It’s the holiday season and so many cities around the globe are known to attract tourists as they deck the halls to the max! Many countries draw crowds for their own traditional holiday touch and Christmas markets are great places to discover provincial traditions, but no one does Christmas quite like Germany! Known as Christkindlmarkts (Christ child markets) or Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas, or Holy Night, markets), Germany’s holiday markets have been recorded as early as 1310! Here are 11 of the country’s can’t-miss markets.
Widely considered by many Germans to be one of the most traditional markets in the country, Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt is an excellent spot for those looking for a hint of nostalgia! Known as one of the most beautiful markets in Europe, the main Stuttgart market, comprises nearly 300 stalls, is set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Old Palace.
Munich Marienplatz Christmas Market
With over 20 different markets in Munich, there is something for everyone; from a medieval market with gospel choir, to the gay-friendly Pink Christmas Market, where wares are sold from pink and purple pagodas with added cabarets and shows. The Kripperlmarkt specializes in all things Nativity. For something completely different, the Tollwood Market is an urban cultural festival offering a diverse range of international music, drama and cuisine. The main market in the city of Munich, though, is the Marienplatz Market.
One will find a gigantic fir tree lit up brightly as the centerpiece of the market, with more than 3,000 lights! Dating back to the 14th century, this market remains quite traditional. Predominantly loaded with Bavarian produce, unique Christmas gifts and delectable treats, this market will undoubtedly fill you with the holiday spirit!. Concerts are played daily and you can look down on the sights of the market, well away from the hustle and bustle of the crowd, from the balconies of the spectacular town hall.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Reiterlesmarkt
Few Christmas markets are as incredibly beautiful as the one in Rothenburg, a walled medieval city dating back to 950. Come December, the town transforms into a winter wonderland, and the market—which has been occurring since the 15th century—is its crown jewel! The Reiterlesmarkt is held on a medieval stage and Rothenburg is illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights! Unlike cosmopolitan Berlin and Cologne, Rothenburg has an entirely different feel, with smaller markets and a more intimate setting.
Rothenburg’s Schneeball (snow ball) is a must-try for those with a sweet-tooth, made from strips of sweet fried dough covered in powdered chocolate or sugar.
With accounts dating back to 1434, Dresden’s Christmas Market, traditionally known as Striezelmarkt is the oldest in Germany. The Striezelmarkt boasts both the world’s tallest Nutcracker, and the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid. The highlight of the market is the Stollen Festival on the second Saturday in Advent.
Leipzig Christmas Market
Second only to Dresden, Leipzig otherwise lays claim to the oldest Christmas market in Germany, tracing its origins back to 1458. Here, in front of the Old Town Hall where Johann Sebastian Bach signed his employment contract, you’ll find everything from a ferris wheel to a Finnish village!
Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
In front of the impressive backdrop of Cologne’s landmark cathedral, this market has all of the expected bells and whistles: your glühwein, your crafts, your twinkling lights. One thing that stands out, however, is its entertainment, which comprises more than 100 stage performances through the duration of the festival.
Apart from the Cathedral, the Alter Markt is the place to go for children — with a Santa’s grotto, puppet theatre and stands filled with toys. The Rudolfplatz will transport children to the world of the brothers Grimm, with fairytale figures and festive illuminations.
With the majestic Alps to the south and the medieval Imperial Castle perched proudly at the top of the Old Town hill, Nuremberg is a spectacular back drop for one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. The Kinderweihnacht, or Children’s Market, provides plenty of family fun, featuring an old-fashioned carousel, Ferris wheel, steam train and Nativity scene trail.
Over 180 traditional stalls, blanketed in red and white cloth, ensure that this extremely popular market remains authentic. Modern and mass-produced goods are strictly prohibited and officials police the stalls to ensure that the vendors are offering the visitors hand-crafted wares in keeping with the tradition of the market.
Konstanz Christmas Market
This sprawling market runs from the town center to the shores of Lake Constance, Germany’s largest lake. Tuck in to traditional Käsespätzle, freshly made pasta with cheese; and spend some time on the ‘Christmas Ship’ moored in the harbor. Just be sure to bring extra layers!
Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market
The snowy Black Forest is picturesque enough come wintertime, but this market in its midst manages to be even more Instagram-worthy. Here, over 40 stalls proffer handmade Christmas wares, while even more can be found nearby at the Hofgut Sternen Inn, where the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once stayed.
Germany’s financial center taps into its inner medieval market town every holiday season with a Christmas market that dates back to 1393! Traditionally held with orchestras of carols chanting with religious mystery plays. These days you’re more likely to hear live music. Make sure to peek inside the 300-year-old timber Honey House, which sells pretty much any imaginable honey-related products. Fun fact: Poet Goethe was a fan of the Frankfurt market’s famous Bethmännchen, or marzipan cookies.
Freiburg Rathausplatz Market
On the edge of the Black Forest, Freiburg’s medieval center looks straight out of a Brothers Grimm folk tale! The fair’s merchants, around 115 in total, sell their wares (beeswax candles, cuckoo clocks, blown glass) in the shadow of a 380-foot Gothic spire. The market opens every year with a ceremonial cutting and distribution of a giant Lebkuchen, or gingerbread loaf, to the waiting crowd.