Bavaria’s history comes alive again in enchanting parades or spectacular historical performances. Here are 16 tips for the whole family, from a royal wedding to a jousting tournament.
Historical Festivals in Bavaria: 16 Tips
Bavaria’s history has been shaped by exciting events and dynamic heroes. So that all this is not forgotten, past and important protagonists come to life again at historical festivals and magnificent parades. Here are our 16 tips
The World-Famous Oberammergau Passion Play
Almost 400 years ago, Europe was ravaged by the plague. It also claimed many victims in Oberammergau, located in the Ammergau Alps. Its inhabitants then vowed to perform the passion and death of Christ if they were delivered from the plague. The village was heard, and in 1634 the first Passion Play took place. It has been performed every ten years since 1680, usually in the last year of a decade.
Today, the Passion Play is world-famous and has even been included in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Christian Stückl has served as the director since 1986. He revamped the play, ridding it of anti-Jewish statements and focusing on a balanced portrayal of inner-Jewish conflicts. Stückl has received several awards for his work.
On a large open-air stage, more than 2,000 performers portray the story of Jesus, from his entry into Jerusalem to the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The production lasts five hours, starting in the afternoon and ending – with an intermission – late at night. To look as authentic as possible, the local actors grow their hair and beards the year before the performance.
Date: The next Passion Play will take place in 2030
Spectacular Stunts at the Kaltenberg Jousting Tournament
Kaltenberg Palace is located in the district of Landsberg, approx. 60 kilometres west of Munich. Its origins date back to the end of the 13th century. It was redesigned in the Gothic style in the 19th century. The palace is owned by Luitpold Prince of Bavaria, a great-grandson of Ludwig III, the last King of Bavaria (1913 to 1918).
In 1980, a jousting match was held there for the first time in a large arena with almost 10,000 seats. The occasion was the 800th anniversary of the Wittelsbach dynasty. Today, the show features a different storyline each year, usually revolving around a battle of “good versus evil”.
A professional stunt troupe performs the elaborate and spectacular duels: with sword and lance, on foot and on horseback. Before and after the chopping and stabbing in knight’s armour, visitors can enjoy a supporting programme with jugglers, jesters, musicians and more. Craftsmen sell their wares at a medieval market, and snack stalls offer hearty fare.
Dates: July 12-14, 19-21 and 26-28, 2024
ritterturnier.de (only in German)
A Colourful Hustle and Bustle at Burghausen Castle Festival
At more than 1,000 metres long, Burghausen is considered one of the longest castles in Europe. It is located on a ridge above the city, between the Salzach river and an oxbow lake. The strongest fortress in Bavaria, it was the “second home” of the Lower Bavarian dukes from Landshut from 1255 to 1503. A nearly intact wall encloses the five large courtyards, along with gates, towers and residential buildings.
Every year, musicians, jugglers and craftsmen enchant visitors at a historic castle festival. Historical garments, typical sounds from the period, fresh beer and traditional food such as tarte flambée provide an atmospheric medieval feeling. In addition, merchants offer jewellery, leather goods and other products with a historical touch. The colourful hustle and bustle is organised by the Herzogstadt Association with its more than 650 members.
Date: 12 - 14 July 2024
burgfest-burghausen.de (only in German)
The Coopers’ Dance: Once Every Seven Years
The guild dance of the coopers is one of Bavaria’s oldest festival traditions. It is only performed once every seven years. Supposedly, this is the result of a pandemic. According to the legend, Munich’s Cooper Journeymen performed the dance for the first time in 1517 after surviving the plague, in order to lure people out of their homes again and to liven things up. It is reliably documented in the archives from 1702 onwards.
These days, the dance may be a case for the Equal Rights Commissioner, as only men are allowed to dance. They are dressed in white knee socks, black knee trousers and a red jacket, with a leather apron and cap and a so-called plague band across the chest, which reminds us of the legend of the origin. The arched beech wreaths they carry are also typical.
True to the Original: The Landshut Wedding
Every four years in July, Landshut celebrates one of Europe’s largest historical festivals. It commemorates the marriage between the Bavarian Duke George the Rich and Jadwiga, the Polish king’s daughter, in 1475. The family connection between the two political parties was intended to strengthen an alliance against the Ottomans.
The pompous celebrations were documented very precisely in chronicles, which is one reason why the spectacular wedding can be re-enacted so authentically today. All the late medieval robes, weapons, carriages, musical instruments and more have been recreated true to the original, down to the smallest detail. More than 2,000 citizens of Landshut take part in the documentary play.
The highlight each Sunday is the wedding procession through the city centre, accompanied by loud exclamations of “Hallo” from the spectators. Other events include equestrian and jousting games, camp life, nighttime masquerade and more. The festival is organised by the association “Die Förderer”. The festival was held for the first time in 1903. Duration: three weeks.
Date: July 2027
landshuter-hochzeit.de (only in German)
Wild Riders: The Trenck Festival Waldmünchen
The play “Trenck der Pandur vor Waldmünchen” brings to life events from the War of the Austrian Succession. The year is 1742. The notorious Pandur Colonel Baron Franziskus von der Trenck is in the service of Austria and is striking fear into Bavaria with his wild Pandurs. After conquering several cities, he invades Cham and devastates the city.
On 15 September, Trenck sets his sights on Waldmünchen, the town in the Bavarian Forest bordering Bohemia. Will the locals succeed in getting him to spare their town? At least the beautiful Kathi believes that through love “we all come to our senses”...
The audience will find out whether Kathi is right today in a historical spectacle under a night sky. Excitement and showmanship are provided with grand folk scenes, campfires, cannon thunder and galloping horsemen. And last but not least, the more than 300 amateur actors. The tale of the costumed robber has been performed since 1950. The event is accompanied by other events with a historical touch.
Date: July and August 2024
Trenckfestspiele.de (only in German)
A High-Tech Monster: The Slaying of the Dragon in Furth im Wald
For some 500 years, there has been a dragon on the loose in Furth im Wald... and every year in August it attracts tens of thousands of spectators. The Slaying of the Dragon is Germany’s oldest traditional folk play. It was originally a showpiece in Corpus Christi processions during the Baroque period. The Catholic Church wanted to counter the Protestant “enemies of imagery” with a showpiece that would attract the public. However, the battle with the Lindworm increasingly turned into pure amusement. It was therefore banned from the procession and given its own festival and performance starting in 1879.
The drama, with a new text since 2006, is set at the time of the Hussite Wars: in 1431 Emperor Sigismund has the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus executed. The Bohemians rise up. But since ancient times, a dragon has lurked deep beneath the earth – the blood of a mighty war can bring it to life... The festival also includes a historical procession, a medieval camp, a children’s festival and more. The undisputed star of the show is “Tradinno”, the Hollywood-style high-tech dragon full of electronics and special effects.
Dates: 09 - 12 August 2024
Whinny and Neigh at Bad Kötzting Horse Day
The neighing of horses, the clattering of hooves on the cobblestones and the loud commands “Hueh”, “Brr” and “Hott” of the wagoners all create the unique atmosphere that fills Bad Kötzting at the end of August. The two-day horse event harkens back to bygone times when horses were essential in the Bavarian Forest, not only in agriculture.
The climax is the Grand Parade with over 150 wagons on Sunday. Around 440 horses participate as draught and riding animals, with approximately forty wagons being driven by teams of four or six horses. Haflinger, Noriker and South German Cold-blooded horses dominate the scene. Visitors can also marvel at old agricultural equipment such as fork tedders, mowing machines and threshing carts. Traditional trades such as blacksmith, saddler, basket maker and clog maker are also represented on wagons. People in traditional “Tracht” attire and other pedestrians are also part of the event, along with marching bands, music groups and many thousands of spectators.
Date: August 2024
bad-koetzting.de (only in German)
Legend and Reality: The Kinderzeche in Dinkelsbühl
In the small town of Dinkelsbühl in Middle Franconia, the “Kinderzeche”, which roughly translates to “going out to eat and drink”, combines a school festival first mentioned in 1629 with a theatrical play created in 1897. It is based on a local legend. During the Thirty Years’ War, Lore, the daughter of the tower watchman, is said to have saved Dinkelsbühl from being plundered by the Swedes. After weeks of siege, Lore approached the Swedish troops singing, accompanied by a group of young children. They begged for mercy and the city was spared.
The play is performed seven times during the ten festival days in July, followed four times by historical parades with over 1,000 actors. On Tuesday following the children's procession, they are presented with the Dinkelsbühl “Kinderzech-Gucke”, a school cone filled with sweets. Historical children’s dances and circle dances are also performed on several days.
Date: 12 - 21 July 2024
kinderzeche.de (only in German)
Powder and Perfume at the Rococo Festival in Ansbach
Evening gently descends over the baroque garden. Couples in exquisite costumes walk through the illuminated night to festive music. They wear wigs on their heads and baroque masks in front of their eyes. There is a hint of powder and perfume in the air. It is the era of Margrave Carl Wilhelm Friedrich of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1712 to 1757). The setting is the Margravial Residence and the courtyard garden with orangery, designed according to French models.
Every year in July, the 18th century comes to life in the courtyard garden and other places in Ansbach. In addition to the masquerade festival with music, dance, jugglery and large fireworks, visitors can also experience a historical gala dinner, baroque life in the city, margravial wedding festivities, concerts, theatre and more. The festival evolved from the play “Wild Margrave” by the local poet Konrad Friedrich, which was first performed in 1894.
Date 2024 follows
The Last of its Kind: The Limmersdorf Lindenkirchweih
The lime tree is a stately tree with heart-shaped leaves and fragrant, medicinal flowers. It used to serve as the meeting place and centre of the villages and had mythical significance. Village meetings, weddings and court hearings took place under its canopy. And people danced! Often, people would sway on the wooden platforms directly beneath the sprawling canopies of the trees.
One of the oldest and last dance lime trees – and probably the most famous – can be found in the village of Limmersdorf in the district of Kulmbach. The presumably 400-year-old knotty tree is about 16 metres high, with a trunk five metres in circumference. The dance floor is perched at a height of around four metres. The lime tree is in the company of two other comrades on a square (“Plootz”) in the centre of the village, right next to the church.
Since at least 1729, Kirchweih (“Kerwa” in the Franconian dialect) has been celebrated there on 24 August, or the Sunday after. A colourful programme with a sand bowling alley, brass band music and an early morning pint on Monday morning accompanies the dance event. Refreshments include Franconian specialities such as horseradish or “Siedwörscht” sausages, as well as plenty of “Krügla” (beer steins) of Franconian beer!
Date: August 2024
lindenkirchweih.de (only in German)
The Eppelein Festival near Nuremberg: Franconian Robin Hood
Knights served princes and emperors and protected the law. But in the course of time they lost importance, towns and citizens outranked them. A new business model was needed, and many knights retrained as robber knights.
One of the most notorious of these was Eppelein von Gailingen, whose real name was Appolonius (born around 1320). He advanced to become the terror of the Nuremberg city government and rendered the trade routes around the city unsafe. In 1381 he was captured, taken to Thann Castle and executed in Neumarkt.
At Thann Castle, he comes to life every year in a folk theatre play. Eppelein 2.0 is no longer a vicious robber, however, but a kind of “Franconian Robin Hood” who takes from the rich and gives to the poor. The story is spiced up with humour and, inevitably, a love story. The Eppelein Festival takes place in July. Thann Castle is located about 20 kilometres southeast of Nuremberg.
Date: July 2026
eppelein-festspiele.de (only in German)
Child’s Play: Tänzelfest in Kaufbeuren
Every year, Tänzelfest is celebrated in Kaufbeuren in mid-July. Bavaria’s oldest historical children's festival lasts twelve days. The event is attributed to a foundation by Emperor Maximilian I (1459 to 1519). However, it is probably even older and has changed many times over the course of time. The earliest recorded instance of a children’s or school festival dates back to 1658.
Today, approximately 2,000 children take centre stage, dressed in historical costumes, re-enacting significant moments in the city’s history, from the Carolingian era to the 20th century. Groups of children perform traditional dances on the dance floor. Since 1989, a historical camp in the city centre has also been part of the Tänzelfest. Around the same time, a fair is also held at Kaufbeuren’s fairground. The Tänzelfest is concluded with a big fireworks display.
Date: 11 - 22 July 2024
Off with your beard! Frundsberg Festival in Mindelheim
Approximately 2,500 performers, 200 horses and over thirty carriages, floats, and cannons bring old times back to life during parades in Mindelheim. The festival is held in honour of the imperial field captain Georg von Frundsberg (1474 to 1528). Frundsberg resided in Mindelburg Castle, high above the city, and served the emperors Maximilian I and Charles V. His motto was “The more enemies, the more honour”.
Reenacted battles and camp life spread a sense of Landsknecht and medieval atmosphere, along with juggler shows, presentations of ancient craft guilds, a historical farmers' market, as well as concerts featuring Renaissance music and theatrical performances. The Frundsberg Festival is considered one of Germany’s largest historical city festivals.
It began in 1836 as a children’s festival, and later evolved into a festival depicting medieval life in all its diversity. Fun fact: During the festival years, the people of Mindelheim grow beards, which are shaved in the camps on the last day of the festival. The festival lasts ten days every three years at the end of June.
Date 2024 follows
frundsbergfest.de (only in German)
The Renaissance Up Close and Personal at the Neuburg Palace Festival
Ottheinrich was the first Duke of the Palatinate of Neuburg and lived from 1502 to 1559. His buildings, especially the city palace, have shaped the appearance of the city on the Danube. Ottheinrich is regarded as a Renaissance prince out of a picture book: opulent, well-read and exuberant. The time of his princely rule is brought alive again at the Neuburg Palace Festival.
The historic old town provides the atmospheric backdrop for the event. The programme includes dances, tournament games, fanfare marches, flag-wavers, royal music and more. The climax is a fireworks display on the Danube. The palace festival parade concludes the event. During the festival a historical fair is also held with handicrafts, food stalls and taverns. Jugglers and musicians play for entertainment. The Neuburg Palace Festival has been around since 1976.
Dates: 27 - 29 June and 04 - 06 July 2025
schlossfest.de (only in German)
Memmingen Fisherman's Day and Much More
The children's festival in Memmingen dates back more than 400 years. Around 2,000 children from primary and secondary schools take part. The celebration takes place on the penultimate Thursday before the summer holidays. Events include music, singing and dancing in the market square and a parade.
This is followed on Saturday by the equally traditional Fisherman’s Day: before the water is drained from the town stream for cleaning purposes, the townspeople pull out the trout. Around 1,200 people from Memmingen jump into the water and whoever manages to catch the biggest trout with the “bear” (a huge fishing net) will be crowned King of the Fishermen. Previously this was reserved for men, but now women are also allowed to take part.
In case visitors can’t get enough of the festivities, every four years, the week-long Wallenstein Festival begins on the Sunday following Fishermen's Day. During the Thirty Years’ War, the Generalissimo resided in Memmingen from 30 May to 22 October 1630. More than 4,000 citizens re-enact historical events from that time, accompanied by an entertaining program featuring equestrian games, parades, camp life and a crafts market.
Date children festival: July 2024
Date Fishing Day: July 2024