavy metal, moshpits, and even the electric guitars behind for this unique music festival that celebrates the softer sounds of music with acoustic-only performances. Various artists play throughout the day Haus der Jugend in Düsseldorf each year. If you are a lover of music and looking for something unique to do in January in Germany, this is a great option!
Walk the Runway at the Berlin Fashion Week
Twice a year, Berlin takes the fashion world by storm. There are runway events for the public as well as more VIP shows for buyers and retailers. There are shows, runway events, and trade shows all throughout the capital city of Germany. Just like in other major cities that hold a fashion week, the city is abuzz during this highly anticipated time.
Monday January 16th, 2023-January 21st
Heat Up in the Saunas
It might be cold outside, but it’s awfully steamy in the famous spas and saunas in Germany! This is one of my favorite winter in Germany activities because it doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside. I am guaranteed a relaxing day soaking in the thermal baths and sweating away my cares in the saunas!
A few of my favorite German Spas and Saunahofs are:
Dance the Night Away At the Berlin Tanztage Festival
2023 Dates: January 5-22. 2021
Each year, a special dance festival/ conference occurs in Berlin where dancers and choreographers alike come together to showcase their skills while simultaneously bringing up important popular current topics.
Each year, the festival also brings up social ideas to challenge or discuss or come together with.
Glide On the Ice
When I asked my son what he likes to do in Germany in the winter, he proclaimed “Ice Skating!” (he’s literally never been ice skating once in his life!?) but there are actually a lot of really great outdoor rinks around Germany that are open in January, so maybe this is the year he actually goes?
Where to go Ice Skating in Germany in January:
- EisArena (Hamburg): November – March
- Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinksi (Dresden): Mid November-February 1
There are some other rinks in Germany that are open until early January, such as the Eiswelt at Neptunbrunnen in Berlin or the Münchner Eiszauber
Lakes to Ice Skate On in Germany
While it’s not always safe to ice skate on natural lakes in the winter, if the entire lake is frozen and has thick enough ice, you can have a magical experience. If you don’t have skates, you can always do what I did as a kid and go “Boot Skating!”
Some lakes that typically are frozen over and safe enough to go skating by January (and with fantastic mountain views) are:
Sightsee the Cities
While the weather could be hit or miss in January, this is a surprisingly ok enough time to sight see the major cities. Despite the time of year, the big cities like Cologne, Berlin, Munich, Dresden, and others are all still bustling with plenty of things to do.
You are more likely to have rain than snow in January, so just grab that umbrella and rainproof gear and make the most of it. The plus side is that there aren’t nearly as many tourists flocking to sites as there are in the summer months!
Appreciate Culture at a Museum
Ok, you know I am getting cabin fever when even I recommend museums!
And yeah, I guess this kind of goes hand in hand with the city exploring. But I actually do find the winter months great for ducking into the many great museums Germany has to offer. Museums in January are a great alternative to any rainy or snow days in the forecast!
A few truly fantastic museums to visit in Germany are:
- Museum Island in Berlin actually isn’t just one museum, but 5 world class museums (The Pergamon is arguably the most popular)
- The Dokumentation Zentrum in Nuremberg is truly one of the best museums I’ve been to in my life. If you’ve ever wondered exactly how someone like Hitler could have taken over not just an entire country, but an entire continent, this museum answers that. This is also where the Nuremberg Trials were held.
- The Deutsches Museum in Munich is seriously uuuhmazing. Not being a big “museum person” I balked at going for years. You can spend DAYS in here and still not have seen it all. There is so much that you are sure to find a section that does interest you!
- Zwinger Palace in Dresden is stunning on the outside alone. But head inside for endless galleries, inner courtyards, antique weapons, and more
Float Down a Lazy River or Zip Down a Waterslide
There are a surprising number of really great indoor waterparks within Germany. I’m not just talking indoor swimming pools. Oh no. These are huge, ginormous, water playgrounds for all ages. Countless slides, swim up bars, hot tubs outside as the snow falls down….PIRATE SHIPS! Yup, Germany’s indoor water amusements parks have it all!
A few great indoor waterparks in Germany to have fun at:
- Therme Erding (Galaxy): Therme Erding (Outside of Munich) has both the Spa/ Sauna experience as well as a family friendly HUGE water park! It’s a water paradise for all ages! Read my Visiting Therme Erding Guide Here
- Tropical Islands: (Near Berlin) This enormous waterpark is actually inside an old airplane hanger!!! You’ll feel like you’ve been swept away into the Caribbean!
- Rulantica: (Rust) This is the waterpark counterpart to Europapark and is a seriously impressive and amazing indoor waterpark. I mean, it even has a full sized pirate ship inside!!!
- Badeparadies: This is the perfect place to go in the Black Forest with Kids (and kids at heart!) After all, it is literally called “Swimming Paradise!”
- CenterParcs: While Center Parcs is a fantastic family resort chain, we love going to the CenterParcs in Allgau. It’s indoor swimming complex is absolutely insane (and included in the cost of the resort!) There’s countless pools, a kiddie swim playground, tons of slides, and even a (not so lazy) river!
Explore a Castle
This is Germany after all, there are castles dotted on just about every hillside! And while the ruined castles may be a bit muddy and slushy in the winter, the bigger Schlosses and Castles are still great to go see. However, you do need to do your research on them before hand as not all castles have everything open in the winter. For example, Neuschwanstein in the Winter is a real gem! However, the Marienbrucke (where most of the fantastic views and great photo ops are) is usually closed if there is ice or snow. Burg Eltz is stunning any time of year, but the inside tours are only open from March through October, so you won’t be able to go inside in January.