Our son is a 3rd culture kid so we are both keen on introducing him to our home countries Christmas traditions. Mom is German and Christmas Markets are a big thing in Germany. I truly believe that German Christmas Markets need to be on your bucket list, they are a unique mix of Gemütlichkeit , tradition and bringing light to an otherwise dark season of the year.Each year people from all over the world flock to Germany to visit the famous Christmas markets they heard so much about.
CHristmas markets have become a GLOBAL phenomenon
Currently we live in The Netherlands and even here you will find all major cities hosting “German style” Christmas markets, the local papers are full of daytrips to Germany to visit one of the big markets close to the border and all my international expat friends and colleagues stop by my desk to ask for ‘the best’ market to visit. Everyone has their favourite one, personally my family prefers the more local smaller markets.
⇓⇓ Scroll down for an overview of the BEST Christmas markets in Germany and we will reveal our family’s favourite Christmas Market ⇓⇓
The Setting & LIGHTS
The markets are generally held on traditional town squares, in the courtyards of castles, next to Cathedrals illuminated or decorated for the Christmas season. The lights and decoration of the city and stalls is putting everyone but the Grinch in a festive Christmas spirit. Most big markets have the traditional stalls selling food, crafts, decorations, hand-made ornaments, candles & co, while also offering funfair like elements and rides such as ice skate rings and merry-go-rounds.
THE TYPICAL FOOD
Show me one German who does not spent at least one day a year strolling over a Christmas market smelling the scents we associate since our childhood with Christmas – mulled wine (Glühwein), potato pancakes ( Kartoffelpuffer), gingerbread, Fruit bread ( Weihnachtsstollen),fresh waffles, candid apples (Paradiesäpfel), champignons with garlic/wine/creme sauce, Bratwurst, sugared almonds (gebrannte Mandeln) and roasted chestnuts (Kastanien). These are the food stapels you will find on all markets with some local specialities differing per market
Leave enough space in your suitecase
Most stalls at Christmas markets sells high quality hand-made local products and regional food & beverages. You will find the odd stall with cheap ornaments made in China, but the cities tend to have strict requirements on what can and cannot be sold on Christmas markets and keep those stalls out. It is easy to pick up unique, high quality products such as leather goods, knitwear, wooden children’s toys, lambskins, hand-made ornaments, nutcrackers, candles & co.
THERE ARE SOME PRETTY UNIQUE CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Starting often at the end of November until end of December Germany transforms itself into the Land of Christmas Markets. Every little mid-sized provincial village hosts a Christmas market and the bigger cities all have several ones. The Berlin Tourism board published a list with 40+ Christmas markets that Berlin will host in 2017 Say what? More than 40 Christmas Markets in Berlin alone. Yes that is right, you can find everything from the Dog Christmas Market to a vegan Christmas Market in Berlin this year. In Hamburg, on the famous Reeperbahn ( Red Light & Party district), you will be able to visit an Erotic Christmas Market, they call themselves the hottest Christmas market.
last but not least…AVOID THESE 5 BEGINNER MISTAKES
#1 Don’t miss out on your ‘free’ souvenir – each market has its unique mulled wine mug. Normally when you buy mulled wine you get charged 2-4 Euro as pfand on top of the price for the beverage, you are expected to return the mug and will then get the pfand back. Don’t return it, take the mug home as a souvenir! Fun fact: Pfand literally means randsom.
#2 Do make sure you check out free classical music concerts at local churches and palaces.
#3 Do dress warm and wear comfy flat(!) boots, as most markets require you to walk over cobblestone streets and it can get really cold. There will hardly be any places to sit and rest, as it is all about strolling around the market and stopping at standing counters to eat and people watch. You will find that to sit down and heat up you need to head to local restaurants and cafes, which often get very crowded.
#4 Do check if the mulled wine is spiked with shots of rum or schnapps, as is the ‘standard’. Every stall will have non-alcoholic versions and hot chocolate available, but often you need to ask for it.
#5 On the bigger markets it can get very crowded during the weekends. Keep an eye out for emergency exits and open alleyways between the stalls. 2 years ago, I went to the Christmas market while highly pregnant, and sometimes I really needed to get out quickly, as there was too much pushing and shoving.
OUR PERSONAL FAVOURITE GERMAN CHRISTMAS MARKET IS IN MÜNSTER
It is the Christmas Market in picturesque Münster! This year it will be held from 27 November to 23 December and it is actually 5 Christmas Markets spread out over the city squares, all within easy walking distance from one another.
THE BIGGEST MOST BEAUTIFUL & WELL-KNOWN CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN GERMANY
TIP: Due to Germany’s central location in Europe it is easy to combine a trip to the Christmas market with another popular European location!
|Berlin ( various markets)
COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO WARSAW/POLAND
( Direct train connection→ 5,5 hrs)
|21 November – 26 December ( Schloss Charlottenburg)
27 November -31 December (Kaiser_Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche at Kurfürstendamm)
|Cologne ( various markets)
COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO LONDON/UNITED KINGDOM
( Direct train connection → 4 hrs)
|27 November – 23 December ( several Christmas markets all over town)|
COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO PRAGUE /CZECH REPUBLIC
( Direct train connection → 2,5 hours)
|29 November – 24 December|
COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO SALZBURG/AUSTRIA
( Direct train connection → 3 hours)
|1 – 24 December|
|Rothenburg op der Tauber Reiterlesmarkt||1 – 23 December|
COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO BASEL/SWITZERLAND
( Direct train connection → 3 hours)
|29 November -23 December|
COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO BRUSSELS/BEGIUM
(Direct train connection → 1,5 hours)
|24 November -23 December|
Have you ever been to any of Germany’s famous Christmas markets?
Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.
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