t‘s the Most Wonderful Time,  of the Year...Ladies and Gentlemen, the countdown begins, Christmas is just around the corner and the Christmas Markets will soon be open! Not sure where to go? No worries, here are a few personal recommendations for you from me.  I hope that my list will help you organize your limited holiday time! In case this is your first Christmas here in Germany, let me introduce you to what a Christmas Market is, if you're already a pro, you can skip straight down to my list!

Christmas Markets: This centuries-old tradition reaches way back to a time where regular seasonal Markets took place throughout the year. The winter markets were a welcome and joyful occasion that added a bit of light to the cold, dark, winter nights. Throughout the years Christmas Markets have evolved, grown, and become less functional and more of a holiday tradition. Usually each village will have  a small Christmas Market, lasting anywhere from a few days to a week, whereas the bigger cities will have both Christmas and New Year’s Markets lasting two to five, sometimes even six weeks. They are places full of cheer, with lovely Christmas lights, delicious Christmas treats, and warm Christmas drinks. From roasted chestnuts, to hot mulled wine AKA Glühwein, or warm “Kinder-Punsch,” the Christmas Markets here are something you do not want to miss. It's also a great place to buy homemade crafts, winter apparel, Christmas gifts or holiday souvenirs; you can find nutcrackers, wooden figurines, traditional German ornaments, incense smokers, baking tins, toys, hats, scarves, gloves, blankets, table cloths,  tea, chocolate, dried meats—the list goes on and on. The markets are also often home to rides, live entertainment, games, and nativity scenes (some with live animals), and be sure to keep an eye out for Santa and his Reindeer (no, really). So, without further ado, here are some of the Christmas Markets I think you'll definitely want to visit this year:

Stuttgart (obviously) November 23rd – December 23rd

Stuttgart Christmas MarketThe Stuttgart Christmas Market is close by, and it’s absolutely beautiful—it’s also one of the oldest Christmas Markets in all of Europe. This Christkindlmarkt has a history and tradition that is over 300 years old. With approximately 290 vendors each year, there's definitely something for everyone at the Stuttgart Christmas Market. This market takes up four of Stuttgart's city squares the Schlossplatz, Schillerplatz, Marktplatz and Karlsplatz, so with its city center location, it's hard to miss. The market is within walking distance of the city’s main train station, and there is usually ample parking as well—However, public transportation or carpooling is still recommended. Stuttgart's Christmas Market may be one of the largest and most visited markets of the season (for good reason), but it's also very child friendly. In fact, there's a Children's Fairyland located in the Schlossplatz square with all sorts of fun-filled family activities: a winter wonderland mini railway ride, two children's fairground rides, an interactive gingerbread-heart baking stall, as well as an interactive self-serve chocolate fruit skewer stall and a candle workshop where children can hand dip their own wax creations (with adult supervision of course). You also won't want to miss the live nativity scene at the market this year. Not to worry, all of the animals are lovingly looked after by the “Landesschaftzuchtverband Baden-Württemberg” – the states Sheep Breeding Association – and you'll even have a chance to buy their farms products (cheese, wool, etc) as their stand is directly adjacent to the young shepherd’s stall. This Market is one of my favorites for so many reasons, and I'm sure you'll enjoy the time spent there. The Stuttgart Christmas Market will also be home to a number of concerts throughout the month, and some of them are free. So be sure to check out their website for a full schedule of the musical events and more details on the exact time and location: http://stuttgarter-weihnachtsmarkt.de/en/concerts/

Esslingen November 22nd – December 22nd

EsslingenThe Esslingen Christmas and Medieval Market is an absolutely amazing Christmas Market; in fact we've dedicated an entire separate article to that market, written by Jonathan, so be sure to check it out!

Esslingen's Christmas Market has a Medieval Market attached, and it isn't very far from Stuttgart.  Located in the main town square, this slightly smaller market (when compared to Stuttgart) has approximately 200 vendors and is still one of the largest in the region. The main attraction here is the Medieval Market, where you can find authentic medieval clothing, accessories, household items and gifts. The merchants in this part of the market will be wearing authentic historical garments, and once you step into this part of the market you'll feel as though you've fallen through time. Ok, perhaps the many visitors on their cellphones or the modern day electricity and cars humming off in the distance may quell this feeling a bit—but it is a wonderful experience nonetheless. My niece last year particularly enjoyed the medieval ferris wheel that is turned by hand by lively strong men and women. There's also ample entertainment with jugglers, musicians, fire dancers, puppeteers and more. Last year we even witnessed a whimsical medieval parade, with men and women in fantastic costumes, walking by us on stilts. This market, much like Stuttgart's, will also have games and activities available for the whole family.

Dresden November 24th – December 24th

DresdenDresden is, arguably, the oldest Christmas Market in German; its origin dates all the way back to 1434. So in my opinion, it's more than worth the trip; this market is home to one of the world's tallest Christmas pyramids and is also known as the “Striezelmarkt” named after Dresden's famous stollen cake. It is located in the Old Market square of the city center and is also quite large, stretching through various parts of the city. It's a magically romantic Christmas Market steeped in tradition. The culinary highlight here is, of course, the Dresden stollen, and there are only a few trained bakers who can make this traditional cake. It's a cake that is filled with flavor, and raisins, so it might not be up everyone's alley but there are plenty of other sweets to try as well.  Dresden's market is also home to a letter box where you can directly drop off your letters to Santa. Once again you'll find music, entertainment, gifts, decorations and more at this Christmas Market.

Ludwigsburg November 22nd – December 22nd

LudwigsburgLudwigsburg's Baroque Christmas Market, is located in the main city square, in between the cities two baroque churches. Home to over 170 booths and pure Christmas magic, you'll notice the Christmas lights at this market are particularly beautiful. There will be mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, gingerbread baking, fresh, warm crepes, festive concerts and, of course, Christmas cheer. Only 15 minutes from Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg is a wonderful place to visit and a great place to get your Christmas shopping done. This would be a perfect market to visit alongside Stuttgart and Esslingen.

Aachen November 18th – December 23rd

Aachen's Christmas Market, which is also located in the town’s main square, near the Aachener Dom (or Cathedral) got its start in the 70's, but it has truly grown since then. Now it's famous not only throughout the region, but throughout Germany.  Children will love the carousel, and the adults will surely love the mulled wine and famous Aachener baked goods. Many people travel to this Christmas Market from various parts of Europe, and it's also the closest market to the U.K. So if you're planning a Christmas trip to London, why not take the train and stop off in Aachen for this fantastic Christmas market?

Nuremberg November 25th – December 24th

The Nuremberg Christmas Market, which is, once again, located in the town square (I mean honestly I might as well skip this part of the introduction right? They are all, generally, located in the center of the town) has a long history of beauty and tradition. However, here are some unique reasons to visit this particular market: to try an original Nuremberg sausage or some traditional Nuremberg gingerbread, to take a horse and carriage stage coach ride through town (while listening to Christmas music), to see Santa Clause, or in this case, the Christkind (see article regarding German holiday traditions) who visits the market every day, Tuesday-Friday, at 15:00, or to spend some time at the Children's Christmas Market in Nuremberg. This market has over 180 booths, and like most of the Markets on this list, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Heidelberg November 21st  - December 22nd

Heidelberg is one of my favorite markets, and it stretches up and down the streets of the city, often with fantastic views of the castle. This market extends to over five beautiful and historic market squares: Kornmarkt, Marktplatz, Universitätsplatz, Anatomiegarten and the Bismarckplatz.  During the month of December (and at the end of November), Heidelberg's old town radiates with Christmas magic, and you'll find all the usual Christmas Market goodies, along with an ice skating rink, something you won't want to miss. Rentals are, of course, available, and there are usually cute little penguins for the little ones to hold on to if they are just learning to skate. In the main square, the Marktplatz, you'll find a Christmas pyramid and Santa's “work shop” where you can take photos with Santa Claus! In the Kornmarkt you can usually find a small manger and petting zoo, which is great for the little ones.

Wiesbaden November 22nd – December 23rd

Wiesbaden's Sternschnuppenmarkt or Twinkling Star Christmas Market is absolutely fantastic, and yet, often overlooked by other Christmas Market “Must-See” lists. Yet, with its glowing star studded market, its vintage fairy tale merry-go-round and the main stage in front of the Rathaus offering live musical entertainment, I can't see why. The city will be transformed into a winter wonderland this season, and you'll find ice skating nearby as well, next to the Kurpark. Wiesbaden is a city of romance, and the market is no different, with over 130 vendors for you to choose fantastic gifts or souvenirs from. As a side note, and as many of you may know, Wiesbaden is home to one of the largest Cuckoo's Clocks, which is very close to the market itself. You also won't want to miss Wiesbaden's gigantic Ferris wheel, which stands 40 meters high and is located in the downtown pedestrian zone— just a few minutes’ walk from the Christmas Market itself.

Trier November 21st – December 22nd

TrierThTriere Trierer Weihnachtsmarkt is cozy and quaint, and while it's not the biggest market out there, it’s definitely one worth seeing. A romantic market that sits directly next to Trier's famous cathedral, it is home to 95 different vendors offering you Christmas toys, decorations and, of course, treats. There's a small musical stage here as well, where various artists will be performing. Trier is one of the oldest cities in Germany, boasting many medieval buildings (such as the main Cathedral that I mentioned above). Trier is also the home of the Porta Nigra, which is a large, ancient Roman city gate. Just a short walk from the market, this city’s historical sights and shopping district would make it worth visiting alone, so why not come during one of the most beautiful and festive times of the year.

Sankt Wendel December 3rd to December 11th

*This market is particularly close to the KMC area!

Last, but not least, is Sankt Wendel— this often overlooked market definitely deserves a spot on my list. It has a rather short opening period compared to the others I've mentioned, but this Christmas Market also hosts a Medieval Market every year and is, I have to say, one of my absolute favorite markets to visit. While the market is based around the city center and town hall, it goes up many side streets, and you'll find a Children's Christmas fairy or dwarven land here as well. Here are a few of the highlights of this amazing Christmas Market: every afternoon the Three Wise Men make their way through the town accompanied by their camels, musicians and fire eaters. Later these camels will return to the live nativity scene, where you can then find Mary and Joseph—be sure to stick around for the live performance thereafter... St. Wendel's Market is also home to Santa's Reindeer every season, you'll find them about half way between the main market square and the Children's Market.  Not to even mention, the small man-made hill where children can go sledding on inner tubes, regardless of the actual whether outside and the markets amazingly talented ice sculptor. Oh, and you won't want to miss the medieval markets daily fire show! This Christmas Market is also home to a few rides, a Christmas pyramid, and much, much more. If you have the time, I highly suggest you visit St. Wendel this year

As I said before, each of these Markets has its own history, its own charm—and all of them will have delicious food and drink—so be sure to mark your calendars and carefully plan your holiday weekends!

There are so many Christmas Markets in Germany, but these are some of the one's I've chosen to write about from personal experience. Still it wouldn't be right to count any Christmas Market out and I'd like to include these Honorable mentions: Munich's Christmas Market, Cologne's Christmas Market, Strasbourg and Colmar's Christmas Markets, Berlin's Christmas Markets (yes – multiple), Rothenburg ob der Tauber's Christmas Market, and many, many more.

From everyone here at Together Magazine, we sincerely hope you enjoy your Holiday Season!