January is the perfect time for winter-sport enthusiasts to visit Saxony. Saxony’s Ore Mountains boast 70 ski runs, over 60 draglifts, around 621 miles (1.000 kilometres) of cross-country skiing trails, plus toboggan runs and ice-skating rinks. Exciting cities in Saxony, like Dresden, Leipzig, Meissen etc., are practically devoid of tourists, so you can sightsee without jostling with flocks of people. There are over 500 museums in Saxony, so if you get too cold, you are never far away from a great museum. Winter usually means lower airfares and cheaper hotel rates too.
In February, days continue to be biting cold and winter sports are still in full swing. This is the time Saxony gears up for its own unique version of carnival along with the rest of the country. Known as Fasching in Saxony, carnival is a riot of crazy costumes, artistic floats, merry crowds and lots of quirky rituals. This is a great time to participate in one of the biggest festivals in the country and discover the wild side of the normally reserved Germans.
Thanks to the snow-making equipment, winter sports season in the Ore Mountains continues well into March, though the crowds start thinning out after February. The first half of March often sees some snowfall in parts of Saxony, especially the Ore Mountains, but little or no rain. This is the time when days start getting longer and tourists are just about starting to trickle in, so it’s a good time for sightseeing. If you are in Leipzig in March, catch the massive Leipzig International Book Fair.
Come April, and Saxony gears up to welcome spring in style, with lots of merry events across the state, like the 6-day International Short Film Festival in various venues across Dresden, Long Night of the Dresden Theatres, Hoyerswerda Music Festival in Hoyerswerda and International Festival of Vocal Music in Leipzig, among others. However, the merriest of all festivals has to be Walpurgis Night (April 30) in Albrechtsburg Castle, Meissen. The festival draws fun-seekers with the promise of live music, dancing, delicious foods and drinks, jugglery, puppet shows, plays and more.
May is a wonderful time to visit Saxony, especially for music lovers. The days are long, most days are sunny and the entire state is in festive mood. May kicks off with Fleet Parade of the Saxon Paddle Steamer Fleet (a parade of historic steamers) in Dresden on 1st May. In mid-May, it’s time for the International Dixieland Festival in Dresden, one of the most famous jazz festivals in Europe. At around the same time, the one-month long Dresden Music Festival starts, bringing together soloists and orchestras from around the world. Meanwhile, Leipzig heats up with Wave-Gotik-Treffen, an international festival of “dark” music and arts, attended by musicians and bands from all over the globe. Gothic-themed fairs and events add to the fun of this festival.
As days become steadily longer, sunnier and warmer, more and more tourists stream into Saxony. In June, Leipzig hosts one of the most important classical music festivals in the world – Bachfestival Leipzig – in honor of gifted composer Johann Sebastian Bach. If you wish to visit Leipzig at this time, make your hotel bookings well in advance. In this month, Görlitz hosts The International Street Theater Festival when the entire city becomes a stage for scintillating performances. Moreover, Elbhangfest Dresden (Riverside Festival) finds almost 200 events being held over a stretch of 4.3 miles (7 km) on the bank of the River Elbe.
In July, Saxony is deliciously warm and sunny, but almost never stiflingly hot, making it a favorite season for tourists from all over Europe and the world. This is the time when the squares of Saxon cities, especially Dresden, are abuzz with the infectious chatter of summer crowds. Saxon Switzerland National Park dazzles in all its glory during this time, and draws tourists like magnet all through summer (and well into autumn). Be prepared for longer lines at peak tourist spots and possibly higher hotel rates.
Peak tourist season continues throughout August as the gloriously sunny days continue, interrupted by a bit of occasional drizzle. Music lovers are kept delighted all month as a series of music festivals are held throughout the state, including Classic Open in Leipzig, International Jazz Days in Bad Elster, Moritzburg Festival, Goerlitz Open-Air Summer Theater, and many additional concerts and music events.
For wine connoisseurs, there’s no better month than September to visit Saxony, as this is the time for harvest and wine festivals throughout the state. Saxony has a wine-producing history spanning over 850 years and houses around 35 vineyards, many of which are scattered around the River Elbe. The most popular wine festivals are held in Meissen and Radebeul. Numerous vineyards, taverns and wineries across the state offer wine-tasting and tours to travelers. Small-scale Oktoberfest events are also held in beer gardens. Even if you are not into wine, exploring the picturesque terraced vineyards is sure to be a delightful experience.
Rakotzbrücke (Devil’s Bridge) in Saxony’s Rhododendronpark Kromlau is a spectacular view any time of the year, but in autumn, with the thick foliage surrounding it burning with reds, russets and yellows, and the bridge shrouded in autumn mist, it is an eerily surreal sight. Saxony Switzerland National Park is also the perfect place to feast your eyes on beautiful fall colors, as are the parks and gardens in Saxon cities.
Come November, days are cold and gray, sometimes rainy. Probably not a great time for sightseeing, but the perfect opportunity to check out museums minus the crowds. Also, November is the time of Dresden Jazz Days, an international jazz festival that continues for the better part of the month. Towards the end of the month, Dresden also celebrates the centuries-old tradition of Stollenfest, which involves baking a gigantic stollen (Christmas cake) and carrying it through the city among much fanfare. By the last week of November, Saxony is decked out with the twinkling lights of Christmas markets.
If there was a competition for the most Christmassy place in the world, Saxony’s Ore Mountains would emerge as a top contender. In December, the picture-postcard mountain towns are covered in snow and bathed in magical illuminations, which when combined with the region’s special rituals and traditions, create a truly surreal setting. On the other hand, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is the oldest Christmas market in the country and among the most stunning. Don’t forget to taste Dresden’s special Christmas cake, Stollen. Innumerable other traditional markets, advent festivals and parades spread infectious festive cheer all over the state.