I love a good summer festival. I mean, who doesn’t? As soon as the sun starts making an appearance and the temperature begins to rise, I’m in my denim shorts, sunglasses and craving a nice cool bottle of Corona or Kopparberg (I’m not picky). But one of the best summers I’ve ever had was in a German city called Darmstadt.
Nowadays, Darmstadt is where a large part of my family live and when I visit, my aunt always tries to make my visit as enjoyable as she can. We’ve been to castles that look a lot like the ones in fairytales, had ice cream coffees by a stunning river and even visited an intriguing witch museum! One year in particular, we ended up going to a four-day event in the old city centre called Heinerfest and it was without a doubt the best summer festival I’ve ever experienced.
About Heinerfest – Darmstadt’s Summer Festival
This little-known summer festival has been going for over 60 years and is visited by people from all over Germany’s Hessian region and the world. It first began back in the 1950s on a smaller scale but grew in the 60s and 70s into something much bigger. Today, it’s one of the locals’ favourites.
Held annually in the first weekend of July, Darmstadt’s old city centre and inside its Schloss (castle) are lined with street food stalls, bars complete with oompah bands and a neverending selection of traditional fairground rides.
Over 100 free high-quality cultural events take place throughout the week, encompassing sports tournaments, live concerts, film screenings and theatre performances, in an attempt to show all that Darmstadt has to offer from the traditional to the modern. The whole purpose of this summer festival is to bring the local community together to celebrate a single identity, named Volksfest in German.
What To See and Do at Heinerfest
Being a bit of a thrill seeker, when I visited I took advantage of many of the fairground rides. I ventured into the Ghost House, rode on the Ferris Wheel and took on the terrifying Airwolf. Needless to say, afterwards I needed a sit down…
We enjoyed everything from crepes to currywurst and garlic mushrooms to pizza slices as big as my hand – all topped off with a few beers at one of the many tents and a good old fashioned sing-a-long. But the real highlight of this summer festival is the impressive firework show at the end, held over the Herrengarten (local park).
We spent hours here amongst the crowds waiting for them to happen and when they did it was something to behold. That evening is one that I’ll never forget. I was surrounded by my family, in a genuinely positive atmosphere with a sky lit up with colourful fireworks. They even provided free psychedelic glasses so you could look at the fireworks from another perspective.
So if you’re ever near Darmstadt in July, which is only a 15 minute journey from Frankfurt on the train, then you should absolutely visit this fun-filled, free summer festival – it’s the perfect start to Summer.
How to make the most of Heinerfest
- Purchase a Heinerfest ticket for the duration of the summer festival. Buying one means you get cheap travel around Darmstadt for a cheaper price. Think of it like a travel card as it’ll cover you for unlimited bus and train journeys in the local area for up to five people. When I went, it was only 13 euros and well worth it as me and my family wanted to have a drink or two – obviously.
- Sunday is the busiest day of the festival because of the finale fireworks, so be prepared for crowds. Plan your day and get a decent spot for the fireworks in the evening – it may be a great idea to picnic in the park beforehand. Alcohol is allowed but barbecues are not – we opted for a bottle of bubbles.
- If you’re not a fan of crowds, then make it your plan to visit on the Thursday or Friday. These are the first two days of the festival and are generally quieter. If you’re thinking of taking your kids along, now is definitely the time to make the most of this festival.
- Take suncream. It can get extremely hot in Germany during the summer so you need to keep your skin protected. I forgot on the first day and it made the rest of the time a tad uncomfortable. Don’t repeat my mistake.
- Keep hydrated and not just at the beer tents. There’s a lot to see and a do at Heinerfest in the heat of the summer so make sure you take a water bottle with you. There’s plenty of free water fountains dotted around the city so you can keep it filled up.
The 67th Heinerfest will be held from 29 June – 3 July 2017.