The Germans are well known for their markets around this festive time of the year, with cheerful and colourful ones sprouting up in every city and township – each with its own character. With so many markets around Germany to choose from, we’ve selected five of the best that are easily accessible.
Frankfurt am Main
It is hard to imagine that a cosmopolitan city such as Frankfurt, with its modern financial district and upmarket shopping can still hold on to the traditional values of Christmas. The city’s Christmas market is testament that it most definitely does. It’s elaborate and creative, and showcases the best crafts from in and around Frankfurt.
The market is between Römerberg and Paulsplatz, with some of the best preserved Hessen buildings in Frankfurt. For the best view of the market, climb up to the balcony of St Nicholas Church (Alte Nikolaikirche) for a panoramic view and great photo opportunities. Then, climb back down, join in the festivities with a cup of mulled wine and keep the cup as a souvenir.
Munich hosts several Christmas markets dotted around the different areas of the city. The main Munich Christmas Market is the oldest continuing market held at Marienplatz, reportedly dating back to the 14th century. Here, the market stalls surround a 100-foot Christmas tree in front of the city’s most famous landmark – the neo-gothic Old Town Hall. Around 2500 candles on the tree flicker among the lights creating a special atmosphere.
Take the opportunity to taste some Bavarian cuisine, including the silky and light weisswurst (a white sausage). When browsing the market, visit the town hall’s interior courtyard. You’ll come across the Christmas Post Office from the Christmas village of Christkindl in Austria. Send Christmas mail anywhere in the world from here in early December and have it franked with the word Christkindl (Christ-child) – a word that means something special for Christians around the world.
Germany’s harbour city is famous for its markets, which sell everything from fresh produce to fish, and at Christmas the city has no less than five festive markets to visit. Hamburg’s Rathausmarkt Christmas Market is the most popular and receives around three million visitors a year. It’s held in front of the town hall and its stall order makes it an interesting visit.
Stalls are placed in grids and ‘streets’ depending on speciality. You’ll find sweets and candies in the Naschgasse (nibbles street) and toys in the Spielzeuggasse (toy street).
Throughout the market stalls, there are historic attractions such as the Roncalli Museum to visit, and children will be especially thrilled with a visit from the flying Santa Claus, who visits the market at set times daily.
Cologne is a popular year-round destination for travellers, with its magnificent Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) positioned over the legendary Rhine river and its many fascinating museums such as the ‘Cologne’ museum. The city is famous for the scented water, for its chocolate museum (Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum) and mustard museum (Historische Senfmuehle). The city’s allure to visitors is easy to see.
Visitors flock to Cologne in their millions, especially so at Christmas when the markets open on the last Monday before Advent. Music, arts and crafts, baked goods and mulled wine can be enjoyed, accompanied by the brilliant atmosphere of a Christmas Market.
Like most other cities, Cologne also has a spread of markets across town, with the Cathedral markets the most popular and impressive. There is something really special about a Christmas market next to an impressive cathedral and Cologne also boasts possibly the largest Christmas tree in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Across town the Angel’s Christmas Market is Cologne’s oldest market. It’s held on the Neumarkt square, in the city’s shopping district. The blend of the modern boutiques and traditional market chalets is an experience in itself. The highlight of the Angel’s Christmas Market is the ‘angels’ who crisscross between the stalls sprinkling glitter and cheer.
Other markets in the city include Cologne Harbour Christmas Market, the Old Market Christmas and Christmas Market in the Stadtgarten. These are all accessible by the Christmas Market Express train.
The romantic city of Nüremberg is famous for its gingerbread and claims to have Germany’s best Christmas market. The Christkindlesmarkt, held in the Hauptmarkt (main market square), is an extremely traditional affair. Surrounded by medieval buildings, carol singers parade the streets in beautiful costumes and horse-drawn carriages roam up and down the cobbled streets in graceful strides.
The atmosphere is scented with the cinnamon and aniseed of the mulled wine, with a hint of grilled sausages to tease the appetite. In the evening, local children participate in the annual lantern procession with their homemade lanterns and you can follow them all the way to the foot of the castle.
Visiting the Nuremberg market is like being transported back in time.
The Christkindlesmarkt is also known for its efforts in sustainability. The market is powered by regenerative energy, and since 2008, the city of Nuremberg has made it its mission to ensure market activities are environmentally responsible and that many of the products are locally sourced.
More pictures from German Christmas markets
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