Germany is the absolute leader when it comes to Christmas Markets and the numbers speak for themselves: in 2014 alone, the no. of visitors to German Christmas markets reached 270 million, more than all the remaining EU countries put together. And the same pattern emerges when you look at sales. (Source: Statista.com)
Germany must clearly be doing something right! So let’s take a look at its recipe for success and where the most charming markets can be found:
Altmarkt Square in the middle of the city center is where most of the action is! The biggest Christmas market, called Striezelmarkt, is right here and it’s definitely a must-see. This market has been around for almost 600 years, which makes it one of the oldest in Germany! It started in 1434 as a one-day market to enable citizens to buy meat after the long advent fast.
And it’s not only a Christmas tree that looms over the people and stalls, but an even taller, 14-meter high Christmas pyramid.
Be ready for crowds though, which are an inseparable part of the experience. Your only option to avoid them is to come during the workweek or stay far from Striezelmarkt.
Having said that, there are a couple other nice markets in the vicinity. If you have some extra time, go see them early and finish off at Altmarkt, as the main Christmas market is the only one that stays open late into the evening (typically 9 p.m.)
Striezelmarkt stays open for most of December, usually finishing on Christmas Eve (Dec 24).
Nuremberg is famous for its Christkindlesmarkt and is often frequented by Czechs, Austrians and Poles. Each year, the market is opened by Christkind, a ‘real’ angel. It might well be one of the most impressive Christmas market openings you’ve ever experienced. The ceremony falls on the Friday before the first Advent Sunday.
You can still run into the Christkind throughout the duration of the market – she walks around at 3 p.m. every day from Tuesday to Friday.
The market features every kind of goodie the German Christmas markets can offer – heaps of (heavy) food, handicrafts from wood and other materials, and warm alcoholic drinks like mulled wine. Taste the nice small Nuremberg sausages or a local variety of gingerbread.
You can also buy a handmade pruneman as a souvenir – a little figure made of dried plums, figs and walnuts! Fancy a football-player pruneman? Or a blacksmith pruneman? The possibilities are endless.
Visit the Christkindlesmarkt from the end of November till December 24.
Even though there are numerous Christmas markets in Munich, everybody flocks to the city center, to Marienplatz and the streets around it. There’s live music playing every evening at the Town Hall.
Another special feature of the city’s oldest Christmas market is the manger market on Neuhauser Strasse, just off Marienplatz. It’s probably Germany’s largest and if you’d like to have a nice angel in your collection, this is the place to get it.
The city market is held from the end of November till December 24.
In case you’re only connecting at the Munich airport and can’t make it to the city, you’re still able to enjoy a small-scale Christmas market there too. The airport Christmas market is on from around November 21 to December 27. The market is outside and even features an ice skating rink and a real Christmas tree.
Cologne is famous for its majestic Cathedral, so it’s no wonder the biggest Christmas markets in the city are held here. Inside, you can buy all sorts of goodies and even do some ice skating.
Cologne, however, also features a number of smaller-scale markets that might be even more special.
The LGBT community will appreciate the Christmas Avenue Market with a party and stage events. The Harbor Christmas Market, located just next to the Chocolate Museum, carries with it some maritime atmosphere thanks to the riverside location.
You can also make use of the Christmas Market Express, a little train that rides through the center of Cologne and drops you off at locations close to the various Christmas markets, letting you visit up to 4 different markets this way.
Christmas markets in Cologne start on November 23 and run for a month.
There’s plenty to choose from in Berlin’s 45 Christmas markets! No matter where you’re staying, it’s quite likely you’ll have a nice Christmas market in your vicinity; perhaps the smaller the better.
Here is a list of some pretty special Christmas markets for you:
One of the oldest markets in the city, it stands right by the majestic Gedächtnis Kirche and is surrounded by the shopping district. The contrast makes it even more charming! Come on a stroll here for ‘old-school’ Christmas decorations and mulled wine or punch.
The market typically runs from the end of November to January 1.
Right in front of the Nikolaikirche sits a traditional market, but the real specialty comes in the form of a movie! Everything here revolves around Feuerzangenbowle – a special alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. Not only will you be able to taste the traditional drink, but a movie of the same name is screened there several times a day.
Go see it between the middle of November until the beginning of January.
While not as attractive for people enthusiastic about nostalgic traditional Christmas, what emerges each year on Potsdamer Platz is quite unique. The modern quarter transforms into a real winter wonderland where one can try a myriad of winter sports: snow tubing, curling, ice-skating and such.
The traditional part is added through handicrafts, pottery and other traditional works.
The festivities in Potsdamer Platz last from the end of October till the beginning of January.
It’s so hard to pick just a few Christmas markets in Berlin! The whole of Alexanderplatz and the surrounding areas are another must-see. You can ice skate, enjoy music played by an organ and if you have the guts, take a ride on the Ferris Wheel!
Christmas markets in front of Charlottenburg palace are magical mainly thanks to the beautiful background the palace provides.
Another Ferris wheel, this one more than 100 years old, is at the Opernpalais, which hosts one of the nostalgic Christmas markets. It’s here you can find old Christmas decorations from regions across Germany, even from neighboring Czech Republic.
Being a large city, Hamburg again has several Christmas markets. The main one stands out not only thanks to the charming location encircled by the Hanseatic houses, but also thanks to a circus! Yes, you heard right. The market in front of Hamburg’s town hall is hosted by Roncalli’s Circus, and so your punch might well be served by a clown or a circus artiste!
For some Christmas atmosphere by the sea, you can head to Fleetinsel Christmas Market and experience what a calmer market is like. The atmosphere here is quite special and much more peaceful than in the city center!
St. Pauli Quarter is Hamburg’s red light district, so you can expect an X-tra special Christmas market there! Santa Pauli Christmas Market is more cheeky than vulgar, but you should check it out only if you’re travelling without children.
Most Christmas markets in Hamburg’s city center open around November 23 and stay open for a month.
The list could go on and on and on… as even smaller cities hold annual Christmas markets with unique atmospheres, traditions and handicrafts from all corners of the country. It makes me wonder – what is it that the Germans are doing so right about the markets? Who knows, perhaps it’s their diversity… In any case, they’re all worth visiting!
Have you decided to come to Germany? You might find useful also our post on What to do in Prague in winter and on Christmas. Enjoy!
Have you been to Christmas markets in Europe? How about Germany? What was your experience?