It is almost impossible to deny the charm that Christmas possesses. Christian or not, the festivities around this season have all of us tingling in excitement. And hope, too, maybe you will receive a present or two? World over Christmas markets are known for their grandiose setting and the crowds they pull. Visiting one this year? Here are the best Christmas markets to visit in Germany ~
What’s so special about the Christmas markets in Germany?
Germany and Christmas markets are a never-ending love story. While most European countries host special Christmas eve markets of some sort, the ones in Germany are the most sought after. Wonder why? The German Christmas markets still possess the same old-time charm that many other places struggle to maintain due to mass tourism or overcrowding. Drinking Glühwein on the Oldenburger castle backdrop is as good as your Christmas eve gets. And these are the top five Christmas markets you should definitely visit:
1. Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg
Welcome to one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany – Christkindlesmarkt, the Nuremberg Christmas market. History dates it back to as long ago as 1628! Held in the largest square of the city, Hauptmarkt, this market sees stalls set up only to sell handcrafted items. Officials even police around to ensure the all the 180 stalls set-up abide by this. Mass-produced goods or even modern goods are prohibited here.
A perfect setting for family fun and bonding expect to see a ferris wheel, an old fashioned carousel, and a steam train ride! Treat yourselves to some delicious Christmas treats. From the spicy and piping Nuremberg sausages to the classic gingerbread – sink into them. Expect to see “prune people” – actual, edible dolls made of prunes and fig.
Still not warm and woozy? Get yourself a glass of glühwein – a mulled alcoholic, and sometimes non-alcoholic, beverage that is oh-so-popular in Germany. Warmed and satisfied? That’s how you kick in the Christmas spirit, freunde!
When: November 29 – December 24
2. Streizelmarkt, Dresden
Dresden is sparkling with fairy lights too – especially as the skies are shrouded in darkness. Unarguably the oldest Christmas market in the world, dating back to 1434, this market is called Streizelmarkt. Visually, Dresden is said to resemble a “winter wonderland” what with all the twinkling decorative lights with River Elbe in the backdrop.
There’s much to explore within this quaint market. It hosts the world’s largest usable Christmas arch, the tallest Nutcracker and the tallest Christmas pyramid. Amidst all this Christmas cheer, there are more reasons to rejoice. They are called the Stollen Festival and the Pyramid and Christmas Arch Festival.
The Stollen Festival features a giant stollen cake being paraded through the streets and, of course, the consequential (and ceremonial) cake cutting and distribution. If this festivity overwhelms you, wait till you take a walk by the food fare arranged. The Stollen cake – a dried fruit and marzipan enhanced cake – of course, steals the show.
The Pulsnitzer Pfefferkuchen also called the Pulsnitzer gingerbread is filled with marmalade and jam and covered with chocolate. Interestingly the Pfefferkuchen is not even made of ginger – instead, nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice are mixed with the dough. The glühwein and the edible prune dolls are available here too.
When: November 27 – December 22
3. Am Dom Market, Cologne
The Christmas Market in Cologne is a grand affair – with sparkly lights, and stalls & stalls of toys. Set to a backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral – the largest in Germany, the Am Dom Market sees thousands of people annually flood to the market. From souvenirs to artisan items and Christmas decorations, jewellery and candles – the market caters it all. Food stalls are crowd pullers – laden with their Christmas fare. Glühwein, hot chocolate, eggnog, kids’ punch, brezel, bratwurst, donner kebab, pommes frites and weisswurst – they serve it all.
The Am Dom market is special because within its vicinity it has other, smaller markets. Situated at Rudolfplatz is a fairy-tale themed market! Expect to see some German favourites like Snow White, Rumpelstilskin and Hansel & Gretel. Another is dedicated to Heinzelmännchen – the legendary house gnomes of Cologne. Another market is said to exclusively cater to the LGBTQ community ( Rainbow! Glitters! Unicorn!! ). On a serious note, one of the markets is called the Pink Market – and they are reckoned to serve up a mean Baumstrietzel too!
Don’t leave the kids behind. No, seriously there is a great line-up organized for the kids. Alter Markt is dedicated entirely for the kids. From a grotto dedicated to a Santa greet-meet, to a puppet theatre and of course, the wonderland of toys.
When: November 25 – December 23
4. Reiterlesmarkt, Rothenburg, Bavaria
Welcome to the Rothenburg’s Reiterlesmarkt, undoubtedly one of the most prettiest Christmas markets of Germany! Rothenburg’s fairy tale visuals have enchanted many-a traveller who has passed through the town. Dubbed as the Christmas market capital of the world, this is the only place that sells Christmas products throughout the year – or at least has them stocked indefinitely.
Fast forward to the months of November & December and the spectacle that this town is transforms into what can, aptly, be called Winter Wonderland. Twinkling lights apart, even the buildings in the town reflect an ethereal glow – rooftops and spires covered in snow, as if settling in for a polaroid shot. Doubtless, they would make beautiful postcards. The food fare available is much the same – except this repetitiveness is something you could used to, hm – as in other Christmas markets in Germany. Christmas pastries, white mulled wine and bratwurst grab eyeballs the most – followed by, you know, the commerce that involves buying-selling. Schneeball – translating into snowballs – are heavenly sweets of strips of stir-fried dough embellished in powdered chocolate or sugar – winning at life, either way.
Interestingly the scenic town itself was named after something a little more sinister. According to German pagan mythology, a horseman by the same name would carry souls of the dead during this particular time. Over years, stories seemed to have softened the horseman’s nature, almost giving him a ‘Father Christmas’ like characteristics. If you do travel to Rothenburg – winter or nay – the Käthe Wohlfahrt shop should MOST DEFINITELY make it to your itinerary. That is, if you like everything Christmas. Revered as a Mecca among those love their Christmas decorations, it is world famous for the its display. Wax candles, wooden puppets, baubles for Christmas trees and the traditional Räuchermännchen. Feeling like digging in a little more? The Rothenburg Christmas Museum – the only one of its kind in the world – is your history lesson on the cultural history and origin of Christmas decorations.
When: November 29 – December 23
5. Schloss Guteneck, Bavaria
One of our favourite Christmas markets of Germany, the Schloss Gutenack Christmas market offers a unique experience. Set on the grounds of Castle Guteneck, the place comes alive, albeit with a touch of medeival tradition. Fanfares, processions, minstrels, clowns and jugglers bring the castle grounds to life. There is no dearth of entertainment here what with falconry and fire-dancing arresting your sights!
The aroma of flame-crackled almonds and fried doughnuts sync beautifully with the sounds of baroque flautists, choirs, brass bands and concerts. You have might have time-travelled back into medieval Germany. Yes, it is very possible. Don’t be, therefore, surprised as craftspeople practice their crafts in the open. From wood carving to torch making to carpet weaving, glass painting, pottery, bookbinding – there is a lot happening.
Look out for Langosch – deep fried flat bread – a local speciality. Set to medieval times and tunes, this could be your ticket to being a part of history. The market, though, is held only on the weekends in December. Maybe unwind away from the Christmas rush in these castle grounds, a little scent of history there, a little whiff of the Langosch there.
When: Every weekend in December
Enchanté? Don’t be late for this one like Howard Langston from Jingle All the Way. Drop your message to Pickyourtrail. And we’ll help you recreate a special Christmas this year!
Last Updated: 23 December 2019