German Festivals – old and new

Ask any German Student how they will spend their summer and you can be very confident that they’ll answer, “I am going to a festival”. Whether it’s rock music, classical, or simply a cultural celebration, almost every city in Germany hosts one. In fact, they have become so popular that you could probably spend June through August festival-hopping without taking a day off. The website shows 226 results for rock music festivals in Germany -- and that is only rock! But it has not always been this way.

The very first German music festival, at least according to today’s definition, took place in Bayreuth in 1876. During the event, German composer Richard Wagner showcased his new piece “Beyreuther Festspiele”.


Prior to 1876, similar celebrations were tied to Christian holidays, the Pentecost Musicfest in the Rhineland being the most famous. Between 1900 and 1933, more music celebrations started emerging in German cities; however, after the persecution of Jewish artists and the synchronization (Nazification) of state and society during the Third Reich, many disappeared or were repurposed to serve the Nazi ideology. It was only during the ‘68 student movement and the reunification of East and West Germany that music and cultural festivals gained momentum.



Today there are hundreds of music festivals for every conceivable taste. From Melt to Southside and from Dockville to Hurricane. The names of modern music festivals in Germany already suggest their international fame.

The Southside Festival, kicking off the summer in June, will feature artists like Green Day and Linkin Park, while and the Dockville Festival in Hamburg will be hosting worldwide star Flume. But the artists are not the only reason why young Germans are drawn to these festivals: it is an experience; an opportunity to spend time with friends, camp in stuffy tents, drink beer and enjoy summer.

By Pauline Fritz