It’s not long now until Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt in German), which falls on Thursday, 30th May 2019 this year. It’s a bank holiday in Germany, and many Germans will take the Friday off work as well, so they get a nice long weekend out of it. We call this extra day Brückentag, which literally means a ‘bridge day’ – something that doesn’t really happen in the UK, as most of the bank holidays fall on a Monday.
Ascension Day weekend – a great time for a secret escape
So, with this long weekend approaching, you’ll find plenty of events going on in Germany. Popular holiday destinations like Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and the North and Baltic Seas are usually quite busy then. However, I think it’s a nice time of year to have a little break as the weather has started to warm up, and we all begin to get into the summer mode.
My tips on where to go…
In May 2017, we travelled to one of our favourite islands on the North Sea coast (Juist), and we were lucky enough to be there when the music festival was on. It’s not very well-known outside of Germany, but I can highly recommend it if you are a music lover.
Juist is one of the East Frisian islands situated on Germany’s North Sea coast, and measures just 17km long. It belongs to the federal state of Lower Saxony, and is located in the district of Aurich. This tiny, car-free island can only be reached by ferry. Its main form of transport is a horse-drawn carriage, and only a handful of electric cars are permitted to transport goods around. You are not permitted to take your own bike across to the island, but there are plenty of bike shops where you can hire bikes (including trailers for children or dogs).
We’re very fond of the north of Germany
We, as a family, love the north of Germany, with its little towns and villages in the Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein regions. Many of these towns and villages are built in a typical East or North Frisian style (red brick and thatched rooves). Each place offers something different, so you may prefer one to another – depending on what you are looking for.
Juist island – perfect for a family holiday
Juist, for example, is perfect for families with younger children, as there isn’t a huge variety of entertainment for older children. However, having said that, we met families who regularly go to Juist with teenagers. It’s certainly ideal for couples who enjoy long walks along the beach or a bit of pampering in one of the spa hotels. We took a break to Juist without our son over the New Year one year, and the atmosphere was amazing.
Dog lovers will love Juist
Dog lovers will love this place too as there are two dog-friendly beaches and dogs are also allowed in many of the self-catering apartments, and hotels (check out e.g. Ankerplatz by Achterdiek hotel), as well as in the restaurants and cafés.
Rock on at the Juist music festival
Juist music festival happens every year around Ascension Day, providing the perfect excuse to discover this hidden gem of an island – whatever your age. This year, the festival runs between 30th May and 1st June 2019. There’s always something to suit all tastes – including Pop, Rock, Indie, Soul, Jazz, and Blues. The main festival day is on the Saturday, where bands play on stages at various restaurants, which are all within walking distance from each other. For children, there’s plenty of entertainment laid on in the streets – so they won’t get bored while the adults enjoy the music.
When we went to Juist in 2017, we arrived on the last day of the music festival. It didn’t take us long before we joined the festivities around the little pond (Dorfteich), situated in the centre of the island. The sun was shining, a reggae band was performing, and everyone was enjoying the party atmosphere – making the first day of our holiday a memorable one.
As we had travelled with our six-year-old son, and our dog, we didn’t check out the other stages. However, a lot of people told us how great the atmosphere had been around the island. If you’re interested in finding out more about the event, have a look at this website (in German only): http://www.juister-musikfestival.de/index.html. Or you’re welcome to message me, and I try my best to reply as quickly as I can.
It’s worth noting that it’s not easy finding accommodation at this time of the year, as the festival attracts many visitors to this tiny island. The biggest, and most exclusive hotels are Strandhotel Kurhaus Juist, Pabst hotel, Achterdiek hotel, Atlantic hotel Juist. Additionally, there are plenty of B&Bs, as well as self-catering houses and apartments. These tend to be well designed with modern interiors – ideal for families. If you’re interested in self-catering accommodation, you’re welcome to contact me, and I can recommend some for you.
Many people travelling to the music festival plan their trip from Wednesday to Monday to avoid the main arrival and departures days of Thursday and Sunday. The Norden-Frisia ferry company normally operate extra ferries around Ascension Day.
Things to do on the island:
- Visit the museums: Küstenmuseum (all about the history of Juist island) and Nationalparkhaus Juist (about the Wadden Sea Unesco World Heritage Site).
- Walking (on the beach, or through the dunes along the special paths that have viewing platforms and benches to enjoy the beautiful views).
- Horse riding (there are a few stables offering hacks along the beach, and through the dunes. It’s something I’ve done a few times and found a fabulous experience.
- Swimming (in the sea or in the public indoor seawater swimming pool. Every visitor to Juist receives free entrance to the pool each day for one and a half hours).
- Wellness & spa treatments are available at any of the wellness hotels, or at the public swimming pool, where they offer various massages, Thalassotherapy, as well as having a beautiful sauna with views over the sea.
- Relaxing in one of the typical beach chairs by the beach (they are available to rent between March and September/October).
- Shopping (there are some lovely small shops selling fashion, accessories and toys).
- Taking some time to be mindful while enjoying a view of the spectacular North Sea – perhaps at the Hohe Düne restaurant.
- Sampling the delicious East Frisian cuisine, especially the fish. And in the afternoon, enjoying an afternoon tea with delicious homemade cakes or waffles, and the typical East Frisian tea (Ostfriesentee). My favourite cafés are the Loogster Stuv (in Loog), and the Lütje Teehus (in Janus park).
Writing this blog now, it’s made me want to visit Juist again this year. As much as I’d like to, I’ve got other areas I’d like to discover in the north of Germany. Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter if you’re enjoying reading about my tips on travelling around Germany.
If you’re going to Juist this year, or to the music festival, I’ll keep everything crossed that you have sunny weather, and that you enjoy the island as much as we did. As we didn’t get to enjoy the whole of the festival in 2017, this is definitely on my list of things to do another year.
Juist a hidden gem in the Wadden Sea National Park
A winter holiday in Germany – Juist Island Töwerland – Wonderland