The official start to the Christmas season here in Germany has to be the lighting of the first candle on the Advent wreath, which is usually also the time that most of the big Christmas markets open up. The Christmas markets have to be one of the most anticipated attractions for tourists during the season and there are just so many of them. With there being only 4 weekends to hit the further out markets and evenings to visit the markets close by, it is useful to have a battle plan, so you can hit as many markets as possible. In our Christmas markets recommendations, you can find some of the most popular markets in Germany and some great tips and tricks.
The large Christmas markets in the city usually start around the last weekend of November, and usually last until the day before Christmas. A few of the larger markets even keep open till the end of December. Smaller towns and villages have small markets that are open for one weekend or a week usually alongside with a charming Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Christmas markets have quite a tradition here in Germany with the oldest one, being around 600 years old. The markets started out as small events, often lasting only a day or two. It gave the townsfolk a chance to do some last trading and buying for the long wintermonths. Later on, around the 14th century vendors offering arts and crafts started to join in selling their goods. Slowly stands with handmade toys, stoneware and baskets became popular.
The modern Christmas markets display quite a different picture, especially the large markets feature 100s of booths and food stand and can be quite overwhelming. Sparkling lights and lingering aromas of spiced wine, bratwurst and gingerbreads in the air, Christmas markets can be the best place to grab a bite to eat after work too. But for the full experience you should plan in a day for each of the large markets and arrive fairly early when the markets open up and aren’t crowded yet. On December 6th (Nicolaus day) most markets have a Santa come though giving out candy to the kids, and many of the markets feature little rides or ice skating rings. If you do plan on trying the Gluehwein (mulled wine), watch out, because they can be sneaky and get you tipsy in no time.
We did compile a list of some of the biggest and nicest markets in Germany, do buckle in and get ready for a Christmassy ride!
Stuttgart November 29th – December 23rd
The Stuttgart Christmas Market is absolutely stunning—it’s also one of the oldest Christmas Markets and biggest in all of Europe. With a history and tradition that is over 300 years old and approximately 290 vendors each year, there‘s definitely something for everyone at the Stuttgart Christmas Market. This market spreads out over four of Stuttgart‘s city squares the Schlossplatz, Schillerplatz, Marktplatz and Karlsplatz, so it is hard to miss with its central location. The market is easily reachable via the city’s public transport system and within walking distance of the main train station, and there is usually ample parking as well—However, public transportation or carpooling is still your best bet. 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 28th – December 22nd
The Esslingen Christmas and Medieval Market has to be one of the must visit Markets for sure. Not only is it a Christmas market, but part of the market is also a medieval Christmas market. Esslingen is not far from Stuttgart and very conveniently reachable by train.
The medieval market offers a wide variety of booths featuring different old-world arts and crafts, and even a little kid’s area with medieval rides and play areas. 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 traveled through time. This market, much like Stuttgart‘s, will also have games and activities available for the whole family.
Kaiserslautern November 27th – December 23rd
The Kaiserslautern Christmasmarket is located right in the heart of the city, stretched out over the Schillerplats, the Stiftskirche and the pedestrian area. The open-air stage at the Schillerplatz will entertain visitors with a multifaceted program. The courtyard of the Stiftskirche has to be considered the heart of the Christmas market, with its children oriented set up and program. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the nativity scene comes to live with animals from the local petting Zoo and cookiebaking and decorating events are also available for the little ones. The many booths offer Christmas decorations, the usual arts and craft goods and of course many local delicacies. After Christmas the market turns into a New Year market that stays open until December 30th.
Dresden November 29th – December 24th
The Christmas Market in Dresden, also called the Striezelmarket, has to be one of the most memorable in Germany. The market can be traced back all the way to 1434 and is hosting its 583rd market this year. With a rich program for young and old the market not only offers entertainment, but some traditional rides like the carousel and one of the largest Christmas pyramids of the world. The market is located right on the old market square in the town between old classic house facades and the modern buildings that were built after WW2. The Name of the Christmas market, Striezelmarkt stems from Dresden’s famous Christmas cake, a fruitcake dusted with powdered sugar. Only a cake made in Dresden by a skilled baker is allowed to carry the famous name. It should be on your list of foods to sample and the cake also makes a great gift for family and friends.
This beautiful market has to be one of the most romantic markets in Germany with its tradition and shops.
Dortmund November 23rd – December 30th
Dortmund entices its guest by offering one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany, with over 300 booths and vendors offering everything from artistic craftsmanship, Christmas decorations, toys and much, much more. The biggest attraction of the market has to be their 147,5 feet tall Christmas tree though, with over 48000 lights and loads of ornaments. There are tours offered though the market with cookie sampling at the tree and stories about customs and Christmas. Life music on stage and a kid’s area are also waiting for eager visitors. The culinary fans won’t be disappointed either, the area is famous for its Westphalian ham and the many different kind of Brezels they sell, from savory to sweet and the candied fruit.
Ludwigsburg November 22nd – December 22nd
The baroque Christmas market in Ludwigsburg will take you to an enchanted Christmas dream, with its location sitting in the market square between 2 of Ludwigsburg’s Baroque Churches illuminated by 1000s of Christmas lights and angels made of more lights that float over the market. Ludwigsburg‘s Christmas Market, is something right out of a fairy tale. The layout of the 170 some booths in the typical straight-line fashion of the baroque time add to the mood. You will find all your Christmas needs and of course all the traditional market foods at the Ludwigsburg market and its located only 15 minutes from Stuttgart.
Aachen November 24th– December 23rd
The Christmas market in Aachen is located like most markets right in the town’s main square, in front of the stunning town hall of Aachen. Despite its size, the market offers a family oriented atmosphere and a place to meet with friends and co-workers. The beloved Aachen Christmas market has gained much popularity even beyond the borders of Germany with visitors from the UK, Belgium, France and the Netherlands enjoying themselves there. One of the unique attractions of the market is its nativity scene walk. Admire over 40 artistic nativity scenes out on display, created by different artist.
Children will love the carousel, and the adults will surely love the mulled wine and famous Aachener baked goods.
Nuremberg December 1st – December 24th
Nuremberg is probably the most well-known Christmas market in Germany, in fact you could probably call it the mother of all markets. The market is located in the center of town and quite large with its 180 different booths and merchants. Nuremberg has some very special reasons to make this Christmas markets one on the must-see list. Not only is there the famous gingerbread, but the wonderful Nuremberg sausages. One of their fun souvenirs you can buy is the prune men. They are sold at the market and are just like it sounds made out of prunes. At the Nuremberg Christmas market, you can actually meet the Christkind, presents in Germany are not like in the US delivered by Santa, but by the Christkind that lays them under the tree on Christmas Eve. Or you could just bundle up and take a ride in a horse drawn coach through the city and listen to Christmas music and enjoy some mulled wine
Heidelberg November 27th - December 22nd
The Heidelberg Christmas market is very unique in its set up, the market starts at the Bismarckplatz and it stretches out over several of the historic town squares (Kornmarkt, Marktplatz, Universitätsplatz, Anatomiegarten and the Bismarckplatz) all the way to the end of the pedestrian area at the Kornmarkt. The old town of Heidelberg by itself is already stunning with its charming old buildings and shops along the pedestrian area. When the Christmas lights and trees are decorated and the darling wooden booths are added, the Christmas feeling is perfect. Heidelberg offers you all the regular Christmas fun, like the merchants, food and mulled wine stands, rides and even a Santa picture work shop, where you can have pictures with Santa done. Heidelberg also awes with its stunning Christmas Pyramid, Ice skating ring and a small petting Zoo around the nativity scene.
Wiesbaden November 28th – December 23rd
The Wiesbaden Christmas market has one of the most stunning opening ceremonies, angels float down from above to light up the lights of the market on the opening night. And this market does not carry its name Sternschuppenmarkt (shooting star market) for nothing, the whole area of the market square in front to the court house is lit up by 1000s of lights. The market itself is decorated in the colors blue and gold, the colors of the city crest and the booths and stands are adorned with even more lights. The vintage merry-go-round and the life stage are just a few of its entertainment program, there is also an ice skating ring nearby and while there, you should definitely check out the coocoo clock there, one of the worlds largest. You also won‘t want to miss Wiesbaden‘s gigantic Ferris wheel, which is about 132 feet tall and is located in the downtown pedestrian street, just a few minutes’ walk from the Christmas Market itself.
Trier November 27th – December 22nd
The Trier Christmas market is the only Christmas market in Germany that has its very own mulled wine queen, that should by itself make this one of the must-see markets. Located on the medieval market square and in front of Triers imposing cathedral, this market is often districted as romantic with a wonderful ambience. Every year about 95 booths and merchants open up their doors to sell their Christmas decorations and hand-crafted gifts, of course the culinary fans won’t have to miss out, with all the local specialties and their very own mulled wine. This market would also make a great weekend trip and visit some of the other great historical sites in the city, like the roman imperial baths or the famous Porta Nigra, the ancient roman city gate or take to the shopping district for some Christmas shopping.
Sankt Wendel December 9th to December 17th
The Sankt Wendel Christmas market has to me the most enchanting market, especially if you have small Children. The market itself is set up around the center of town and the town hall and fairly big with over 130 different vendors and it hosts its very own medieval market. The market is only open for 2 weeks during the month of December, so be sure to plan in a visit. If your kids want to meet Santa, be sure to stop by then, because Santa visits the market on a daily basis, with a sled and reindeers, you‘ll find them about half way between the main market square and the Children‘s Market. Part of the market is set up as a dwarven village where lots and lots of little dwarven folk run around with little dwarf hats. Another great sight has to be the live nativity scene and the daily visit of the 3 wise men that come with a parade of camels, artist and fire. There is plenty to see!
I hope I was able to give you some good advice and ideas, most markets are rather full at the weekends and are better to visit during the week. Be aware of pickpockets when heading out to the huge markets.
We from the Together Magazine hope you have a wonderful time and memorable Christmas season!
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