Image source: WikiMedia Commons - Joachim Kohler
When most travelers think about winter in Europe, invariably images of snow-covered Christmas Markets come to mind, and Germany is one of the best countries to experience the traditional European market atmosphere.
Kicking off around the end of November, most markets run right up until Christmas, or stop one or two days before. They open in the morning and sometimes close by 9pm, sometimes later, depending on the city.
Typical Christmas Markets in Germany are the best places to pick up unique and traditional holiday gifts. Artisans assemble at each market, selling their crafts, which can range from traditional marionettes to lambskin shoes.
Aside from the bevy of holiday gifts awaiting shoppers, local culinary creations and specialty drinks are big draws to Christmas Markets across Europe. It's hard to bypass the smell of hot mulled wine, especially when the temperatures have zipped below freezing.
Each market has something it's known for, whether it’s a food, specific handicraft, or even a unique feature – like an ice skating rink. Here’s a look at some of the best German Christmas Markets to check out during the holiday season:
Held at the main square in the historic old town, Nuremburg's Christmas Market is said to date back to the 16th century. With nearly 200 huts, there is no shortage of shopping options here. Be sure to try Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies) and Nuremburg Bratwursts.
Cologne is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany and with a Christmas Market that includes the backdrop of the cathedral – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Cologne is continually voted as one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe. The ‘Am Dom’ includes over 160 stalls selling traditional gifts and foods, and it features the largest Christmas tree in the region.
Dresden is home to Germany's oldest Christmas Market, called “Striezelmarkt”, which started back in 1434 as a one-day meat market. It’s also famous for the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid, along with the world’s tallest Nutcracker. There are many products in Dresden’s market you won’t find elsewhere. Be sure to check out Dresden’s traditional Pflaumentoffel, a chimney sweep handcrafted from dried prunes, and order “stolen”, a traditional Christmas cake.
Berlin is the spot to go if you want to explore a large number of Christmas Markets. With over 50 different options, you could spend weeks visiting markets in Berlin alone. With that many Christmas Markets, which one(s) do you choose? Be sure to include the Gendarmenmarkt, held in one of Berlin's most beautiful squares. From Germany’s top chefs providing eats to the wealth of entertainment like fire artists, dance groups, and acrobats, there is no shortage of fun at Gendarmenmarkt.
Not too far awayis the Potsdamer Platz Market where you can ride Europe’s largest mobile toboggan run.
Visiting Bavaria with snow on the ground is magical alone, but is certainly magnified by the addition of some of the best Christmas Markets in Germany. Munich is home to a number of markets, but the most famous is “Christkindl Market.” Held in the Marienplatz, this market dates back to the 17th century. Kids can go inside the Town Hall building and help make Christmas cookies while you stay outside and enjoy the Christmas concert on the town hall balcony.
And if you happen to be flying in or out of Munich this month, check out the Christmas Market at the Munich Airport that runs until December 29th. With 50 market stands, killing time before your flight is a breeze. The Munich Airport Christmas Market features 300 real Christmas trees, with a 15-meter one surrounding the stalls. And if that isn’t enough, there is a giant ice skating rink in the middle of market.
If you are looking for a different take on the traditional Christmas Market, Hamburg is your place. Throw out the family friendly image here and leave the kiddies behind as the St. Pauli district serves up “Santa Pauli” – complete with strip shows and adult-themed toys available for sale.
Which market would you like to visit?