Wallenstein 1630 Festival in Memmingen Germany

Wallenstein 1630 Festival in Memmingen Germany (Kat Nickola)

Historically themed festivals are popular in Europe and can replace Christmas markets as a source for weekend fun, food and craft shopping for the rest of the year. They also offer more entertainment with real castles, knights on horseback and wandering Vikings. Channel your inner Ren Faire nerd and step it up a notch at a Mittelalter (Middle Ages) market or a Ritterfest (Knight’s fest) this year.

It’s not necessary to dress the part for these festivals, but it can be exciting and often brings a discount at entry. Check festival websites to plan costumes for the appropriate time period. Many European festivals are medieval themed while others are Renaissance based. While these are often grouped together at fairs in the U.S., in Europe the historical difference is recognized. Medieval fairs tend to generally reflect the high to late medieval period (1000-1500s) as a whole with markets, shows, crafts and food. Renaissance fairs will often be a celebration of a particular local battle won in the 1400s-1700s and tend to have more scheduled reenactments.

Most festivals have a camp where reenactment clubs purchase parcels year after year and people come to relive medieval camp life. It’s a family affair, and you’ll see folks from all walks of life spending their summer holidays dressed as peasants or blacksmiths and even paupers begging for coins. These areas are considered private property and will be roped off to give day-trippers a boundary line for their gawking.

In general, Europeans stick to the theming. You may see people dressed as Vikings or other cultural groups like Huns or Celts mingling if they are appropriate for the time period. However, you won’t tend to see fantasy elements like fairies or wizards unless you attend a medieval fantasy festival. For those, search for Phantasie or Elfia fests.

Falkenstein Castle Festival Battle Reenactment

Falkenstein Castle Festival Battle Reenactment (Kat Nickola)

Niche festivals

Some festivals have very specific theming; they focus on a single people group or a unique historical event. At these, you can expect participants to really lean into the historical (or fantastical) accuracy. For example:

  • The Hunnenfest is dedicated to showcasing Attila the Hun’s military might. August 24 and 25, 2024 at Schloss Asparn/Zaya, Austria.

  • Lughnasad is a celebration of a traditional Celtic harvest holiday combined with this year’s theme reenacting the Dacian wars. |July 26-27, 2023 in Nasavrky, Czechia.

  • Elfia is a fantasy festival of fairies and magic that takes place in the fanciful Kingdom of Elfia. April 20-21, 2024 in Haarzuilens, The Netherlands.

  • The Lofotr Viking Festival is one of the largest Viking events in the world at an archaeological museum. August 8-11, 2024 at the Lofotr Viking Museum, Norway.

  • The Monteriggioni Medievale is a celebration of the Renaissance history of this Tuscan castle. |Early July, Monteriggioni, Italy.

  • The Ommegang procession is a pageant of Brussels’ history and the 1549 visit of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. July 3-6, 2024 in Brussels, Belgium.

  • Jorvik Viking Festival is the largest Viking festival in the world and takes place over an entire week. February 2025 in York, England.

  • The Tewkesbury Medieval Festival features a reenactment of the 1471 Battle of Tewkesbury during the Wars of the Roses. July 13-14, 2024 in Tewkesbury, England.

  • The Wallenstein 1630 festival only occurs every four years, and is a celebration and reenactment of Bohemian General Wallenstein’s visit to the city. Next festival will be in 2026, Memmingen, Germany.

  • Der Drachenstich is Germany’s oldest festival and pageant. Don’t miss tickets to the evening performance of the towns’ defeat of the local dragon (played by a world-record-holding robot). August 2-18, 2024 in Furth im Wald, Germany.

Finding local festivals

Smaller, local festivals are very fun for day trips. Many castles and villages will have a single weekend fair in the summer. You can buy drinking horns, wooden swords, costumes and all things made of leather and bone at these quaint medieval markets. There is also the chance to drink some mead and get lunch at a food stall before finding a spot to watch a falconry or battle demonstration.

  • For Viking-themed festivals, The Viking Dragon maintains a thorough listing.

  • Visit the Historic UK website list for a detailed look at historically themed festivals in the UK.

  • Visit the Mittlealterkalendar (German) for an extensive list of festivals in Germany and many surrounding countries.

Wallenstein 1630 Festival in Memmingen Germany

Wallenstein 1630 Festival in Memmingen Germany (Kat Nickola)

Big medieval festivals

There are some massive world-renowned festivals as well. These multi-day events take more planning, and often tickets need to be purchased in advance. They offer numerous markets, performances on multiple stages and huge camps or medieval villages.

  • The Medieval Fantasy Spectaculum is a fantasy medieval fair and folk music festival. There are eight locations and dates throughout Germany.

  • Medieval Days in Tallinn, Estonia transforms the old town into an active medieval Hanseatic trading city.  July 5-7, 2024.

  • Medieval Week in Gotland, Sweden offers the chance to experience a medieval Scandinavian town, and even offers historical courses and lectures. July 4-11, 2024.

  • Medieval Festival at Vianden Castle in Luxembourg is known for its knights on horseback and battle reenactments. July 27 to August 4, 2024.

  • Les Médiévales de Provins is a huge medieval festival that takes over this UNESCO listed fortified French town. June 1-2, 2024.

  • The South Tirolian Knights Games in Schluderns/Sluderno, Italy transforms the area into a giant area where mounted knights face off. August 16-18, 2024.

  • England’s Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle in England has it all – jousts, archery, falconry, banquets and a huge market. August 24-26, 202.

Whether you choose to dress up, shop the market or just sit back and enjoy the jousting, a visit to a medieval festival is a must-do European adventure.

author picture
Kat is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Kaiserslautern, Germany with a special interest in anything outdoorsy or ancient. She has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State University and has been a travel writer for about 10 years. Currently, she is in the depths of dissertation research for an archaeology degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 

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