|Welcome to the Kempten Christmas Market in the Town Hall Square. Photo: Courtesy of Bayern Tourism. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Updated for 2013
Herald in the holidays and Advent this year with an unforgettable visit to one of Germany's classic Christmas markets or Christkindlmarkts as they are known locally. Steeped in centuries-old traditions and customs, you can find a Christmas market in just about every landmark city and storybook village throughout Germany—town squares that come alive with the sights and sounds and smells of Christmas! Lining historic city-centre squares, hundreds of elaborately decorated Alpine chalets are brimming with traditionally hand-crafted gifts and festive ornaments, not to mention the savory indulgences of food and Glühwein or mulled wine of course—hard to resist after their tantalizing aromas reach your cold little noses! If you need to check accommodations and hotel prices in Berlin, Frankfurt, Nuremberg and others, visit Trivago.com for most of the cities listed below.
With more than 150 Christmas markets throughout Germany—at least one in just about every city and village—how do you decide on which ones to visit? While the markets may appear to be the same from city to city, there are splendid qualities about each that make them uniquely special and festive! Of course it also depends on where in Germany you're going so let me introduce you to 12, as in 12 Days of Christmas, of the finest German markets starting in the north with a visit to Hamburg and then work our way south to enchanting Bavaria. Don't worry about times and information, I included everything you need to know to plan your Germany Christmas market tour!
HAMBURG: Nov. 25—Jan. 6 (days and hours vary by location)
|Hamburg Christmas market sparkles beneath its towering Christmas tree and the Rathaus or town hall rising in the background. Photo: Courtesy of German Christmas Market.Org.UK. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Throughout Hamburg, you can visit nine Christmas markets but it's the one nestled in the Hamburg Town Hall square where you'll find unique gifts and holiday entertainment. Alpine chalets are bursting with handcrafted German gifts and holiday decorations, many originating from the storied woodcarvers of Tyrol. Also, Aachen's printen pastries are here, a locally produced gingerbread that I discuss in Aachen's market below. Each night, the big guy himself—Santa Claus flies over the market stalls recounting the timeless tale of our beloved Rudolph. And, every Saturday throughout Advent, Dec. 1—Dec. 22, there's a Christmas parade too!
The Town Hall market is open Nov. 25—Dec. 23 daily from 10 a.m.—9 p.m., Fri.—Sat. to 10 p.m.
Bremen: Nov. 28—Dec. 23
|Christmas magic lights up the Bremen Christkindlmarkt and the Schlachted Magic market along the banks of the River Weser. Photo: Courtesy of German Christmas Market.Org.UK. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Considered one of Germany's most beautiful markets, the Bremen Christkindlmarkt and the Schlachted Magic Christmas market along the banks of the River Weser, offer all kinds of holiday excitement. From a Christmas tree expedition and a life-size Advent calendar you can walk through, to Nativity plays and even an appearance from Sinterklaas sailing onboard his pirate ship—a festive time for all!
The Bremen market is open Mon.—Sat. from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Berlin: Nov. 25—Dec. 31
|Domme French Cathedral in Berlin at Gendarmenmarkt. Photo: Courtesy of Gendarmenmarktberlin.de. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
With more than 60 Christmas markets, wow, throughout Berlin, the city is a sprawling visual feast of festivity! Vibrant Christmas lights twinkle with holiday luster and the lanes of Alpine chalets invite you in for a warm cup of mulled wine, perhaps a quick bite of bratwurst and the temptations of holiday shopping!
|The Berlin Christmas market at the Red Town Hall or Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt am Roten Rathaus. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Must-see markets in Berlin include:
- Spandau: Spandau Old Town is Berlin's largest and is only a short train ride away from the Berlin city centre. With more than 400 chalets on the weekends, this Christkindlmarkt has all holiday trimmings including Christmas trees, live performances, a living Nativity at Reformationsplatz at the St. Nicholas Church.
- Charlottenburg Castle: Also known as Schloss Charlottenburg, this castle is home to the renowned Charlottenburg Castle market or Weihnachtsmarkt Schloss Charlottenburg which surrounds the fortress and even extends into its interior. Some of the highlights include the children's meet-n-greet with Sinterklaas on Dec. 6, the largest Nativity scene at the Royal Children's Market and daily choir performances on the castle stage.
- Staatsoper and Opernpalais: At the Staatsoper and Opernpalais markets, you'll find historical settings replete with all the festive embellishments of a traditional market plus a living Nativity and a romantic coach-ride tour through the old Berlin city centre.
|Weihnachts Zauber Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin welcomes holiday visitors with the promise of sweet confections, scrumptious morsels and spicy mulled wine. Photo: Courtesy of German Christmas Market.Org.UK. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Most of the markets are open Sun.—Thurs. from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri.—Sat. from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and New Year's Eve from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Jan. 1. But check before you make your plans especially after Dec. 23.
Dresden: Nov 27—Dec. 24
|One of Germany's oldest markets, the Striezelmarkt or Striezel market dates back to 1434. Photo: Courtesy of German Christmas Market.Org.UK. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Home to one of Germany's oldest markets, the Striezelmarkt or Striezel market dates back to 1434 and takes its name from a German pastry similar to our stollen which was known back then as striezel. Here you will find the world's largest nutcracker and the world's largest tiered Christmas pyramid towering 14 meters into the Christmas night. Also, seek out the "Christmas Mile," a stretch of Christkindlmarkts along the Prager Straße and across the Elbe River.
The market is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and until 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Aachen: Nov. 22—Dec. 23
|The Aachen market is a relative newcomer to the Christkindlmarkt scene and didn't open until 1973. Photo: Courtesy of German Christmas Market.Org.UK. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Relatively new on the Christmas-market scene and flanked by Belgium and Netherlands right next door, the first Aachen Christmas didn't open until 1973. With its market filling the village square surrounding the Aachen Imperial Catherdral, you'll find more than 150 chalets bursting with sumptuous foods and festive gifts. But what makes the Aachen unique is it's renown Printen, a local version of Gingerbread that is exported around the world. Sounds delicious huh?
Here's a fun video of how this famous Gingerbread is made plus other holiday treats.
The Aachen Christmas market is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Nov. 24, only from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Dec. 23 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Frankfurt: Nov. 27—Dec. 22
|The Römerberg, Paulsplatz und Mainkai squares in Frankfurt light up with the holiday spirit. Photo: Courtesy of German Christmas Market.Org.UK. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
For more than 600 years, tourists and residents have visited the picturesque Römerberg, Paulsplatz und Mainkai squares in Frankfurt for one of Europe's most popular Christmas market festivals. More than 200 holiday chalets line the St. Nicholas and St. Paul Church squares and everywhere you roam, the intoxicating aromas of cinnamon roasted nuts, sweet fragrance of Glühwein (spicy mulled wine), and gingerbread, waft through the air. Enjoy panoramic views from the balcony of St. Nicholas', ride the carousel or grab yourself a cup of warm mulled wine and enjoy a 90-foot-tall Christmas tree lit up with yuletide cheer!
The Frankfurt markets are open Mon.—Fri. from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sun. from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Nürnberg or Nuremberg: Nov. 29—Dec. 24
|The Nürnberg Christkindlmarkt lining Hauptmarkt Square is also known as the "Little Town of Wood and Cloth" due to its vibrant red and white ribbons decorating more than 200 Alpine chalets. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
One of Germany's most famous, the Nürnberg market dates back more than 350 years. Also known as the "Little Town of Wood and Cloth" due to its vibrant red and white ribbons decorating 200 Alpine chalets lining Hauptmarkt square, the Nürnberg market is a feast for all senses from its traditional German-handcrafted nutcrackers and "prune people" to the renowned Nuremberg Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and Glühwein. Plus, follow your noses to the most sumptuous bratwurst as well.
|The market stalls are bursting literally with Nuremberg's renowned Lebkuchen or gingerbread. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Nearby in Hans-Sachs-Platz, children will revel in the holiday festivities at the Kinderweihnacht or Children's Christmas Market from rides on the enchanting two-story carousel and Ferris wheel to baking Christmas cookies and making ornaments. Plus from Tues.—Fri. during the market season, children can meet the Christkind or Christ Child at 2:30 p.m.
If you should be visiting on the Friday before Advent, Nov. 29, don't miss the official opening at 5:30 p.m. with the Christmas Angel presiding over the ceremonies at the Church of Our Lady in the Hauptmarkt square. After the ceremony, the market is open Mon.—Thurs. from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Christmas Eve from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Passau: Nov. 27—Dec. 23
|The Passau Christmas market is home to the oldest gingerbread recipe in Germany. Photo: Courtesy of German Christmas Market.Org.UK. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Neighboring Austria and Czech Republic, the Passau Christkindlmarkt is home to the oldest gingerbread recipe in all of Germany. More than 70 markets line the historic city-centre near St. Stephen's Cathedral with festive chalets proffering their Christmas wares. Don't miss the Regensburger-Domspatzen Choir performance on Dec. 4.
The Passau market is open Mon.—Thurs. from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fri.—Sat. from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sun. from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Munich: Nov. 25 - Dec. 24
|Munich's oldest market fills the Marienplatz or city centre. Photo: Jametiks.|
With more than 17 Christmas markets to choose from, Munich's oldest is in Marienplatz, the city centre, and dates back to the 14th century. Some of these Christmas markets are themed as well including a medieval market in Wittelsbacher Platz, a gay market in Stephanplatz, and a Nativity market or Krippermarkt.
As you stroll along the avenues of festive chalets, you'll find Oberammergau wood carvings, sweet gingerbread, Crib figurines and glassware from the Bavarian forest. Each day in front of the town hall, a Christmas market concert is performed for all.
|Can you believe all this fruit is elaborately decorated Marzipan? The sweet almond confection is found throughout Germany and the world. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Opening ceremonies at Marienplatz square begin at 5 p.m. on Nov. 25. The Munich market is open Mon.—Sat. from 10 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Sun. from 10 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Christmas Eve, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for those last minute gifts!
Rothenburg: Nov. 29 to Dec. 23
|The storybook village of Rothenburg is found along Bavaria's Romantic Road and enchants its visitors at Christmastime and throughout the year. Photo: Courtesy of Bayern Tourism. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Dating back to the 15th century, it's no wonder that the Reiterlesmarkt or Rothenburg Christmas market along Bavaria's Romantic Road enchants all who visit during the holiday season. Within this medieval walled city untouched by time for hundreds of years, you'll revel in holiday delights as you stroll along the festively decorated lanes and sample the savory German confections including the Schneeball or snow ball made from sugar-covered fried dough with drizzles of chocolate. Also, seek out the bratwursts among other Franconian treats—the entire experience is a festive feast for your eyes and palates!
|Rothenburg Christkindtmarkt is home to the "schneeball," a German confection made of fried dough and covered in sugar. Photo: Bayern Tourism. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
The market officially opens on 29 November at 5 p.m. and following the opening ceremony, the market is open Sun.—Thurs. from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fri.—Sat. from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Regensburg: Nov. 28 - Dec. 23
|Surrounding the Neupfarr Church, the Regensburg market dates back to 1791. Photo: Bayern Tourism.|
Regarded as one of the 10 most beautiful Christmas Markets in the world, the Regensburg market dates back to 1791 and delivers the quintessential Christmas market experience that appeals to all of the senses. Surrounding the Neupfarr Church in the middle of the square, the market is tapestry of festive splendor of twinkling lights and festooned chalets brimming with Christmas gifts and savory delectables—all set against the backdrop of beautifully decorated medieval architecture.
The Regensburg Christkindlmarkt is open Sun.—Wed. from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Thurs.—Sat. from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Kempten: Nov. 29 - Dec. 22
|Welcome to the Kempten Christmas Market in the Town Hall Square. Photo: Courtesy of Bayern Tourism. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
The magic of Christmas comes alive in Kemptener Weihnachtsmarkt or the Kempten Christmas market which by the way, is one of the largest and most beautiful Alpine markets in all the Allgäu region of Germany. Located at the Rathaus or Town Hall, savory indulgences await and not-to-miss tasty morsels include the roasted chestnuts, crepes and Christmas confections of every sort. Grab some mulled wine and watch the sea of humanity ebb and flow between the Alpine chalets in the Kempten town square. And as a special treat for kids, have them post their letters to the Christkind or Christ Child in the town centre's post office.
The Kempten market is open from Sun.—Thurs. from Noon to 8:00 p.m. and Fri—Sat. from Noon to 9 p.m.
For the most comprehensive guide online to all of Germany's Christmas markets, I urge you to visit GermanyChristmasMarket.Org.UK for all the details and planning information you'll need to make the most of your visit to Germany during this most wonderful time of the year!
Throughout the holiday season, I plan to explore more of these enchanting markets throughout Europe with my sights set on Austria and Switzerland, so be sure to check back here for more updates on some of Europe's best.
Have you visited Europe's Christmas markets? Which is your favorite? What do you crave most when you visit? Please share your tales below and if you like, send me a snapshot and I will include it in an upcoming article.
Wishing you and yours a most joyous holiday season.