Top 5 Christmas Markets in Germany
Finding My New Favorite Thing
If you were like me a couple of years ago, getting ready for Christmas usually involved trudging to the mall and battling with others for the so called hot presents. Fortunately, sometimes I was able to complete my Christmas shopping in my pajamas with the help of a laptop and Amazon. However, neither of these alternatives really helped me to get into the Christmas season. When I met my German husband I found what I had been missing: German Christmas Markets.
If you have never experienced a German Christmas Market, then you are missing out. It has become the symbol for me everything that is special and unique about Germany and has really helped me to integrate into the country now that I live here.
In Germany Christmas Markets are known as Christkindlmarkt and usually last for four weeks prior to Christmas. The great thing about Christmas Markets is that every town has one and if you take the time you can find some real gems. Christmas Markets in Germany began in the Middle Ages, with some dated from 1384. So if you are looking for an authentic historical tradition this is it!
Christmas Markets are usually held in the main town square. However, it is possible to find Christmas Markets all over Germany, my favorite are markets that held in castles. The market consists of a number of different booths, selling a wide variety of products and food and drinks.
Having had the chance to visit hundreds of markets throughout Germany, the following are my favorites.
The granddaddy of Christmas Markets, Nuremberg always seems to take the number spot year after year and for good reason. The market is conveniently located in the city center, about a ten minute walk from the main train station.
With two million visitors, Nuremberg is one of the biggest markets in Germany. To really get a chance to enjoy your visit, I would strongly suggest that you aim for a weekday. Additionally, the market is nothing less than magical at night with the lights, so plan on staying into the evening to really get a sense of the market.
The Nuremberg market is one of the best markets in Germany for finding really unique and handcrafted presents. Some of the best finds here include the unique plum figures. You will find booths that sell small plum figures representing a variety of occupations. Additionally, there are a number of booths with traditional wood working presents such as toys.
Nuremberg Christmas Market
Stuttgart isn't just for cars, they also have a great and somewhat under appreciated Christmas Market. Going back to the 1600's the Stuttgart market also has some history going for it as well. The market is located in the city center and convenient to a variety of transportation options.
Stuttgart is also one of the most children friendly Christmas Markets in Germany with a separate children's fairy tail land located near a castle. I definitely don't have those kind of magical memories from my visits to Santa at the mall.
With over 280 booths there is a wide variety of products to fit even your toughest gift buyer on your list. Additionally, there are daily concerts of traditional classical music to really put you into the Christmas mood.
3. Regensburg Thurn and Taxis Castle Market
This is one of my favorite smaller Christmas Markets. The city of Regensburg has a main Christmas Market located in the city square; however, if you are looking for something that is cozy and feels like Christmas then the market at the Thurn and Taxis Castle is for you.
The market is slightly smaller than some of the bigger city markets; however, if you are looking for quality then the Thurn and Taxi market is it. The booths are elaborately decorated and have some unique local handcrafts.
Additionally, during the Christmas Market season, they offer tours of the Thurn and Taxi Schloss (Castle). It is a great opportunity to tour a castle that was built by the family who invented the German postal system. Tours are in English and German: http://www.thurnundtaxis.de/en/welcome/welcome.html
Essen is a city of around 575,000 people located in the heart of the Ruhr area. It is conveniently located near the Netherlands, Dusseldorf, and Cologne. The main Christmas market is held in the city center and has a wide variety of booths. Additionally of note is that there is an outdoor skating rink that is available for enjoying and offers a great chance to burn off those extra calories from Christmas Market treats. Finally, there is a large carousel for children or the child at heart.
Additionally, there is a medieval market located within walking distance of the main city center. The medieval market has a variety of homemade items, such as old wax stamps, weapons, and clothing. My favorite has to be the small bottles of mead and other flavored beverages that are available to purchase. You can also choose them warm, which is perfect if the weather is a little cool.
Mead and other Liquors
Northern Germany does not typically get the attention that Bavaria and many of the Southern German cities get. But if you look there are some really good gems in the region. Plus if you enjoy fresh seafood, or are willing to try something new then this Christmas Market is for you.
The Kiel Christmas Market is held in the main city center and close to the waterfront. There is a variety of booths with an emphasis on fresh and unique seafood dishes from the local area. Additionally, the market is located close to the ferry dock for ships headed to Norway and Sweden. If you are interested the ships head out over night and offer an easy way to head out and explore Scandinavia.
This Christmas Market is close to my in-laws in Northern Germany, so it has become a staple for us. Just a tip the Kiel market has a centralized collection point for gluhwein mugs, so make sure that you follow the signs so that you can get your deposit back. Otherwise the mugs are yours to keep as a great souvenir of your time in Kiel.