Top Festivals In Berchtesgaden:
Like many small villages in Germany and Austria, Berchtesgaden is known for its unique and prideful annual festivals. Everything from Oktoberfest to Christmas seems to have its own delightful local twist you’re sure to enjoy. Here is our list of the best festivals in Berchtesgaden Germany. For simplicity sake they are written in chronological order as they occur.
Best Events In Calendar Order:
1. Friday Farmers Market (All Year): Every Friday morning from 8am-Noon there will be a large farmers market in Market Square.
2. Fasching Festival (February): Called Carnival or Mardi Gras in other parts of World, Berchtesgaden joins in on the pre-Lent festival with a German twist called Fasching. Expect a lot of traditional music, dancing, friendly beers, and tons of great local food. On years when the festival falls over Valentines day there are often couples wheelbarrow races.
3. May Day Celebration (May 1st): May Day is one of the happiest events of the year as it is meant to celebrate the fertility of Spring. It starts with the erection of the May Pole (Maibaum) which can be up to 50 feet tall. It is decorated with wreaths and often emblems depicting local crafts and industry. Expect dancing, brass band music and a temporary beer garden serving local food and drinks. While there are often a couple May Poles raised in the area the largest will be by Hotel Edelweiss. Sometimes the main celebration is moved to the 1st Saturday of May. There is also large beer tent for the Spring festival that will be by the train station.
4. Great Bavarian Evenings (Mondays in Summer): On Monday evenings in Market Square from June-September Berchtesgaden hosts authentic band and men’s performing groups doing thigh-slapping, heel-whacking dances called Shuhplattler. This is followed by brass brand music and a live DJ.
5. Trachtenfest (2nd Sunday of July): On the 2nd Sunday of July prepare to hear a bunch of gun shots at 6am as the start of Trachtenfest. The festival is meant to preserve authentic traditions and dress in Berchtesgaden. Most of the gun shots will be from a traditional group called the Christmas Shooters.
At 10am a large parade starts at Finanzamt (Near the Documentation Center), then goes to the Collegiate Church of St. Peter and St. John for church services, and after mass the celebration moves on to Bräeustüeberl Beer Hall (Hofbräuhaus). Any time your visit Berchtesgaden’s Hofbräuhaus we suggest attempting the Blacksmith’s challenge. The beer hall’s active Blacksmith with stick a red hot iron into your drink not only warming it but creating a cloud of steam before you quick chug the entire giant beer.
6. Marketfest (1st Saturday of August): Takes place the the 1st Saturday of August in Market Square (Marktplatz). Expect a bunch of cool shopping stalls to be set up in the street infront of the Deer House (Hirschenhaus) which dominates Market Square and dates back to 1594. During Monday nights in the Summer, the square often has traditional Oompah band concerts at 6pm.
7. Oktoberfest (End of September): The 1st modern Oktoberfest happened as part of the celebration leading up to the wedding of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe on October 12, 1810. The fall had already been home to an annual Autumn Volkfest in Baravaria for hundreds of year, but the wedding celebration forever changed the event. Expect tons of traditional Oompah music, lots of men in lederhosen, women in dirndls and everyone congregating around the beer gardens.
In Berchtesgaden all of the festivities will center around Market Square (Marktplatz), the lively Bräeustüeberl Beer Hall (Hofbräuhaus), and a huge beer tent by the train station. It may not be on the same level of the fourteen 5,000+ person beer tents of Munich’s Oktoberfest, but the small village feel of Berchtesgaden may actually make it feel more authentic. If you arrived without authentic dress consider stopping by the famous Lederhosen Stangassinger on Market Square which specializes in hand-making traditional Bavarian outfits.
8. Queen of the Pastures (September 29th): During Queen of the Pastures (Almabtrieb) around St. Michael’s day each year (September 29th) the farmers of greater Berchtesgaden elegantly dress their cows up and herd them into town. It is a parade of sorts to migrating the cattle through the local country roads from the high Summer grazing lands to the lower Winter fields. It is quite a beautiful sight to see all of the milkmaids and cowherders parading down the streets in traditional dress. The elaborate costumes on the cows are meant to be a celebration and way of saying thanks for a successful Summer season.
9. Advent Christmas Town (Late November-Christmas): Over the Advent season in December the entire area of town from Market Square (Marktplatz) through Royal Palace Square (Schlossplatz) is turned into a real life Christmas Village. Almost every inch of the two squares gets fills with merchant stalls, nativity scenes and Christmas cheer. Advent always starts 4 Sundays before Christmas Eve and goes through Christmas Eve (December 24th). After Advent is over they one extra day on the celebration in Berchtesgaden 2 weeks after Christmas where local kids dress up as the three wise men and sing door to door.
10. Running of the Butt Mandl & Krampus (December 5th & 6th): The running of the Butt Mandl (Buttnmandllauf) is one of the most unique festivals in Europe and typically takes place on Saint Nicolas Day (December 6th). During the festival, unmarried men over the age of 16 get dressed up with bushels of straw around their bodies, scary devilish masks on their faces, and bells around their waists while running around town causing a ruckus. Young men who are taking part in Festival for a second time or more graduate from the straw costumes to all fur costumes and even scarier masks. You can see the Butt Mandls throughout the community during the holiday season but your best bet is to see them in Market Square on December 6th as way as the day before on the 5th.
Some of the Butt Mandls, a form of Krampus, carry up to 45 pounds of bells and the noise make is supposed to scare away the evil spirits of the Winter Solstice which is the darkest time of year. It is meant to help wake Mother Nature up from its frozen slumber to start the advancement of Spring. The Butt Mandls also try to catch and poke the children in the streets and hit young girls in the legs with switches as a sign of fertility. Some of the houses the group visits have all of their furniture moved into the street in an effort to make sure all of the evil spirits have left the home. The entire time they make their journey from door to door the Butt Mandls are led by St Nicolas (Santa Claus) as he blesses children and gives them gifts. To us the entire thing feels really weird but it is a very unique and fun festival witness.
11. Holiday Shooters (Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve): Every year the local shooting club puts on a show from 11:30pm-Midnight on both Christmas Eve and New Years Eve called Weihnachtsschützen. They line up where traditional clothing and fire their black powder guns (Handböller) like with a boom into the sky. The frequency of the shooting increases closer to midnight and it is a show that feels like the 4th of July in America. The group also does daily shooting at 3pm from December 17th to 24th as a primer for the big event.