December in Germany is all about Christmas markets! Smell the sweet cinnamon waffles, mulled wine, gingerbread and grilled sausages while strolling around in the labyrinths with food & hand made products stands – BIG TOWNS set up several Christmas markets on larger town´s squares, SMALLER CITIES have one Christmas market and even the smallest VILLAGES usually organise a 1-day Christmas market on the first December weekend. Markets are often the event of the year for many locals and everyone is always looking forward to the moment when they open.
Germany is a big country where every region has its specialities when it comes to Christmas markets. This mostly reflects in the FOOD OFFER (it seems like every municipality has its special “Wurst” sausage haha), the markets can be a good place if you want to buy UNIQUE REGIONAL PRODUCTS, CHRISTMAS DECORATION or HAND MADE GIFTS. We visit our town´s market quite often – sometimes with girlfriends in the evening, Lu loves the carousel rides after kindergarten, it´s also a convenient place to grab a bite when there is on time to cook.
I seem to forget every year that the markets usually close already a day before Christmas! They open around November 20th and by 23th of December most of them are gone. In Slovenia, my home country, they are opened until the first week of January, so make sure you check the OPENING TIMES before you plan a visit ;).
THE BEST GERMAN CHRISTMAS MARKETS
The OLDEST GERMAN CHRISTMAS MARKET with the world TALLEST NUTCRACKER and the TALLEST CHRISTMAS PYRAMID. A highlight is the STOLLEN FESTIVAL where a giant stollen cake is processed through the streets. We visited DRESDEN in May 2017, you can READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE.
OVER 180 TRADITIONAL STALLS coated in red & white cloths is especially known for selling non-modern and not mass-produced goods, so everything is more or less hand made. Don´t forget to try the famous NUREMBERG SAUSAGES and the traditional Nuremberg “PLUM PEOPLE”. We visited this market in December 2015, you can READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE.
BERLIN WEINACHTSZAUBER am GENDARMENMARKT
There are several Christmas markets in Berlin, but many find this one the best – this might be due to its GREAT LOCATION, between the cathedral Deutsche Dom, the Konzerthaus and the Friedrichstadtkirche church. It features a HUGE CHRISTMAS TREE and LIVE PLAYS to watch while sipping your mulled wine. There is an entrance fee of 1€. You can READ MORE ABOUT BERLIN HERE.
There are many markets in Munich but this one is THE OLDEST AND THE BIGGEST ONE. Over 3 million visitors stroll around the stands on MARIENPLATZ and the famous STERNENPLATZ on the RINDERMARKT where a huge CHRISTMAS PYRAMID is placed. We visited in 2010 when our plane landed in Munich and had the whole day to spent before we took a night train to Slovenia.
In front of the UNESCO CATHEDRAL in GERMANY´S OLDEST TOWN you find this market with WOODEN CHALETS – the country´s only MULLED WINE QUEEN herself might serve you the famous hot drink while you listen to SANTA SINGING, which is also very unique.
HAMBURG WEINACHTSMARKT AM RATHAUS
For the last 5 years we have been visiting this HISTORICAL CHRISTMAS MARKET in front of the CITY HALL with friends. SPECIAL ALLEYS with names like “toy alley” or “nibble alley” inside the big market let you know which part you are at. You can buy pretty much everything here – typical northern German specialities, Bavarian sausages, hand made artefacts and this year also a Chinese massage. Don´t miss the FLYING SANTA every day at 4, 6 and 8PM – he also tells stories! A special feature of this market is also the huge CHRISTMAS TREE MADE OF LIGHTS.
COLOGNE WEINACHTSMARKT AM KÖLNER DOM
The market AT COLOGNE CATHEDRAL hosts around 160 WOODEN CHALETS where besides culinary delights you can buy HANDICRAFTS. There is also a LIVE STAGE with music and other artists perform. As the market is very popular and lots of TOURISTS visit on the weekends, it is better to go during the week!
Goslar is a smaller town in Lower Saxony, worth visiting for its rich legacy (part of it is under UNESCO) and as we found out this weekend also for its amazing Christmas market. One part is more or less like every other market, but on one town square they put up this magical CHRISTMAS FOREST with ENLIGHTENED TREES under which you can enjoy your mulled wine. You can also climb over 200 stairs to the top of a BELL TOWER and get a great view on the market from above! A real hidden gem, not many tourists even know about ;). You can READ MORE ABOUT GOSLAR HERE.
This one has been voted the BEST EUROPEAN CHRISTMAS MARKET (according to European Best Destinations website) and it seems to be one of the MOST POPULAR ONES amongst foreign tourists: Around 1,5 million visitors gather on the main market in front of the CITY HALL every year and enjoy the famous freshly baked SPEKULATIUS COOKIES.
Christmas markets are A GREAT PLACE TO TRY OUT ALL THE LOCAL DELICACIES because you can get a little bit of everything. In general, food on the markets might be quite heavy to digest especially if you´re not used to eat oily foods on a everyday basis, so don´t overeat yourself ;). Having a mulled wine between meals should help! So, what are the things you simply have to try?
Well, unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, you have to try some kind of WURST – the most common will be the BRATWURST which usually comes in white bread, topped with mustard, mayonnaise and or ketchup. Each part of the country has its own SAUSAGE SPECIALITIES so just go for whatever seems to be local. In the north a sausage is often accompanied with delicious KALE which is here called GRÜNKOHL, otherwise you can always have the famous SAUERKRAUT cabbage. A meal like this will get you really full for a reasonable price.
My favourite MEAT FREE meal you can get here are these fried POTATO PATTIES called KARTOFFELPUFFER – more traditionally they come with APPLE SAUCE on the side, but I prefer the DILL-GARLIC version. Yummy!
Especially in bigger cities you can also have just a delicious sandwich (sometimes with traditional German MEATY SPREADS) or even something much more exotic, like Chinese noodles for example.
I can´t get pass CHEESE without having some and luckily RACLETTE is very popular in Germany in the winter time. Topped with herbs and spices it makes a nice snack and it will keep you warm.
Okay now the sweet stuff – besides the usual ZUCKERWATTE (cotton candy), GRILLED CHESTNUTS, ROASTED SWEET ALMONDS, CREPES, MARZIPAN SWEETS and some other you have to try the famous LEBKUCHEN (sort of like gingerbread), STOLLEN CAKE and my favourite – POFFERTJES. These are like mini pancakes, topped with sugar powder, honey and or liquor.
You should not leave the market without having a MULLED WINE, called GLÜHWEIN on German. It usually comes in a CUP for which you pay a deposit (around 2 €)– later on you can bring it back and collect your money or just take it home as a souvenir. Red mulled wine is more common than the white one and it´s made traditionally with spices like cinnamon, anis and cloves.
For a stronger version, try the so called FEUERWEHRZANGENBOWLE (yes this IS a word!) which besides wine contains caramelised sugar by burning rum. Nothing for those who don´t like sweet drinks!
There are of course alternatives in case mulled wine is not your thing. You can try the LULUMBA (hot cocoa with cram and rum), GROG (rum, sugar and hot water), EIERPUNSCH (egg liquor which usually comes with whipped cream on top), WARM COCTAILS, JÄGERTEE (tea with rum) or any other non-alcoholic drink.
Inspired? You still have time to visit one of the markets this year! If you cannot make it now, make sure you squeeze in a visit next year 😉