Ludwigsburg, Home of the World’s Largest Pumpkin Festival

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In the US, our infatuation with pumpkins at Halloween borders on the religious. Long gone are the days when carving pumpkins was just for kids! For us, October typically involves a carriage ride to the nearest farmer’s pumpkin patch, picking the perfect pumpkin for carving, and hosting a rockin’ party to turn our newly acquired orange beauties into works of squashy art. While these traditions may be less common in Europe, we discovered this year that Germans share a love of Halloween – and by extension, pumpkins. In fact, the town of Ludwigsburg is famous for hosting the world’s largest pumpkin festival, an event held with considerable pomp and grandeur on the grounds of an actual 18th-century Baroque palace.

Germany's Ludwigsburg Palace, location of the world's largest pumpkin festival
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Lavish gardens at the Ludwigsburg Palace in Germany
Lavish gardens of Ludwigsburg Palace

Every year, over 400,000 pumpkins are trucked in for the event, which runs from September through November. While some of them are for sale, most are used for decoration. Larger pumpkins are scattered throughout the grounds.

Artists skillfully use many of the smaller ones to recreate scenes and characters based around a theme, which changes each year. In 2015, it was “Flight.” This year the theme is “The Pumpkin Circus is Coming to Town.”

Clown at the world's largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg, Germany
Clown at the Ludwigsburg Kuerbis Austellung, the world’s largest pumpkin festival.
Circus wagon at the world's largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg, Germany
A tractor pulling a circus wagon fashioned from pumpkins is on display at the 2016 Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival.
A tiger made of pumpkins at the 2016 Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival, Germany
A tiger jumps through a hoop at the 2016 Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival in Germany.
Circus acrobat in Ludwigsburg, the largest pumpkin festival in the world
A tight-rope walker made of pumpkins balances on a line at the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival.

The festival features about 500 types of pumpkins, including peculiar green varieties, tiny ones, lumpy pumpkins, and those mottled in the colors of fall. 

In addition to the large main circus displays, smaller carved pieces are sprinkled throughout the grounds, including peppy little porkers, snakes, and whimsical mice.

Image for piggy pumpkins for sale on Fine Art America by Two Small Potatoes Photography
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Artistic carved gourds at the Ludwigsburg Kuerbis Ausstellung in Germany
Artists find creative ways to carve pumpkins, squash, and gourds.

Since a variety of events are hosted across the weekends at the exhibition, it’s a good idea to check their schedule to make sure you see what most interests you.

Depending on when you visit, you can plan to see things like the Pumpkin Canoe Regatta where folks race across a small lake inside giant hollowed-out pumpkins. Or you can attend the Gourmet Pumpkin Festival to see chefs concocting Germany’s largest vat of pumpkin soup. We were most excited about the Giant Pumpkin Carving Festival.

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Huge carved Despicable Me minion pumpkin at the world's largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg
Artist carving a bat in a pumpkin at the world's largest pumpkin festival in Germany
I love this one!  I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be Bartok from Anastasia, but it sure looks like him.

Though we missed the actual European Pumpkin Weigh-Off, the winners were still on display a week later during our visit.

This year, Mathias Willemijns from Belgium set a new record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin, “smashing” all previous heavy-weight titles. His monster pumpkin topped out at  1190.5 kgs – or 2623 pounds! The record officially earned him the top spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

2016 winner of the Guinness Book of World Records heaviest pumpkin in the world, Germany
Winner of the European Pumpkin Weigh-Off

Besides all the fun stuff to  do and see at the exhibition, what would the world’s largest pumpkin festival be without tasty pumpkin snacks?

In keeping with the pumpkin theme, booths sell things like roasted pumpkin seeds in different flavors. We tried all three, but I think I’ll have to stick with good ol’ fashioned salt. The cinnamon/sugar ones are an odd combination. 

Pumpkin sparkling wine, jars of pumpkin pesto, and pumpkin oil are also available for sale.

Pumpkin seeds for sale at the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival in Germany
Visitors can sample pumpkin seeds rolled and cooked in salt, cinnamon and sugar, or “chili sugar.”

For “real” food, a large building that functions as an actual restaurant is set up on site.

The menu includes some pretty standard fall foods, like pumpkin soup and pumpkin muffins, but some rather unique specialties as well.

Pumpkin items for sale at the world's largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg, Germany
Menu at the 2016 Luwigsburg Pumpkin Festival

I ordered kürbus-käsespätzle, which are traditional German cheese noodles with pumpkin.

Travis ordered kürbus-maultaschen – meat-filled pasta squares in pumpkin soup.  The latter was a recommendation from a fellow blogger, Bevchen, who writes Confuzzledom

Not only was her suggestion spot on – the kürbus-maultaschen dish is so good – but I first found out about the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival on her blog last year.

Pumpkin maultaschen for sale at the world's largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg
Spaetzle is a common dish in southern Germany. Made of soft egg noodles and often mixed with cheese, it’s similar to American macaroni and cheese. It’s tasty.

Stuffed to the gills after dinner, we wandered through the rest of the exhibition.

We ran across Ray Villafane’s hard-rollin’ band of pumpkin characters – the “Hubbard Family.”

An American who’s famous for his pumpkin carving skills, Ray Villafane and other artists from his studio have been invited to Ludwigsburg since 2012 to create a scene for the festival. This year, members of his Hubbard Family sit around drinking, are passed out in pails, make a run for the latrine, lift weights, and engage in general rabble rousing.

In other words, they’re simply charming.

Ray Villafane's funny carved pumpkins at the world's largest pumpkin festival in Germany
Ray Villafane’s “Hubbard Family” engages in general rabble rousing.
Ray Villafane's pumpkins at the world's largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg, Germany
Keep tryin’ buddy, you’ll get there!
Rapunzel's Tower at the Ludwigsburg Palace in Germany
Kids will love Rapunzel’s Tower on the grounds of Ludwigsburg Palace.

If you’re looking for a fun taste of fall in Germany, definitely don’t miss the world’s largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg. Whether you decide to sample the pumpkin sparkling wine, test your luck in the pumpkin canoe regatta paddling competition, or attend the giant pumpkin carving contest, you’re sure to have fun!

Have you been to the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival?

If so, let us know. Drop a comment for us below!

Looking for more spooktacular things to do near Ludwigsburg?

You might like exploring Burg Eltz, Germany’s Most Enchanting Fairytale Castle.

Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, don’t miss a frightful visit to Halloween Burg Frankstein, A Truly *Monster*ous German Festival.

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Know Before You Go
  • An adult ticket costs €8.50 or €4.20 for a child’s ticket (age 4-15).
  • The 2016 exhibition runs from September 2nd to November 6th.
  • Be prepared for long lines at the entrance to buy tickets, particularly on sunny weekends. We recommend buying them online in advance.
  • Only domestic EC cards are accepted for payment. If you don’t know what this is or don’t have one, bring cash!
  • This is a very family-friendly event. For those who don’t have kids and don’t like jockeying past huge strollers – sometimes 3-wide on the narrow trails – visiting on a weekday might be more enjoyable.
  • Dogs are allowed in the park, but again, be mindful that small dogs especially are apt to be trampled. We had our rat terrier with us and carried her on the most crowded sections of trail.
  • Parking is a bit of a nightmare (several nearby parking garages were completely full during our visit), but if you’re patient and willing to walk a few blocks, you’ll likely find street parking. Public transit is a better option.
  • Ludwigsburg is just north of Stuttgart in southern Germany.
  • Official website for the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival (English). The English version hasn’t been updated for the 2020 festival year, but the German version has. See below.
  • Official website for the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival (German)

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