Christmas Market Roundup
There are many wonderful things to see and do in Germany around Christmas: Stroll through festively decorated streets and explore the Christmas markets with their seasonal music and choir singing. Listen to the sounds of bells and trumpeters and attend one of the many concerts from classical to gospel in the churches and on outdoor stages.
Germany's Christmas markets are unique. If you're tired of commercialism taking over the holiday period and would like to experience a real traditional Christmas Market you definitely want to consider heading to one - or more - of Germany's many Christmas markets where the traditional gift items on offer are often handcrafts of real quality.
In Germany's Christmas markets you can buy all kinds of Christmas merchandise and gifts, especially traditional things such as crib figurines, toys, wood carvings, marionettes, candles and lambskin slippers. Many are difficult to resist - as will be the glass of delicious mulled wine and many culinary specialties, both sweet and savory, that are very welcome on crisp winter days.
The ambience is further enhanced by the aromas of hot chestnuts, grilled sausages and other tasty snacks; the gingerbread biscuits known as Lebkuchen, marzipan figures and other sweets.
With so many Christmas markets throughout Germany the most difficult decision to make is where to go. The best solution is to sample at least two Christmas Markets, preferably in a city for some serious shopping and a small town or village if you are looking for something a little bit more romantic.
Most Christmas Markets start in the last week of November and run through to Christmas Eve or a day or two before. They are usually open every day from 10 a.m. to about 8 or 9 p.m.
Here's a list of our favorites - including one across the border in Alsace:
26 November - 24 December 2012
Monday - Thursday: 10:00 - 20:00; Friday - Saturday: 10:00 - 21:00; Sunday: 10:00 - 20:00; Dec. 24 10:00 - 14:00
Augsburg's Christkindlesmarkt has been held for more than 500 years against the delightful backdrop of the Renaissance town hall. Not to be missed is the Augsburg Angels Play, in which music-playing angels appear above the Christmas market and the Renaissance town hall becomes a giant Advent calendar. The Augsburg Fairytale Trail, which is set up around the stalls, presents the magical tale of Christmas in Bullerby - the story by Astrid Lindgren unfolds in nine animated pictures. 150 stands sell gift items and Christmas articles as well as typical food, such as wurst, yeast dumplings, hot roasted chestnuts, crepes, potato fritters, hot mulled wine or other traditional seasonal delicacies.
Baden-Baden Christmas Market (Christkindelsmarkt)
26 November - 30 December 2012
Against a backdrop of the hills of the Black Forest, a visit to the traditional Baden-Baden Christmas Market is like strolling through a scene from a winter fairytale. Located at the start of the town's famous garden- and parkway "Lichtentaler Allee", the market stretches from the start of the Kurhaus Colonnade and weaves its way past the exclusive boutiques towards Baden-Baden's impressive Kurhaus building. Visitors will be enchanted by small streets lined with festive stalls, where the romantic atmosphere is heightened by thousands of shimmering Christmas lights. As well as carousels for the children, visitors can expect a rich offering of Christmas arts and crafts on more than 90 stalls as well as in the exclusive boutiques in the Kurhaus Colonnades. The "Christkindelsmarkt" is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (22 November from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., 24 December from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
Bamberg Christmas Market
Christmas markets come in two guises in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Bamberg: the traditional Christmas market and the delightful medieval Christmas market in the authentic setting of Alte Hofhaltung Palace. Follow the popular Bamberg Nativity Trail to see around 40 nativity scenes located throughout the town and at the Christmas market. The 2011 Christmas market is open 29 November - 23 December. Monday - Saturday 09:00 - 20:00 and Sunday 11:00 - 20:00.
The Medieval Christmas market historically begins about the first weekend in December and continues for approximately 10 days - open daily 11:00 - 20:00.
Frankfurt Christmas Market
26 November – 23 December 2012
Frankfurt has one of Germany's oldest and largest Christmas markets; its history can be traced back to 1393. The elaborate and creative stand decorations, the scenic surroundings of the Römerberg and Paulsplatz and the huge christmas tree also make it one of Germany's most beautiful.
After the official opening ceremony on 26 November at 17:00hrs on the Römerberg stage, the market takes place on Römerberg, Paulsplatz und Mainkai (Main quay), Monday - Saturday 10:00 - 21:00 hours and Sunday 11:00 - 21:00 hours. Advent concerts known as "International Christmas" happen every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 17:10 hrs. on a stage on the Römerberg.
"Brenten," "Bethmaennchen" and "Quetschemaennchen" - miniature candy figures - are three typical Frankfurt biscuits that you can buy at the Christmas market. In former times, large quantities were produced in the bourgeois homes of the city center. The 19th-century suitor customarily sent a packet of this popular confectionery to the object of his desires. If she kept this present, the admirer could hope to continue his advances. If she did not, it served as a notice for the suitor to abandon his efforts. One of the greatest fans of Frankfurt Christmas confectionery was the renowned Frankfurt-born author and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. During his tenure as privy councillor in the faraway city of Weimar, he would regularly receive Christmas parcels from his mother containing his favourite Frankfurt treats.
Hameln Christmas Market
26 November – 23 December 2012
Hameln, 45 minutes south of Hannover, is the Pied Piper's home town, which adds a genuine fairytale quality to its romantic Christmas market, one of the smaller Christmas markets in Germany. The market takes place in the medieval Old Town where 70 festively decorated wooden huts all clustered around the Wedding House, the Market Church and around the picturesque old quarter with its lovingly restored timber-framed houses and grand Weser Renaissance buildings. Here you can browse a wide assortment of gifts and handicrafts, and enjoy hot food and mulled wine.
Highlights of Hameln's Christmas market are the Christmas pyramid, which stands at eleven meters, and the historical Hochzeitshaus (wedding house), which is transformed into a giant, illuminated advent calendar. At the Hameln glassblowing works, children and grown-ups can make their own Christmas baubles under the watchful eye of the glassblowers. A Christmas cruise on the Weser river really captures the magic of the season.
Heidelberg Christmas Market
25 November - 22 December 2011
The Christmas market is open daily 11:00 - 21:00
A sparkling fairytale Christmas awaits the visitor in the Heidelberg Old Town. Enjoy an advent stroll through the Old Town and discover not only picturesque alleyways and famous sights but also some 140 stalls selling enchanting gift ideas. There are stands offerering Christmas specialties on five squares throughout the Altstadt: Bismarckplatz, Anatomiegarten, Universitätsplatz, Kornmarkt and Marktplatz (the market square). All of these venues are easily accessible on foot.
For the romantic, the festive market inauguration by the Heidelberg Christ Child on 25 November at 17:00 hrs should not be missed. The Christ Child greets visitors from near and far at the City Hall (Rathaus - Marktplatz).
The delicious smells of such culinary specialities as mulled wine, baked apples, gingerbreads, the "Christstollen" - a special Christmas cake, and the famous grilled sausages draw people from around the city. Entertainment includes all kinds of rides and seasonal music.
Christmas on Ice - an open-air skating rink on the Karlsplatz - is fun for everyone from 26 November 2011 - 4 January 2012, daily from 10:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.* (Dec 24 closed, Dec 25 – 26 12:00 – 9:30)
Homburg Christmas Village - Homburger Weihnachtsdorf
9 December - 30 December 2011, on Christian-Weber-Platz, 66424 Homburg.
On sale are wooden toys, Christmas tree decorations, candles, ceramic, pottery and glass items, plus Christmas goodies to eat and drink. There's also a 30 m long toboggan run with artifical snow - not just for kids. Christmas and seasonal music played and sung by local musicians add to the festive atmosphere. This year’s Christmas market ends on Friday 31 December with an open air Silvester (New Year’s) party with the Bavarian party band Frontal. The market is open Monday - Wednesday: 11:00 - 21:00; Thursday - Saturday: 11:00 - 22:00; Sunday:14:00 - 20:00. 24 December 09:00 - 14:00; Closed on 25 and 26 December.
Kaiserslautern Christmas Market
21 November - 22 December 2012
Monday-Wednesday: 10:00 - 21:00, Thursday - Saturday: 10:00 - 22:00; Sunday: 13:00 - 21:00
Thousands of golden lights on Schillerplatz square and around the Gothic collegiate church create a festive atmosphere and signal the start of the Christmas season in Kaiserslautern. At the traditional Christmas market, there are plenty of culinary specialities to try or you can browse for the perfect gift. You'll discover an endless choice of delicious gingerbread, fine honeys and tea varieties. What's more, the fun lasts longer here than usual: the Silvestermarkt from 27 to 30 December features performances of seasonal music and craft demonstrations. The cosmopolitan 'culture market' at Fruchthalle hall features different exhibitors from all corners of the globe. Here you'll find a colorful array of ponchos from Bolivia, batik textiles from Senegal and saris from Sri Lanka. Artists from Saint-Quentin and Silkeborg, both twinned with Kaiserslautern, will also be exhibiting works. You'll discover a real treasure trove of exquisite jewellery, quirky accessories, glass, flowers and, of course, Christmas decorations.
The Crafts Market in the Fruchhalle is open daily from 12:00 - 19:00. When a concert is taking place in the Fruchthalle, the times of opening will be extended until the beginning of the concert.
29 November - 23 December 2012
Monday - Friday: 11:00 - 20:30; Saturday & Sunday 11:00 - 21:00
St. Martin's Cathedral in Mainz has been the historical backdrop for the St. Nicholas Market on the Market Square in Mainz since 1788. More than 100 stalls present a range of Christmas specialities and original presents. From Höfchen to Liebfrauenplatz, beneath a canopy of glittering lights, all you can see are smiling faces as people stroll around enjoying the festive fun. The nativity scene carved from limewood with its life-size figures and the eleven-meter Christmas pyramid are two of the most popular attractions. A seasonal program of music, entertainment and traditional carol singing features on the Christmas stage.
Mannheim Christmas Market
28 November - 23 December 2012, daily from 11:00 – 21:00
Mannheim’s Christmas market is one of Germany’s biggest and best, attracting many thousands of visitors each year. The Mannheim Christmas market is centrally located, offering Christmas flair all around the historic water tower (Wasserturm) and right beside the equally historic Jugendstil gardens. Children will enjoy merry-go-rounds, a giant wheel and a children’s railway.
A stroll along narrow lanes known by romantic names such as Engelsgasse (Angel’s Lane) or Hirtengasse (Shepherd's Lane) is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit. Around 200 booths are lovingly decorated to look like little wooden houses where visitors will find a huge selection of gifts including handcrafts from all over the world, seasonal decorations and delicious food and drinks. More info . . .
Munich Christmas Market
26 November - 24 December 2012
Munich's main Christmas Market is held on Marienplatz in the heart of the city center from 25 November - 24 December. The market is open Monday - Friday 10:00 - 20:30; Saturday 09:00 - 20:30; Sunday 10:00 - 19:30; 24 December 10:00 -14:00. On sale are traditional Bavarian Christmas gifts, including wood carvings from Oberammergau, gingerbread (Lebkuchen) from Nuremberg and glassware from the Bavarian Forest. Music lovers will enjoy an Alpine concert on the balcony of Munich’s town hall (Rathaus); the concert takes place daily from 17:30 - 18:00.
The Kripperlmarkt (or Crib Market), one of the largest in Germany to specialise in cribs and other nativity accessories, is a short walkaway on nearby Rindermarkt. From the lantern for the manger to fodder for the ox and donkey, from beaming cherubs to the gifts of the Magi, the market has all you need to create an authentic manger, the Kripperlmarkt has all you need to create an authentic manger. Christmas mangers, cribs and nativity scenes have long been a tradition in Munich. The Jesuits first set up a manger in St Michael’s church in 1597. The first Kripperlmarkt Christmas market took place in 1757.
If you are interested in mangers, be sure to look in on the historical manger in the Town Hall’s Court of Ceremonies, created by the Munich artist Reinhold Zellner in 1953.
There are many other smaller Christmas Markets located throughout Munich, including a Medieval Christmas Market with gospel singing on Wittelsbacher Platz and Pink Christmas, a gay Christmas Market on Stephansplatz.
30 November - 24 December 2012
This delightful Christmas city with its magical atmosphere has much to see, do and experience: enchanting Christmas concerts in the churches, traditional Nativity scenes in the baroque church of St. Egidien and in Spitalgasse, an exhibition of historical market stalls in the town hall, the Christmas market for children on Hans Sachs square and the 'star' theatre at St. Katharine's Abbey. Other highlights are the international market on Rathausplatz featuring Nuremberg's twin towns, arts and crafts in the Handwerkerhof, a torchlit procession to the castle, the 'Christmas cinemas' and rides in a horse-drawn mail coach. The Christmas Angel appeals daily at 3pm from Tuesday to Friday and at the Christmas market for children at 2.30pm.
The Nürnberg Christkindlesmarket is probably Germany's most famous Christmas market; with its traditional flair it has been a model for many other Christmas markets and has also been much in demand as a picturesque backdrop for TV productions. At 5.30 p.m. on the Friday before the first Advent Sunday, the Christmas Angel declares the market open, reciting the solemn prologue from the gallery of the church of Our Lady. And as every year, by Christmas Eve, more than two million visitors from all over the world will have sampled the delights of Nürnberg’s Christmas Market.
About 180 wooden stalls, festooned with red-and-white cloth, have given the Christmas Market its name of "Little Town from Wood and Cloth." Approximately 200 stall holders present their traditional wares: Nuremberg spicy gingerbread, fruit loaves, bakery goods and sweets, typical Christmas articles such as Christmas tree angels, cribs, Christmas tree ornaments and candles, toys as well as arts and crafts products. Favorite souvenirs include "Nuremberg Plum People", little figures made from prunes. And by way of refreshments, there are always bread rolls with Nuremberg roast sausages and mugs of mulled wine.
German-American Christmas Market at Pullman City
7-9; 14-16; 21-23 December: German-American Christmas Market
24 December: Christmas Party in the Black Bison Saloon
31 December: New Year’s Party in the Music Hall with sekt, buffet and live bands followed by fireworks
A German-American Christmas Market, a Christmas parade with the Snow Queen, Old Father Frost, Christmas witches, a Christmas crib with real animals, Santa Claus, the three wise men, live music, Christmas lights, a gigantic Christmas tree on Main Street, pony rides, children can help bake Christmas cookies ... there are many good reasons for visiting Pullman City at Christmas time.
Pullman City’s German-American Christmas Market is open every weekend during advent. Christmas market booths are open Fridays from 16:00-21:00; Saturdays from 11:00-21:00 and Sundays from 11:00-20:00. Everyone gets in for free on Fridays, children get in for free every day, adults pay €3.50 on weekends but this includes a glass of Glühwein (hot mulled wine) or alcohol-free punch.
Pullman City Western Town, Ruberting 30, 94535 Eging am See • Tel. 08544 - 97490
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
30 November - 23 December 2012
Monday - Thursday: 11.00 - 19.00; Friday & Saturday: 11.00 - 20.00; Sunday: 10.00 to 19.00
Rothenburg really comes into its own at Christmas. The Reiterlesmarkt, in its idyllic setting between the town hall and St. Jacob's Church, is acknowledged as one of Germany's prettiest Christmas markets. Readings of Christmas stories and special deals at hotels and guest houses are just two of the many reasons to start planning your trip. There are activities for kids at the 'gingerbread house' and they can join the children's lantern procession. Rothenburg's Christmas market is an enchanted winter wonderland that lasts all the way into the new year. The town also has a Christmas Museum that's open all-year-round.
Numerous cultural events are held in conjunction with Rothenburg’s market. The highlight of the market, however, is the appearance of the "Rothenburger Reiterle" who also gave this market its name. The historical origin of the "Reiterle" (rider) lies buried in the dim and distant past. Our ancestors believed that they were messengers from another world, who in wintertime floated through the skies with the souls of the dead. But the image of this mythical character has changed over the centuries. Where people used to tremble in fear before this eerie figure, today, young and old look forward to his return. The wild horseman has become a friendly messenger.
Today too, the narrow and winding streets and the squares around the town hall, archways and the marketplace are still lined with stalls where one can find everything the heart and taste buds desire: old German Christmas pastries, "white" mulled wine, large or small handcrafted treasures as souvenirs or gifts. On Fridays and Saturdays until 8 pm you can enjoy the marvelous view over the "Reiterlesmarkt" from the town hall tower. Or you can maybe hear the "call of the night watchman."
Strasbourg, Capital of Christmas
24 November to 31 December 2012
Yes, we know Strasbourg is in France, but it's an easy day trip from south-west Germany and well worth the journey.
Strasbourg Christmas Market - known as Christkindelsmärik in the Alsatian dialect - is the biggest Christmas market in France and attracts over 1.6 million visitors who enjoy Christmas shopping in some excellent shops and the festive atmosphere of several Christmas markets.
Strasbourg has been holding its Christmas market around its impressive cathedral since 1570. There are hundreds of stalls selling speciality food and drink, including gingerbread, spiced sausages and vin chaud (mulled wine).
In the historic heart of the city in Petite France; from the Place de la Cathédrale to Place Broglie, from Place Kléber where the Christmas Tree majestically towers over shoppers, to Place d’Austerlitz, transformed into a “Forêt de Délices” (Forest of Delights), tastes and scents mingle with Christmas music.
There are several themed markets:
• The Christmas Market, place de la cathédrale, place du château and place d'Austerlitz
• The flavours of Alsace, on the Place des Meuniers
• The trading post of the Three Kings, Place Benjamin Zix
• The Carré d’Or, Place du Marché-neuf, with the Carré d’Or Traders’ Association
• The Bredle Market and the Kingdom of the « Couronne d’Or » Wine Growers, Place d'Austerlitz
• The Christmas regional specialities and crafts markets, on the Place de la Gare in front of the railway station
• The Village of Sharing, Place Kléber
• The Russian Village, Place Gutenberg
Stuttgart Christmas Market
28 November - 23 December 2012
With a tradition going back more than 300 years, Stuttgart invites you to one of the biggest and most splendid Christmas markets in Germany, 23 November - 23 December from Monday through Saturday 10.00 - 21.00; Sunday 11.00 - 20.00. The Christmas lights sparkle, the smells of cinnamon and vanilla, bratwurst and mulled wine are in the air and Christmas music sounds from every corner. The festively illuminated city center – with its medieval flair due to the Old Castle, the towers of the Collegiate Church and the grand Baroque New Castle – forms a wonderful backdrop for the Stuttgart Christmas Festival.
Visitors will enjoy strolling round 200 splendidly decorated stands with their lovingly decorated wooden roofs.
The history of the Stuttgart Christmas Market can be traced back to 1692 and has since established itself as one of the most popular Christmas markets for visitors from all over the world.
27 November - 23 December 2012
Monday - Thursday 10:30 - 21:00; Friday - Saturday 10:30 - 21:30; Sunday: 12:00 - 21:00
Lights shaped like the lilies on the city's coat of arms, a splendidly decorated Christmas tree, festive aromas and Christmas music set the scene for Wiesbaden's annual Christmas market. Called the Sternschnuppenmarkt, it is set on picturesque Schlossplatz square against the backdrop of the old and new town hall and Hessen's regional assembly building.
Four gates in the shape of lilies form the entrances to this fairytale scene. The oriental-style stalls decked out in blue and gold are a treasure trove of arts and crafts, some locally made. There's a wide range of products to choose from, including olive wood items, honey specialities, hand-blown glass art and sweet treats from the world's greatest confectioners. Kids are not the only ones whose eyes will light up at the sight of the old-fashioned carousels, the children's railway and life-size, wooden Nativity scene. Another big attraction is 'Eiszeit' (ice age). This 800 square meter ice rink, located at "Warmer Damm" behind the Hessian State Theatre offers ice skating, curling and much more besides.
30 November - 23 December 2012
Würzburg's Christmas market, one of the prettiest and most atmospheric in Germany, is set against the picturesque backdrop of the market square with Falkenhaus mansion and St. Mary's Chapel. Discover authentic, locally made items and enjoy seasonal food and drink in friendly and traditional surroundings. An artists' Christmas market is held on weekends in the town hall courtyard. Journey back to bygone days at the medieval Christmas market at Marienberg Citadel, which features a Nativity play from the 14th century.