Are you in search of sunny days for hiking and touring Germany’s historic city centers? Or would you prefer snowy days for skiing in the Alps and sipping mulled wine at a traditional Christmas market? Although Germans love to complain about the weather, Germany offers the best of both worlds — if you choose the right place and time of year to visit!
Germany’s climate has a lot to offer sightseers, outdoor adventurers, and even beachgoers. Whichever category you fit in, here is our guide to the warmest and coldest places in Germany.
Weather in Germany
Thanks to its position in Central Europe, Germany has a temperate mid-latitude climate. While this makes for mild weather conditions on average, the weather can vary dramatically depending on where you travel. Germany has its head at the rainy Baltic Sea coast and its feet in the Alps, so you can expect to find very different weather conditions across the country.
Closer to the Baltic Sea and the North Sea coasts, you’ll find a much rainier climate. The Gulf Stream moderates the temperature, so the winters are normally fairly mild and the summers are rarely too hot. But Germany’s northernmost regions bordering Scandinavia can be bitterly cold, with temperatures falling to as low as −5 or -10 °C on winter nights.
Perhaps counterintuitively, German winters are colder — with far greater amounts of snow — the further south you go. This owes to the higher altitude of the Bavarian Alpine Upland (Voralpenland). The mountainous southeast, bordering Austria, enjoys the best skiing weather from Christmas until April, and it is in this region where you’ll find the coldest temperatures. Unfortunately, the period of guaranteed snow has been getting increasingly shorter and less reliable since the onset of global warming.
So, it’s clear that the influence of the northern coasts, the mountainous regions in the South, and the Central European location all make for diverse weather conditions across Germany.
This is also true on the city level. For instance, Berlin is known for its particularly wet, sometimes icy, cold winters and baking hot summers. In contrast, the coastal city of Hamburg, only a few hours’ drive to the northwest, has a more humid maritime climate, with milder winters and cooler summers. Just east of Hamburg, you can find the small city of Oldenburg, judged to be Germany’s wettest city. So, if you’re headed to Germany’s Northeast, you might want to pack your umbrella!
The coldest cities in Germany
The coldest places in Germany are located close to the Austrian and Czech borders. These alpine towns and villages can be found at extraordinarily high altitudes. Germany’s highest town, Oberwiesenthal, sits at an elevation of over 900 meters!
Although these small settlements in the Alps are colder, Munich is considered to be the coldest of Germany’s major cities. Temperatures in the Bavarian capital often fall well below freezing in winter. But Munich can still be very cozy in the coldest times of the year, when Christmas markets and winter sports become important tourist attractions.
The absolute coldest spot in Germany can be found at Lake Funtensee in Bavaria’s Berchtesgaden National Park, where temperatures have fallen as low as −45.9 °C (−50.6 °F). Due to the unique geography of this karst lake, the temperatures at the lake are about 30° C lower than in the surrounding area.
The warmest cities in Germany
You’ll find mild winters in Germany’s southwestern states, including Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessen and Saarland.
If you’re looking for warmer places to enjoy Germany’s natural beauty, head to the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) region. Freiburg in Baden-Württemberg is considered the warmest city in Germany, having recorded temperatures of over 40 degrees! This picturesque university city has a beautiful medieval center with a gothic cathedral, which makes it a magnet for tourists.
Cities in the Southwest (for example, Freiburg, Heidelberg and Karlsruhe) may enjoy the warmest average temperatures, but the sunniest regions in Germany are actually located on the Baltic Sea coast. The top performer is the little village of Zinnowitz on the island of Usedom. On average, 1,917 hours of sunshine are recorded there per year — more than in any other region. The sunniest major city in Germany is Chemnitz in Saxony, which enjoys an incredible daily average of nine hours of sunshine in the months of June and July.
The special climate of the Rhine and Mosel regions in the West, with cool winters and warm summers, directly influences the economy: Baden, Pfalz, Mosel and Rheinhessen are the main wine regions in Germany. These regions are famous for their steep terraced vineyards, many castles and fortresses, and traditional wine-tasting festivals throughout the harvesting season.
Beware, though, that dangerous heat waves have become more common since the onset of climate change. New temperature records have been broken in recent years, particularly in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Rain or shine
German weather isn’t always predictable. But with this brief guide in mind, you should have a good idea of what to expect — whether you’re in the sunny Southwest, the snowy South, or battling the wind on the Baltic coast! Be sure to pack a good coat for Munich winters and be ready to bake in the Freiburg summer, but with Germany’s moderate climate, you probably won’t have to worry about extreme temperatures.