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If you are my kindred spirit with witchy vibes and get an eerie shiver down your spine when the leaves start to turn orange and a thick mist rolls over the mountains bringing down a frigid air. If you get goosebumps thinking about pumpkin patches and Halloween, but a giddy feeling when curling up by the fire reading a good book then you, my friend, are officially invited to the world’s largest pumpkin festival or known locally as the Kuerbisausstellung that happens every autumn in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Every year the theme changes and huge structures made out of pumpkin and squash are erected in the magical gardens of Schloss Ludwigsburg (castle). Wander endlessly through pumpkin patches, taste pumpkin liqueurs, watch people canoe in carved out giant pumpkins, eat pumpkin food and most of all experience the chill that only comes once a year.
Best Autumn Activity in Europe: The World’s Largest Pumpkin Festival in Germany
This gardens at Schloss Ludwigsburg could not be a more perfect setting for this autumn activity in Germany. Upon entering the castle and emerging into the gardens you begin a slow winding descent into the lower gardens, your path is lined with pumpkins.
Along the way you can stop and grab spicy, sweet or salty pumpkin seeds to nibble on. Through the trees, you see sneak peaks of the festivities below and if you’re like me you begin to push the children out of the way to make it down more quickly. *No children were harmed in the making of this blog post.
Once you’re in the lower gardens you can shop pumpkin products in the world’s most epic pumpkin market. I picked up some pumpkin curry sauce and pumpkin prosecco. Which I plan on refilling every year at this festival. There are also tons of unique pumpkin products from cookbooks, liqueurs, candies, house decors and much much more.
After you’re done shopping you can stroll down the giant pumpkin carving path and admire at the artistic – or not so artistic – abilities of the carvers and see who won first place. My favorite was the giant octopus. You can also take a side detour and stroll through the refreshing gardens and fountains on the castle grounds.
What comes next, you think you’re prepared, but nothing can prepare you for the epicness of the large pumpkin statues and the details to follow. Each year there is a different theme. The first year I went the theme was Rome, so I was among pumpkin statues of Jupiter, AKA Zeus, Roman chariots, aqueducts, and the inception of Rome – yes Romulus and Remus were sucking at the teet of a wolf in pumpkin form. The theme for 2018 is pumpkin forest and I can’t wait to see all the cute critters they create.
If these grand statues aren’t enough to get your witchy motor running, you can stop by the food stand for pumpkin pasta, watch master carvers in action, learn to carve a pumpkin, check out pumpkins from all over the world, and say, “what the fuck?” to add the odd displays and carvings they have laying about. This place is huge and you can easily spend hours lost among the pumpkin patches and displays.
Check their schedule for daily events if you want to see pumpkin canoe racing, the carving competition, live bands, the giant pumpkin weigh-off or end the season with the smashing of the pumpkins.
If that isn’t enough for you, head beyond the festival for a totally creepy old German fairy tale land. Take a boat ride through some of Grimm’s fairy tales and see creepy puppets in action. It wouldn’t be a trip to Germany without weird puppets giving you nightmares, just in time for Halloween.
The Nitty Gritty on the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival
This event happens annually from the end of August to the beginning of November. So there is plenty of time to see this amazing pumpkin festival, making it one of the best things you can do in Europe in September and October. The theme changes every year, so every time you come back there is something new to see.
Ludwigsburg, Germany. Ludwigsburg is a charming German town and would be a delightful place to stay. This can also be done as a long day trip from Munich, or a short trip from Stuttgart.
Open daily from 9 am – 8:30 pm with certain events running shorter hours.
Adults are 9 Euro, kids around 4.50 Euro. Dogs are usually allowed, but make sure you know the rules about dogs in the park.
There is free parking, or you can arrive by train with a 15-minute walk to the festival.
Day trip from Munich or Stuttgart to the Pumpkin Festival
While I highly recommend staying in Ludwigsburg, seriously the town is adorable, this magical pumpkin land is easily accessible as a day trip from Munich to Stuttgart, which are two of the major cities nearby.
Trains from Munich to Stuttgart usually leave twice an hour. Check the train schedules, but for the better part of the morning, trains leave at 26 past and 45 past the hour. It is a direct train and it takes about 2 hours 20 minutes. So, I suggest catching a train in the 8 am hour. From Stuttgart, you can hop on the S4 or S5 from the main station and get off at Ludwigsburg. From there it is an easy walk to Schloss Ludwigsburg.
I do this trip from Munich every year and while it is a long day, it is totally worth going out of your way to see the world’s largest pumpkin festival.
Susanna grew up in small-town Alaska where the changing climate was always on her mind. Through traveling, she gained an interest in the power of sustainable and regenerative travel. She now attends a Master's program for environmental sustainability and bridges sustainable travel with environmental science. When she's not outside playing, you'll find her drinking whiskey with her cat and partner while trying to get to level 99 in life.