Whitsun holiday: What are the different rules in Germany's federal states?

Whitsun holiday: What are the different rules in Germany's federal states?

With the Whitsun public holiday approaching, people in Germany are understandably looking for opportunities to enjoy themselves. Travelling abroad is still heavily restricted, due to coronavirus, but in some parts of the country tourism is gradually being reopened. Exactly which rules apply differs from state to state. Here’s an overview of what’s going on. 

Is tourism allowed in Germany this weekend?

With incidence values declining across Germany, many federal states are allowing coronavirus restrictions to be relaxed this weekend, in time for the Whitsun holiday. 

When it comes to what and where, the most important criterion is still determined by the federal emergency brake, which stipulates that, if the seven-day incidence rate per 100.000 inhabitants rises above 100 on three consecutive days in any district or city, more restrictive measures will take effect two days later, including the closure of hotels and restaurants. 

If, on the other hand, the incidence rate is stable under 100, the states can independently decide to ease restrictions. In some places, only nonessential shops and outdoor areas at restaurants and cafes are reopening, but other states are going a lot further. Here’s what the regional governments have planned. 


Restaurants and cafes in Baden-Württemberg may open both indoor and outdoor areas between the hours of 6 am and 9 pm if the local coronavirus incidence rate is stable below 100 for five days in a row. Patrons will be required to show a negative test result. 

Since last Saturday, hotels and guests houses in below-incidence-100 districts have been allowed to reopen, subject to conditions. These establishments are only allowed to receive guests who have been vaccinated, recovered or tested. Holiday homes can also be rented out again. 


In cities and districts in Bavaria where the incidence rate remains below 100 for five days in a row, hotels, guest houses, holiday homes, campsites and youth hostels are allowed to reopen. The same applies to touristic leisure activities such as cable cars, boat trips on rivers and lakes, tourist trains and buses, city tours, and the outdoor areas of thermal baths. 

Visitors must present a negative coronavirus test no more than 24 hours old and continue to test themselves on a regular basis throughout their stay. Beer gardens and outdoor areas of restaurants are already open in low-incidence areas. 


Berlin allowed the reopening of museums and memorials, as well as cinema, theatre and concert events outdoors, on Wednesday this week. Among other things, tourist offerings such as city tours and boat excursions are once again allowed, as long as participants book in advance and can present a negative test result. 

From May 21, restaurants are also allowed to reopen their outdoor seating areas, but only to people who test negative for coronavirus or are fully vaccinated. The nighttime curfew also no longer applies. 


In Brandenburg, restrictions are also being relaxed. From Friday, May 21, two households will be allowed to stay together in holiday homes, on campsites and on charter boats, so long as the coronavirus incidence rate remains below 100, and if all guests have negative coronavirus tests. Hotels and youth hostels have not yet been given the green light to reopen. 


Restaurants in Bremen will be allowed to reopen their outdoor seating areas from Friday, May 21. If the incidence rate is above 50, diners will have to present a negative coronavirus test.

Hotels and guesthouses are also allowed to reopen to tourists who have tested negative, and up to 100 spectators are now allowed to attend cultural, entertainment and sporting events outside. If the incidence rate stabilises below 50, indoor dining and indoor events for up to 100 people may also be allowed. 


Thanks to a rapidly declining incidence rate, Hamburg has lifted its nighttime curfew and is reopening outdoor dining areas and nonessential shops from this weekend. Shoppers will be limited according to the size of the retail establishment and will be required to submit their personal data for contact tracing. 

Guests at restaurants will also have to supply personal details, but they won’t be required to test. A maximum of five people from two households can sit at one table. Contact restrictions are also being eased to allow a maximum of five people from two households to meet up in private from this weekend onwards.

Close-contact services like massage parlours and beauty salons can reopen, as can driving schools - but patrons will be required to present a negative coronavirus test. Masks are also no longer required in parks and green spaces. 


In areas in Hesse where the incidence rate is below 100, hotels, holiday homes, youth hostels and campsites can reopen, on the condition that those with communal facilities like breakfast rooms limit themselves to maximum occupancy of 60 percent, and test guests on arrival and twice a week thereafter. Outdoor dining at restaurants is also allowed. 

Where the incidence rate falls below 50, cafes and restaurants can also welcome guests indoors (with a test or vaccination certificate); for outdoor seating, a test will only be “recommended”. Shops will be allowed to open to shoppers who do not have to book in advance. Up to 10 people from two households will also be allowed to meet up. 

Lower Saxony

Tourism and the food service industry have already been carefully reopened in Lower Saxony, after an administrative court threw out the state government’s plan to initially only reopen to residents of the state. 

From now on, tourists from all over the world can head to Lower Saxony for a holiday, the court has ruled. Eating outdoors will also be allowed - but negative tests will be required for both tourist stays and restaurant visits. Day trips within the state are possible, also for residents of other states. 


In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, restaurants and cafes are allowed to reopen from Whit Sunday (May 23) - both indoors and outdoors. As of Thursday, May 20, people from two separate households are also allowed to meet up again. 

According to state premier Manuela Schwesig’s plan, tourism in the state should reopen on June 7 for residents of MV, and from June 14 for residents of other German states. 

North Rhine-Westphalia

Hotels and youth hostels in North Rhine-Westphalia will be allowed to reopen if the weekly incidence rate remains stable below 100, but they will only be allowed to use 60 percent of their available rooms. Guests must be tested, vaccinated, or recovered. Campsites and holiday homes may also reopen. If the incidence rate falls below 50, the capacity limits will be scrapped. 

Restaurants and cafes can also begin serving guests outside below an incidence rate of 100. If a stable rate below 50 is achieved, indoor seating areas can also be reopened. 


Overnight stays in holidays homes and campsites are permitted in Rhineland-Palatinate in areas where the incidence rate is stable below 100. Hotels can be booked only if breakfast is served in individual guest rooms and if private bathrooms are available. Guests must present a negative coronavirus test on arrival, and re-test themselves every 48 hours thereafter. 

From Saturday, May 22 onwards, cultural and sporting events will be allowed outdoors, with up to 100 participants. Spectators must be assigned fixed seats and have a negative test. Outdoor restaurant dining is allowed in below-incidence-100 areas, and if the rate falls below 50, indoor dining can resume. 


The retail trade, outdoor restaurants and cafes, and a large number of cultural and leisure facilities including museums, cinemas, theatres, zoos and gyms are now allowed to reopen in Saarland, with hygiene measures in place. Visitors will normally be required to present a negative coronavirus test. 

However, overnight accommodation for tourist purposes remains prohibited in the southwestern state. 


Tourists are only allowed to stay in campsites and holiday homes in Saxony, and must present a negative coronavirus test upon arrival. Beer gardens and restaurants may reopen their outdoor seating areas, and tests must be shown if there are two households sitting at the same table. 

If the incidence rate is stable below 100, museums, galleries and exhibitions may reopen. If the rate remains below 50, visitors will no longer have to book appointments, present tests, or submit their personal details. 


Saxony-Anhalt has not yet made any firm plans, but state premier Reiner Haseloff is keen to ease restrictions in areas with low coronavirus rates after the public holiday. With a negative test result, holidays in hotels and restaurant visits indoors should be allowed once again. 


As of Monday, Schleswig-Holstein is once again open to tourists from all over Germany. In addition to some hygiene rules, such as wearing face masks in certain areas, guests will be required to present a negative coronavirus test on arrival and then test every three days thereafter. Outdoor areas of restaurants are open throughout the state. 


Hotels in Thuringia will remain closed, but visits to campsites and holiday homes should be possible over the Whitsun weekend in areas where the incidence rate remains stable below 100. In these areas, beer gardens, restaurants and cafes are also allowed to open their terraces, but guests must book in advance. 

Enjoy the long weekend

No matter whether you’ll be hitting the road or staying home for some well-earned relaxation, we wish you a very happy and healthy Pentecost holiday! 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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