Culture: a rich diversity

Germany’s lively art and culture scene

The oft-cited description of Germany as a “nation of poets and philosophers” was coined by the writer and literary critic Wolfgang Menzel. As a contemporary of the poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich von Schiller, and of the philosophers Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Hegel, he certainly knew what he was talking about.

Back the 1820s, Menzel wrote: “The Germans may not do much, yet they write all the more for that.” Nothing has changed in Germany’s fondness for the printed word. More than 94,300 books are published or reprinted here each year. And Germany is home to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the publishing industry’s largest trade show worldwide.

Yet culture in Germany is about more than just the classics of philosophy and literature. There is also a vibrant art, theatre, music, and film scene. A major attraction in February is Berlin’s international film festival, the Berlinale, which screens up to 400 films in a range of categories. July and August, meanwhile, are the months when opera fans descend on Bayreuth for the Richard Wagner Festspiele. The 30 performances are attended by around 58,000 people. With half a million applications for tickets each year, however, the waiting lists are very long.

Aside from such famous and popular cultural highlights, there are also many exciting cultural discoveries to be made throughout the various regions of Germany. Such attractions might include an art gallery, a lively fringe theatre or cabaret scene, a bookshop or library with an interesting reading, a picturesque moated castle, or magnificent city architecture.

Fêtes, fairs, and festivals

Be sure to visit one of Germany's fairs and festivals, ranging from Munich’s famous Oktoberfest to a multitude of funfairs, commonly known as Kirmes, with their diverse stalls and rides.

Perhaps the best-known of all the traditional festivals in Germany is the carnival, which is held each year in spring, especially in the strongholds of Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Mainz. For one whole week, the streets and bars are full of people in costume, celebrating the last days before Lent. In June, Nürburgring, the formula one racing circuit in Rhineland-Palatinate, is home to Rock am Ring, one of the world’s largest weekend rock festivals.

Culture – facts and figures

Some 126,000 theatre performances and 9,000 concerts are held in Germany each year, drawing audiences numbering some 35 million people.

Germany has around 820 theatres, music theatres, and opera houses – including the world-class opera houses in Stuttgart, Hamburg, and Frankfurt – so the choice is huge. In addition, there are some 4,846 museums, 8,007 libraries, and 4,600 cinemas. A perhaps less familiar element of cultural life here is the Germans’ love of comedy. Germany has numerous comedy stars, both men and women. Throughout the world, there are only two comedians with a live act capable of filling an entire football stadium. One of them is Bülent Celyan, a Mannheim performer with Turkish roots.

The German media

Germany has a vibrant media landscape. In the print sector, for example, German readers can choose between 350 daily newspapers and around 1,500 general interest titles.

Almost 50 million German citizens above the age of 14 read a daily newspaper. National dailies include Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, and Tageszeitung, all of which can also be delivered on subscription to your very door. Bild, Germany’s most widely read tabloid newspaper, tends to be bought directly from the kiosk. The Handelsblatt is the leading German language business newspaper. Two of the best-known weekly news magazines are Der Spiegel and Focus. The weekly magazine Stern and the weekly newspaper Die Zeit likewise enjoy substantial readerships. At the same time, more and more people are using the Internet to access newspaper and magazine content online.

In the field of electronic media, Germany has two public broadcasters, ARD and ZDF, which together provide over 20 channels. Both are financed primarily through a broadcasting fee and have a broadcasting mandate that legally obliges them to contribute toward shaping public opinion and the public will. They are likewise required to provide not only entertainment and information but cultural programmes as well. Germany’s public broadcasters also include the radio broadcaster Deutschlandradio and Deutsche Welle, an international broadcaster providing radio and television programmes in 30 languages.

Germany also has numerous private TV and radio broadcasters. These commercial channels finance themselves through advertising.

The German language

Around 120 million people speak German as their native language. This makes German the most common first language in the European Union as well as one of the world’s top 10 languages. German is also spoken in Austria and Switzerland.

The German language plays a key role in enabling successful interaction and participation in society. The Goethe-Institut is one of the leading addresses for people who wish to learn German as a foreign language. There is a Goethe-Institut in 159 cities and 98 countries worldwide. These provide not only German courses on their own premises but also correspondence and online courses. In addition, immigrants who intend to take up permanent residence in Germany can sit the obligatory German language test at a Goethe-Institut. Integration courses also offer excellent opportunities to learn the German language.

Information on the World Wide Web

Deutsche Welle

Current political, economic, cultural and sport issues (i.a. German, English, Chinese, French, Spanish)

Goethe Institute

Language courses and cultural events in 158 institutes worldwide (German, English)

My way to Germany (German, English, Spanish, French)