April 19, 2024

German Christmas Markets Worth a Visit

Visiting a Christmas market is a great way to feel more festive at the same time as picking up some gifts for family and friends. German Christmas markets have festive cheer in spades, so if you are planning a weekend Christmas shopping trip to Germany this year, read on for a handy guide to the best German Christmas markets.

The Origin of German Christmas Markets

German Christmas markets are a long-standing tradition. The history books record a market opening on Christmas Day in Frankfurt in 1393, Dresden in 1434, and the Christmas Market in Nuremberg dates back to at least 1628.

The Christmas markets of yesteryear were a chance for people living in isolated communities to get together, share their wares, buy small gifts for their children and loved ones, and have a break from toiling in the fields. This was a place where artisans found customers, farmers sold baked goods and meat, and sugary confections. These markets would have been relatively small events, unlike the markets of today, which attract tens of thousands of people every year.

Today’s Christmas markets are very different. Festive markets take place in most large towns and cities across Germany in December, but the best-known Christmas markets are huge, with hundreds of stalls, and lavishly decorated. Because there are so many markets to choose from, it’s wise to have a plan, so you can book your travel and accommodation well in advance. Why? Well, the hotels book up quickly and the markets get busier the closer it gets to Christmas.

To help you plan, here are the best German Christmas Markets.

The Bamberg Christmas Market

Bamberg in North Bavaria is a beautiful town all year round, but at Christmas, it’s a joy to behold. The main Christmas market in Bamberg is held in the Old Town, on Maxplatz. It opens in late December and finishes on December 23. The town’s main pedestrian area fills up with market stalls selling German bratwurst, mulled wine, roasted almonds, and sweet treats. There is also a large nativity scene on displace, which changes as the festive holiday gets closer.

The Strietzelmarkt in Dresden

The Christmas market in Dresden is the oldest one in Germany. It is named after the delicious Christmas cake the city is famous for. Unlike some of the more modern German Christmas markets, the Strietzelmarkt is very traditional in feel, with stalls selling carved wooden toys and local food delicacies. However, it is still lovely and festive and if you want a more romantic Christmas shopping trip, this is a good market to visit.

Dresden Christmas market runs from late November to Christmas Eve.

The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt

Nuremburg in Bavaria hosts a large Christmas market known as the Christkindlesmarkt. The name comes from the “Christkind”, the angel who traditionally opens the market each year. The Nuremburg Christmas market takes place in the Old Town, in Hauptmarkt. The stalls are decorated with pretty red and white canvas cloths and there is a tempting aroma of spiced wine and gingerbread in the air. If you want traditional gifts, you will be spoiled for choice. Stalls sell a mix of handmade Christmas decorations, traditional wooden toys for children, and tasty treats for everyone. At light, the market is lit up with thousands of twinkling lights powered with renewable energy from local hydroelectric and photovoltaic plants.

The market opens in late November and closes on Christmas Eve.

The Weihnachtsmarkt in Frankfurt

The Weihnachtsmarkt in Frankfurt has been held for centuries, and each year, it attracts around three million visitors, which makes it one of the busiest Christmas markets in Germany. There are more than 200 festive stalls to explore, set up in and around the Römerberg. You’ll see a massive 30m Christmas tree, a vintage carousel for kids, and lots of pretty lights and decorations. The stalls sell a traditional selection of sweet and savoury treats, Christmas ornaments, and toys.

The main market extends out into adjacent shopping areas and here, the stalls sell a wider range of goods, such as scented candles and other gifts, as well as lots of food and beverages. It’s worth exploring beyond the main areas, so you don’t miss anything.

The market opens in late December and closes on December 22, but there are small pop-up events that take place on select days.

The Heidelberg Christmas Market

Heidelberg is wonderfully pretty and romantic, especially at Christmas, when there is snow on the ground. The market takes place in the Middle Ages quarter, the oldest part of town, with Heidelberg Castle towering over the event. The stalls extend out from the main Marktplatz, and there is a winter skating rink on Karlsplatz, which is best tried before too many glasses of mulled wine. Heidelberg is a charming market at Christmas. Stalls sell traditional fare like roasted chestnuts, candied apples, hot wine, and sausages. It’s a lovely destination for a festive weekend, but you will need to organise accommodation nice and early, as hotels book up quickly.

The market opens in late November and closes two days before Christmas.

Berlin Christmas Markets

The Alexanderplatz Christmas market is the largest in Berlin. It sells traditional festive treats and gifts, and there is an ice rink, fairground rides for the kids, and even a Santa-themed party house.

The Charlottenburg Christmas market takes place in the shadow of Charlottenburg Palace, which is illuminated with a wonderful light display. Food is a big thing at this market – there are more than 250 stalls selling local and international cuisines. You will also find vintage carousels, a petting zoo, and a winter restaurant.

The Gendarmenmarkt is a popular one with locals. It costs one Euro to enter the market, but the fee goes to charity and to pay the performers. There is a huge Christmas tree and musical performers. Stalls sell gifts and crafts made by local artisans, and there are some fine wines on sale. The market does get a bit crowded, but it doesn’t end until New Year’s Eve when there is a big firework display and party.

Cologne Christmas Markets

The largest Christmas market in Cologne is in the Cathedral Square; it is the most iconic market and the one that attracts the most visitors.

The Nicholas’ Village Christmas Market in Rudolfplattz is very charming. Kids will adore the Nikolashaus, which is designed for little ones.

The Angels’ Market in Neumarkt is magical, with giant angels on stilts and paper stars hanging from trees.

The House Elves’ Winter Fairytale Christmas Market is equally charming and exquisitely decorated like a Christmas-themed fairytale.

Munich Christmas Markets

Munich comes to life at Christmas and there are several festive markets to choose from.

The biggest Christmas market in Munich is the Christkindlmarkt held on Marienplatz, in front of the Neues Rathaus. It’s very traditional in tone, with stalls selling festive food and beverages, Christmas gifts, local crafts, and more.

The Medieval Christmas market is a bit different from the norm. Stall vendors dress up in costume and you can buy unusual gifts, such as medieval jewellery and objects.

The Pink Christmas market is a fun market for LGBTQ visitors. It’s held in Glockenbachviertel.

German Christmas markets

Expert Tips

Plan your shopping trip to the German Christmas markets nice and early. Accommodation will be in short supply if you leave it late in the day. It is often worth booking a package deal that includes travel and accommodation, as this can work out cheaper and be less stressful.

Finally, be vigilant with your personal belongings, especially your wallet and phone, as you explore the markets; pickpockets will be hoping to pick up some spending money for Christmas.

Have fun!

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