Many of the cultural beacons with which we identify Christmas in the western world – and beyond – come from Germany or, at least, from German speaking regions of Europe. Take for example the Christmas tree, the archetypal Christmas symbol, which tradition has it was first set up by Martin Luther, the german theologist. Another is, of course, the Christmas Market, the famous Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlmarkt as said in German.
Criticized by many as a haven of consumerism, we must remember that, as Richard Wagner and Thea Dorn write in their fundamental book The German Soul: “The Christmas Market is older as capitalism, the market existed before the market economy. The market and the market towns.” Whether you prefer the most austere, modest and meditative side of Christmas time, you cannot deny the colors and aromas, light and beauty, life and joy that such markets bring to cities across Germany during the cold and dark December.
Therefore I came up with a list of Christmas Markets across different cities and regions in Germany, which I think are places which you should visit.
When to go?
The Christmas Market goes hand in hand with that period of the year called in German Adventszeit or Advent season, that is the four Sundays previous to Christmas Eve. For 2018 this starts on December 2nd. Usually the Christmas Markets start close to the beginning of the Advent season: for example, in Berlin they start the Monday previous to the first Advent Sunday. Also, the vast majority of Christmas Markets in Germany stay open until a couple of days after Christmas, but most of them are closed before New Year’s Eve.
There are a couple of Christmas Markets that only open on specific days, for that you may need to check the corresponding information on this page.
Where to go?
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Located in one of the most beautiful towns you may encounter across the famous Romantic Road, Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s Weihnachtsmarkt is very enchanting. The beautiful gabled and timber-framed houses set a wonderful scenario. You may find here many toys and handcraft articles besides the delicious food and sweets. In this town there is a formidable branch of the Christmas decoration worlwide chain store Käthe Wohlfahrt that is worth the visit. Also, do not forget to try the most exquisite Schneeballen – literally, snowballs – you will taste in your life.
We continue in Bavaria and this time we move to the Freistaathaupstadt – the capital of the free state of Bavaria. There are many Christmas Markets in Munich, but my personal favorite must be the one at Schloss Blutenberg. The market itself is at the courtyard of the castle, inside its walls, which makes it very atmospheric. The castle itself is worth the visit since it is a very beautiful example of this type of buildings: it even has a moat and a drawbridge – in summer there is a sensational Wine Festival at the same place. Try the different sausages and, of course, the Glühwein!
Almost hidden in the corners of the Munich gay neighborhood Glockebachviertel, you can find the Pink Christmas Market. It is kitschy but fun, and very special since it is put up together by the LGBTQ community. Check the artists that present their work on different stands and make acquaintances very easily with the warm and joyful guests. No joke: try the Eierlikör – egg punch!
Also, at the heart of Englischer Garten, under the shadow of the Chinesischer Turm, there is one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets you will find in Germany. You will feel like you are in the middle of an enchanted forest, where elves and magical creatures have been invoked to the spell of the Christmas spirit. This one is specially good for children since there are many activities for the little ones.
We remain in Bavaria, but this time close to the border with Thuringia and we head up to Coburg – yes, where the British Royal Family is from. Coburg is one very beautiful town on its own, with its buildings, castles and parks. Besides, it is a typical german university town, which means: cheap and abundant bars. There are two Christmas Markets on this town: one for children and another for grownups. The “adult” version is very picturesque: the stands are beautifully arranged and there is a central stand where you can get as much Glühwein, Punsch and Lumumba as you can afford – and drink!
In case you have time, also check the Christmas Market of the beautiful small town of Seßlach, only 15 km southwest of Coburg. Here you will find local products and a nice store with handmade toys.
If you’re already in Coburg, drive south to the Bamberg’s old town of and enjoy the magic of a two of the best Christmas Markets in Germany. First, there is the one in the Sandstraße, where a lot of local artists exhibit their latest jewellery or woodwork. The quality and craftsmanship will take your breath away. Then head to the square in the new side of town where the main Christmas market is located and eat yourself the way out of it: raclette, käsespätzle, wurst, langos, if you can name it you will find it.
Having the mildest winters in Germany has never stopped the people from Freiburg to prepare the Feurzangenbowle to warm themselves. Check the beautiful Christmas Market at the Rathausplatz of one of my personal favorite cities in Germany.
Once in Freiburg, head north to the biggest amusement park in Europe, called precisely Europapark. They decorate the whole place for christmas and it is indeed – as the competition may say – the stuff childhood dreams are made of. This makes it one of the most unique and special Christmas Markets in Germany: where else do you have the chance to drink Glühwein and then directly ride a rollercoaster? Do not forget to try the Flammlachs! – grilled salmon.
You may not realize it, but Berlin is the city in Germany with the biggest number of Christmas Markets: over 70 are placed all across the city. Since I have not had time to check them all – I doubt if I will ever have – I will just review the ones I know. For example, outside the fences that surround the Schloß Charlottenburg in Berlin, a fancy Christmas Market stands for all of the families and friends that want to enjoy this time of the year. The scenary – with the palace in the background, illuminated at night – is very romantic. Here you can also find very good Flammlachs and Eierlikör! – do you already know my tastes?
I tried to avoid mention Christmas Markets that are not free, but I have to mention the one at Gendarmenmarkt. It probably has the best selection of food and drinks that you will find in any Christmas Market at least in Berlin. Also, it is located at one of the most beautiful places in Mitte. However, even when you have to pay entrance, the place is crowded and there is very few space left to move around. Anyway, check it, since it is worth the visit.
There are many “touristy” Weihnachtsmarkt but almost impossible to avoid, such as the ones at Potsdamer Platz and Breitscheidplatz. In both of them you can find multiple delights from all over Germany, so if you do not have time to go to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, for example, you still can taste Schneeballen in Berlin!
Of course, there are also down-to-earth options, such as the Rixdorfer Weihnachtsmarkt in Neukölln. Rixdorf was a town on its own until it was absorbed by Berlin in the nineteenth century. You may forget for a minute that you are in the German Metropolis once you are there. It is very atmospheric and the visiting crowd is friendly and diverse. Also, check the stands where the community itself – schools, local associations and others – put their work for sale and collaborate by buying something from them!
Finally, the one that beats them all: the humongous Christkindlmarkt in Nürnberg. It is, again, in Bavaria, so you can combine it in your travel with visits to the Christmas Markets in Bamberg or Munich. The best of it is, indeed, its sheer size. Get lost in the many corridors around the different stands and try the Lebkuchen and Kokosmakronen. Regard the kitchiest but impossible-not-to-take-home-with-you craftwork. Drink Glühwein – as if I have not mentioned it yet – and eat lots of gebrannte Mandeln – I cannot believe I have not mentioned it yet.
I hope you enjoy reading my list and I promise that I will keep it updated as soon as I visit other Christmas Markets in Germany. Please comment if you believe there is a place that everybody should know. Thanks!