Germany’s Christmas Markets
Germany’s Christmas Markets are something you have to experience once in a lifetime!
When most people think of top bucket list things to do in Germany, one thing springs to mind; Oktoberfest! And while that is a very (touristy) fun event that you’ll remember for years to come, there is another time of year that everyone should put on their German bucket list of travel inspiration….The famous Christmas Markets!
As the temperature starts to drop, the anticipation for the Christmas Markets begins to rise. Finally, on the first weekend of Advent, the Weihnachtmarkts begin to come to life.
As Christmas approaches, villages and towns are filled with alpine-inspired huts and stalls as Christmas music softly plays or live bands serenade guests. Snow drifts down and slowly simmers into your hot mug of Gluhwein. Twinkling lights strewn across picture-perfect cobblestoned alleyways light the way to a winter wonderland!
Nothing feels more magical than a medieval European town, nestled into the rolling hills, capped with freshly fallen snow at Christmas.
The History of a German Christmas Market
While Christmas markets can be found all over the world today, Germany is reportedly where it all began, so to say that the Germans know how to bring Christmas Cheer for all to hear, would be an understatement!
It all started in the late 1200s when towns would hold a market selling food and goods that would tie people over for the upcoming winter months. Eventually, as Christianity dominated Europe, some towns started holding special markets to sell specialty meats just a few days before Christmas.
These markets slowly evolved to a few stands popping up with items to sell like baskets or wooden toys. Eventually, these morphed into what we know as a Weihnachtmarkt, or Chirstkindlemarkt, today.
Why You MUST Visit a German Christmas Market
A Weihnachtmarkt isn’t just a destination, it’s an experience and one that barrages every single sense in your body!
Every lane of a market offers a new, delectable smell that wafts into your nose. From the candied almonds to the spiced Gingerbread, if Santa’s workshop had a smell, THIS would be it!
Your eyes will twinkle just like Chris Kringle’s, as you see all the goodies on display. You’ll find ornaments, hand made crafts, wooden toys, art pieces, and so much more to peruse. As the sun sets, the ambiance of the markets skyrockets as the soft, warm glow of all the lights cast a magical view on the stalls and village backdrops.
Whether a small speaker set inconspicuously off to the side is playing holiday music or if a live band or even children’s choir is performing from a stage or balcony high above, the sounds of Christmas music can be heard just about everywhere.
It’s near impossible to feel like a Grinch at a Christmas market!
And despite the colder days in December and the constant threat of snow, if you know how to dress for winter in Germany and are armed with a hot mug of mulled wine, suddenly the chill in the air doesn’t seem so bad, either!
And the food?? Oh my the food!!! Freshly fried crepes, piping hot mulled wines, delectable sausages…these are just the beginning of all the fantastic foods to eat at a Christmas Market!
What Christmas Markets Are the Most Bucket-List Worthy?
Just about every single city, town, and village (no matter the size) will have its own market(s). With hundreds of thousands of options, how is one to know which ones to make a top priority?
No matter what region you are visiting, you are sure to find one of the best German Christmas Markets. However, because there are just simply SO many throughout the country, if you are planning on creating your own Christmas Market tour, it’s best to just focus on one area of Germany so that you don’t spend more time in a train or car rather than enjoying each magical market.
Some of the most popular markets to explore are:
- Nuremberg’s Christkindlmarkt: Considered one of Germany’s oldest Christmas Markets
- Dresden: Believed to be the first “genuine” market
- Rothenburg ob Der Tauber: Considered THE German Christmas village!
- Cologne: Beautiful atmosphere and backdrops
- Berlin: Find over 20 markets throughout the entire city
However, with these popular markets also comes crowds. And boy do the Christmas markets get JAM PACKED! So much so, that this is the only time you may feel a little scrooge as you are elbow to elbow with strangers.
This is why, even though the big markets are absolutely noteworthy, some of the most magical ones are smaller towns and villages that aren’t swamped with tourists. Simply figure out the region you are in, or even state and Google around to see what markets are happening when you plan to be there. Just know that most of the individual villages only run a weekend or two.
If you are looking for a magical experience with both some of the most famous markets in the country as well as some truly off the beaten path local gems, this 10 Day Bavarian Christmas Market Itinerary can’t be beaten. Sure, you can find countless group tours, but taking your time, finding some quieter ones that the big buses won’t stop at, and just soaking it all in is often the much better route to go.
Getting From Market to Market
Germany’s train system is fantastic, therefore you can zip around to just about anywhere. If you plan on doing the bigger markets, you will have no issues doing your whole trip via train travel. If you want to get a bit off the beaten path, driving in Germany isn’t nearly as scary as some might feel and is a great way to get to more of the lesser-known and less touristy markets.
About the Author
Based in Regensburg, Germany, LeAnna Brown is a former teacher, current travel addict, and forever Mama. When not traveling the world with her family, she is living her best expat life in Germany. If you can’t find her at a local Christmas Market or Biergarten, then try looking for her at a German Sauna taking a “Mom’s Day.” She’s the owner of Wander in Germany, which is filled with German itineraries, travel tips, and anything else Germany travel related.
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