It won’t take long to realize that the Esslingen market is different from other markets you may visit in Europe. Visiting the Esslingen Christmas market is like stepping back into the medieval ages. The market is surrounded by half-timbered wooden houses dating back from the 13th to 16th centuries that will surprise and delight you, and costumed performers stroll the streets alongside of period-dressed vendors. Aside from the many visitors, over 1 million people visited last year, you get a feeling of traveling back to the Middle Ages.
The market workers dress in traditional, medieval clothes, and unlike other markets, most of the items for sale are generally hand-made and locally produced. With more than 200 booths, it is one of the largest markets in the region. Craftsmen, including blacksmiths, rope makers, basket weavers and glass blowers and many others, make and mold objects before you. The craftsmen often offer workshops on how to make their goods and are usually happy to pose for pictures or answer any questions you may have about their trade.
As you approach the market grounds, you are invited by the sweet scent of Hypocras, a traditional type of Gluehwein, or hot mulled wine. Soon you find vendors selling this special type of Gluehwein alongside the many traditional German dishes available. If you prefer, you can also enjoy honey mead, a hot spiced beer, a brandy punch, or even a nice, cold, German beer. There are plenty of food choices available including grilled pork and meats, soups and stews, and fresh breads and desserts. There are also plenty of food choices for vegetarians.
There is an outdoor theater in front of the beautiful city hall, where actors, performers, and musicians play throughout the day. Or you can visit the Christmas Island with a living nativity scene. There is also a daily Charivari parade at 4pm. The market also features an area where kids can play old-fashioned games, compete with bows and arrows for prizes, or ride a hand cranked, miniature Ferris wheel. There is also an Advent Market open only on weekends on Ritterstrasse, which features 30 booths of vendors selling handicraft goods made of felt, glass, wood & wool.
The Esslingen market also features a unique offering of private hot tubs for soaking. The tubs are a great place for enjoying a hot Gluehwein while soaking with a view of the people. The tubs are rented privately to groups of 4-6 from their website at: www.badezuber.de. The people soaking will shower off before entering from behind a closed curtain, and everyone is presumed to soak fully naked. Once everyone is safely in the tub, the curtain is drawn open and you enjoy the crowds of people walking through the cold air, as you and friends enjoy a hot Gluehwein in the privacy of your own hot tub. It is recommended to bring your own towel when visiting the tubs. And while the more modest may want to wear a swimsuit, this is discouraged, as the wet fabric beneath your clothes may cause you to catch a cold after your soak.
Around 4pm, when the sun starts to set, the town develops a beautiful glow and the atmosphere even seems to change. The candles, torches and building illuminations make the sunset a particularly welcome change.
The Esslingen Christmas market is a magical place where you can enjoy stepping back in time to a medieval age. You may not want to come back to the real world afterwards.
You can arrive at the Esslingen station via the S-1 train from Stuttgart main station in around 12 minutes. It is possible to take a bus to the Marktplatz, but it also possible to walk. Driving is also possible, but the train is better for people who want to enjoy the Gluehwein.
The market is open from Tuesday, November 22 to Thursday, December 22 from 11am to 8:30pm.
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