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Nine unmissable events in Germany in February 2023

From carnival in Cologne to Berlinale in Berlin, there are some incredible events happening in Germany this February. So while the weather's still gloomy, why not check out our top picks and pencil in some fun things to do in the coming weeks?

People dressed up for the start of Carnival in Cologne on November 11th.
People dressed up for the start of Carnival in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

February 2nd – 3rd: Feel Jazz Festival in Hamburg

Whether you’re a jazz music convert or a curious newcomer, it’s worth heading down to Hamburg’s Hafenklang nightclub at the start of February to enjoy two full evenings of innovative jazz-inspired music.

The motto is “Discover Jazz”, which means festival goers will be treated to a diverse array of artists from across the jazz scene – and there’s likely to be something for everyone. From classical smooth jazz to electronic pulses and funky beats, this is set to be a whirlwind tour of jazz in all its guises, and what better setting than Hamburg’s atmospheric harbour to enjoy it in?

For more information on the line-up or to book tickets, head to the Feel Jazz website here.

February 3rd onwards: Flower Power Festival in Munich

You don’t have to be a hippie to enjoy this one – but it certainly helps! On Friday, February 3rd, the Flower Power Festival will kick off in Munich under the theme of “Celebrating Nature in the City”. 

One of the highlights in February is set to be a stunning installation by artist Juli Gudehus. Noticing the sheer scale of waste produced in society, Gudehus decided to cut down her own waste and rework it into blossom sculptures, which will be on display at the Nymphenburg Botanical Gardens. Art fans can also catch an exhibition on the history of flowers in art and culture at the Kunsthalle that starts on February 3rd. 

Don’t worry if you haven’t got time to catch an event in February, though. The festival is set to run all the way until October 7th, with numerous family-friendly exhibitions and events run by the Botanical Garden, the BIOTOPIA Natural History Museum and Munich’s Kunsthalle all throughout the year. You can find out more about the Flower Power Festival here.

February 16th – 22nd: Cologne Carnival

Traditionally held just before Lent, carnival in Cologne involves around 1.5 million people visiting the city to dress up, party, sing, and drink. Costumes people pick out can range in everything from mostly festive, historical wear to clear political satire – much resembling a drunken Halloween in February. 

February 20th Rosenmontag – or “Rose Monday” parade often involves parade floats with on-the-nose political humour.

This Carnival float comments on the current traffic light government’s plan to legalise cannabis. Many floats are satirical. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

February 16th – 22nd: Düsseldorf Carnival

Given the rivalry between the two cities, you may want to be careful about telling Cologne revellers if you’re headed to Düsseldorf’s Carnival about a half-hour train ride from Cologne. While Cologne’s Carnival is definitely larger, Düsseldorf’s has a reputation for being a little bit less rowdy and a bit cleaner, but with a more full-bodied Altbier instead of Kölsch.

February 16th – 26th: Berlinale Film Festival

One of the world’s “Big Three” film festivals, along with Venice and Cannes, tens of thousands of people visit the Berlinale every year. Running for ten days in mid-February, Berlinale takes over many of the city’s cinemas. The final 2023 schedule won’t be publicised until February 7th, but to give you an idea of just how huge the festival is – in 2014, 441 films were shown at Berlinale in over 900 different screenings.

Berlinale 2023 will feature many world premieres and a few star appearances, as films from around the globe enter into its competition for the Golden Bear trophy, awarded by an international jury to the year’s best film.

Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack during a Berlinale photo call.

Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack during a Berlinale photo call. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Gerald Matzka

February 16th – 22nd: F.r.e.e Trade Fair in Munich

Are you a travel enthusiast looking to keep up with everything from your camping gear to bikes and water toys?

F.r.e.e is Bavaria’s largest fair for leisure and travel, with a trade exhibition and presentations on everything from travel destinations to fitness and outdoor gear.

February 17th – Schall & Rausch Music Theatre Festival in Berlin

Berlin’s Komische Oper starts up its new annual festival for new musical theatre this month. With seven separate events going on at the city’s Vollgutlager, Centre for Contemporary Art, and SchwuZ queer club, this festival promises a bit of glitz and glamour, along with experimental music that explores contemporary culture issues.

Komische Oper performances also venture out into these Berlin venues, with its normal home currently under renovation.

February 18th: Valentine’s Day Zoo Tour in Nuremberg 

How do animals love? Are there gay penguins? What species mate for life?

You can find out the answers to these questions and more during the Nuremberg Zoo’s Valentine’s tour. Although not technically on Valentine’s Day, it obviously follows the theme. 

Two special tours set off at the Zoo on the 18th, starting at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.

February 21st: Dance of the Market Women in Munich

Once a year, on Munich Carnival’s Shrove Tuesday, women who spend most of the year selling everything from fresh vegetables to spices hang up their aprons and don colourful costumes. As the Carnival season ends, they show off the typical “Line 8” dance followed by newly rehearsed and choreographed numbers.

The Dance of the Market Women ends Munich’s Carnival season. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Hörhager

With reporting by Aaron Burnett

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For members


Living in Germany: Ramped-up transport strikes, hibernating statues and Spargelzeit

In this week's roundup, we look at why transport strikes in Germany could soon be ramping up, look ahead to the start of Spargelzeit and celebrate the return of some historic statues to a famous palace in Potsdam.

Living in Germany: Ramped-up transport strikes, hibernating statues and Spargelzeit

Could the next round of transport strikes be worse than before?

Whether you’ve been stuck in the freezing cold at a tram stop in Düsseldorf or hit by flight cancellations out of Cologne, it won’t have escaped your attention that Germany’s in the grip of some major strike action right now. Workers across the board are seeing their wages gobbled up by inflation – and now the unions are fighting back.

Last week we saw strikes at seven major airports in Hamburg, Berlin, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg, as well as a transport-sector strike that brought buses and trains to a standstill in Düsseldorf. But there are fears that this could just be the beginning. 

That’s because Deutsche Bahn is currently in tough pay negotiations with rail-sector union EVG, who are demanding a 12 percent pay rise or at least €650 extra a month for employees. If they don’t get their way, the union is gearing up for a major strike on March 27th – and according to union spokespeople, they may well coordinate the action with public-sector union Verdi. “We don’t want competition on the backs of workers, but good wages for all workers in the mobility sector,” negotiator Cosima Ingenschayder told Bild this week. 

That means Germany could be hit by a triple-whammy of local transport, airport and rail strikes – and indefinite strikes also aren’t out of the question. You can hear more about the current wave of strikes – and whether there’s any sign of a resolution – on our latest episode of Germany in Focus

Tweet of the week

The start of spring may mean longer days and warmer weather for most of us, but for the Germans among us the excitement is on a whole other level. That’s right: Spargelzeit is almost upon us. Get ready to see white asparagus appear on every possible food item imaginable. 

 Where is this?

Sansouci sculptures
Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Kalaene

Spring is finally here and it’s not just people coming out of hibernation – even neoclassical statues are shaking off their winter sleep. Here’s one returning to the gardens of the beautiful Schloss Sanssouci palace in Potsdam, the former residence of Frederick the Great. 

Did you know?

Friday was St. Patrick’s Day, and we hope you enjoyed a Guinness or two in your favourite local Irish pub to celebrate. As of 2021, there were around 15,000 Irish passport-holders living in the Bundesrepublik – but did you know that some pretty famous Germans throughout history also had strong links to the Emerald Isle? 

The social theorist Friedrich Engels visited Ireland several times in the course of his life, writing down his observations about the nation and taking up the cause of Irish immigrants in Manchester in his famous “Condition of the Working Class in England”. The Nobel Prize-winning author Heinrich Böll also regularly visited Ireland, finding its unspoilt natural landscape and serenity the ideal environment in which to concentrate on his work.

And it’s not just famous Germans who have an ongoing love affair with Ireland. In 2019, 750,000 people from Germany visited the country, generating millions for the Irish economy. Of course, the passion for all things Irish doesn’t stop there – next time you’re in a German supermarket, keep your eyes peeled for everything from Irish cheddar to Kerrygold butter. As Berlin resident Pauline Ní Ceitinn quipped to my colleague Rachel Loxton: “Germans love the Irish. They think we’re a really green country that makes lovely butter.” 

We couldn’t agree more.