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I am planning a trip to Germany next spring, and to avoid having to use too many of my days holiday allowance from work, I'm considering going over Easter, travelling UK->Germany on Saturday 7th April, returning on Saturday 22nd April. Good Friday is on 14th April.

My tentative plan at this point is to fly into Frankfurt, then catch a train on Thursday 13th to Dusseldorf (or another city in the Cologne-Dortmund corridor to use as a base for exploring the area) before catching a train to Hamburg on Monday 17th.

This would involve my time in Dusseldorf being mostly the Easter weekend, so I'm wondering whether this would seriously affect the number of things I can do while there.

I've found that all the big shops would be closed on Friday/Sunday/Monday, which is fine, but would smaller shops be open? I'm just thinking of convenience stores really.

Do museums typically close on Friday/Sunday/Monday over the Easter weekend?

The transport system appears to operate a special holiday service on the public holidays - would that, combined with the possibility of people travelling after a holiday weekend make the Dusseldorf - Hamburg journey on the Monday difficult/unpleasant/super crowded?

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    Any reason in particular to go to fly to Frankfurt from the UK? There are several airports in the Rhein-Ruhr area (e.g. DUS, CGN, NRN). You could also go by train from London St. Pancras via Bruxelles Midi to Cologne Hbf (Eurostar and Thalys or ICE) in 4¼ h. Note there’s also HKX operating between Cologne and Hamburg. Avoid traveling on Easter Monday. – Crissov Aug 11 '16 at 21:24
  • To be honest, going as a tourist to Germany during the Easter weekend I would advise against it. Nothing much to do for tourists. – Pieter B Aug 12 '16 at 12:45
  • @Crissov Because one of the places I want to go to is Frankfurt - I'm spending a few days there, a few days in [Dusseldorf] and then a few days in Hamburg. – Tim Aug 12 '16 at 14:53
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Easter is a time where families visit their extended families, where you take the kids outside, or for short trips. Historically it is one of the highest bank holidays and protected by special laws.

Shops

In general, places that sell stuff will be closed on Friday, Sunday and Monday for the Easter weekend. That includes supermarkets, department stores, clothing stores and so on. On Saturday, they will be open because that day is not a bank holiday.

North Rhine-Westphalia does not allow an open Sunday on Easter Sunday.

The exception is train stations and other tourist and travel hotspots. Cities can have regulations that allow shops in those areas to be open, but that does not mean they will open. Some stores in Duesseldorf Hauptbahnhof open on Sundays from 6am to 10pm. Neither that website nor the website of the chain I linked to says whether they are open on bank holidays. This answer says that a similar store in a smaller Berlin train station was open from 1pm to 6pm on Christmas, which might be an indication that some stores also might open during Easter in stations.

Gas stations will be open. They usually have a small shop attached that offers bottled drinks, sweets and snacks, newspapers and cigarettes. Sometimes they also offer a bit more grocery-type things. Some also have a bakery attached. Items that do not have a regulated price are very expensive there.

Bakeries could be open, but not all of them will be. They might handle it like Sundays, so they might open later than usual (i.e. at 9am) and close at noon.

Again specific for North Rhine-Westphalia, bakeries are only allowed to open on the first of two consecutive bank holidays. That means they can be open on Easter Sunday, but not on Easter Monday. Bakeries in train stations are exempt from this regulation, just like shops, because they sell travel provisions. Other states may also have varying rules for this.

Restaurants

A lot of restaurants will offer lunch only on Friday, Sunday and Monday. They might be closed in the evening on these days. Bars might be open in the evening, but I would not count on it as Easter is the type of bank holiday that has the highest percentage of additional pay of all bank holidays in the hotel and restaurant field in Germany.

Fastfood chains like McDonald's will likely be open.

On Saturday, most restaurants should be open according to their regular hours as that's a normal Saturday.

Partying

Discotheques and clubs will most likely be closed on Friday and maybe on other days because of the Tanzverbot. That's an old law that forbids dancing on certain religious holidays. It does not exist in all states. Most Germans do not know even that it exists, but it's very real.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, dancing is not allowed on Friday (all 24 hours) and on Saturday from midnight to 6am.

However, it's very typical in Germany to have Easter fires on Saturday evening. Villages do that, but a lot of cities also have it in individual districts. Imagine a huge bonfire with beer booths and conversation with locals. In my opinion, that is worth seeing. Here's an online newspaper article about Osterfeuer in Duesseldorf in 2016. But keep in mind that places with a lot of alcohol attract stupid behavior. Apply common sense, and avoid drunken people. Don't get drunk yourself if you're not with a group of local friends.

Sightseeing

Touristy things in very touristy areas might be open. Looking at churches like the Kölner Dom however might be more restricted than usual because they need those for actual worship at times that usually do not have services during the Easter weekend.

Parks and recreational areas that have opening hours should be open.

I do not know about museums. Those will be city-specific.

Travelling

Local public transport (buses, trams and so on) will mostly work on the weekend schedule. Deutsche Bahn has special schedules that should be available a few month in advance online, just like any other regular ticket.

2017 cannot be booked yet at bahn.de, but I checked Easter Monday 2016 and there were ICE connections from Duesseldorf Hbf to Hamburg Hbf every hour starting from 14:52 on 27th March 2016. There was also a regular IC connection, but it seems there were no earlier trains.

From experience I can say that traveling with Deutsche Bahn on bank holidays, especially the family ones like Christmas and Easter, is interesting. If you like standing in a train where it's not possible to fall over that is. A lot of people will travel at the beginning and end of the long weekend. If you need to travel on Monday, reserve seats early. Remember that train tickets in Germany do not usually include reservations or the right to a seat (1st class excepted).

The Autobahns might be full. If you travel by car, plan for dense traffic at the beginning and end of the long weekend.

The first workday after the long weekend (that's Tuesday) however should be pretty regular in terms of traffic and fullness of trains. Most people will go back on Monday evening.

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    Most Restaurants are open on Saturday also. On Sunday and Monday maybe only with advanced reservation as everybody goes out to eat. Friday is a quiet holiday but restaurants are opened. Once spoke to the owner of an italian restaurant. He said December 24th is only day closed in the evening. Even that changed over the years. – Bernhard Döbler Aug 11 '16 at 12:24
  • @BernhardDöbler yes, on Saturday restaurants are open. I didn't mention that explicitly because I said above that Saturday is a normal day. Thank you for pointing it out, I'll edit. As of source for the restaurant bit: I grew up in one. Easter, Christmas and Pentecostal are the ones were there is no evening business. – simbabque Aug 11 '16 at 12:32
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    My oldest memory is an Easter fire in Wilsum, either 1989 or 1990. – gerrit Aug 11 '16 at 13:23
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    @simbabque But only "usually jolly". In my experience (born in a german town with a population of 70k with lots of rural areas around) public Easter fires can also be places with lots of violence especially from right-wing people (not to say neo-Nazis). Don't want to stoke fears but one should keep that in mind when visiting them as a traveler. – morten.c Aug 11 '16 at 14:36
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    While most of this answer is true for all parts of Germany, you will notice a much lesser impact on opening times for restaurants, clubs and museums in the eastern part of Germany, which has one of the highest atheism rates worldwide (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_Germany). Restaurants will open in the evening, clubs will play music as soon as they are allowed to (in Saxony they start at 0:01 on Saturday) and museums will also be open. I once was in the western part of Germany on Good Friday and was a bit shocked that everything was closed there. – Konrad Aug 30 '16 at 13:55
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Shops will be closed, with a few exceptions: Shops at the airport and at major train stations will be open. Many gas stations will be open. Bakeries are allowed to open for up to 5 hours on Friday and Sunday, but many won't.

In 2015 and 2016, all museums in Düsseldorf were open on Friday and Sunday, many on Monday, too.

Public transport will use the Sunday timetables.

Sources:

http://www.rp-online.de/nrw/staedte/duesseldorf/duesseldorf-wer-an-ostern-geoeffnet-hat-aid-1.4988767

http://www.rp-online.de/nrw/staedte/duesseldorf/freizeit/das-ist-ostern-in-der-stadt-los-aid-1.5856867

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Easter is a big holiday, so don't expect any shops to be open. The restaurants and petrol stations are allowed to be opened, so there will be some opportunity of eating out.

Musea - closed, holiday is holly day.

Public transport - operating on either sunday or special plan.

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