Culture is pretty easy to access when you’re on a holiday in Germany, mostly because it’s pretty easy to access for anyone. Opera houses, concert halls, museums and galleries dedicated to anything you could think of, and much, much more, but there are some easy places to learn more about German social culture – what makes Germans German. Here’s our list of eight activities you can do to better learn about Germany and also just plain have some fun.
Go to the opera
No matter where you are in Germany, there is an opera house near you, and there is most likely something on. Tail coats and evening gowns are not required, but if you brought one, it’s also fine to wear it. Tickets can be had much more cheaply than you think – as low as €4 in some of the biggest houses. People-watching at the interval, especially in Munich, Baden-Baden or Dresden is a sport in itself.
Read on for our picks of the best opera houses in Germany.
Find a handball match and go to it
Germans are crazy about handball, which is an extremely fast basketball/lacrosse/water polo hybrid played exclusively with the hands. It’s played indoors and features six extremely tall, extremely fast players trying to hurl a ball into a net while the sap that drew the short straw throws their body in the way to try and save the goal. Even if you have no idea what is going on, going to a match will let you peek a little deeper into German culture.
Go to a museum
Whether you’re into cars, science, trains, dinosaurs, textiles, mustard, the Olympics, chocolate, Catholic Church history, or pretty well any other subject, there is a museum for you in Germany. If you’re travelling with kids, museums could not be a better destination, with cafeterias onsite and a ton of hands-on exhibits and programs designed especially for small visitors.
Read our picks for which museums you should put on your itinerary in Germany. And if you’re into weird stuff, try our list of unusual German museums.
Hike up an Alp
This is best done with some actual Germans, because there are a few peculiar traditions that make the whole thing a lot more fun. If you’re going to explode your knees, you may as well do it all the way. Make sure to pack Schnapps and some cash for the obligatory restorative beer and lunch at one of the many Alpine Hütten.
Go hear an orchestra
Concert halls are often architectural wonders in and of themselves. New buildings in Hamburg, Berlin, and Bochum last year have really pushed the envelope in terms of what a modern concert hall can look – and sound – like. In the same vein as the opera, there are concerts halls in nearly every town and while it can be a little pricey on occasion, acquiring tickets doesn’t usually mean you have to eat ramen for the rest of the trip.
Read on and find out where you should go to hear an orchestra concert in Germany.
Hang out in a Kneipe
Sure, all the tourist guides tell you to go the Brauhaus and get an authentic German experience, and you should do this once. The food is good and the waiters are surly and charming in equal measure, sometimes inside the same minute. However, Germans don’t go to the Brauhaus recreationally. They hang out in Kneipen, or pubs. They’re all over the place, but you’ll find more of them in traditionally working-class neighborhoods. Think lots of wood paneling, plain, but tasty food, and lots of people whiling an evening away with the rest of the regulars.
We don’t have a list of best Kneipen to visit. Just ask around, or go for a walk in a non-touristy neighborhood. The Kneipe will find you.
Get naked at the spa
This is advanced level, but there is no better way to get an inside look at the social quirks of German culture than to spend the day at the spa. A bathing suit is not necessary, or even allowed, but don’t let that stop you – mixed-sex change rooms are a holiday memory that will stay with you for life. Plus the steam room and Aufgüsse make your skin feel amazing.
Go to a gallery
We’ve covered museums, concert halls and opera houses, but what about the visual arts? Germany has plenty to offer in that department as well. Old Masters, street art and everything in between, it’s all here. The gallery cafés serve an excellent cake as well, so there’s plenty of chances for inter-appreciation refuelling.