• Germany edition
 
Step back in time at ye merry olde Christmas market
Photo: DPA

Step back in time at ye merry olde Christmas market

Published: 08 Dec 2011 07:29 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Dec 2011 07:29 GMT+01:00

Every holiday season, costumed traders descend upon the charming town of Esslingen for its annual Christmas market, bringing with them the sights, smells and tastes of the Middle Ages.

First invited back in 1998, these woollen-garbed traders have helped the market grow in size and popularity. Located just outside Stuttgart, Esslingen’s mediaeval city centre offers the ideal backdrop for the mediaeval spectacle, playing host to merry merchants, minstrels, wenches, storytellers and craftsmen.

A record one million visitors from all over the world came last year to visit both the historic Christmas market and the nearby modern counterpart. The two run concurrently, with the mediaeval traders taking up the town square and Hafenmarkt, which has the oldest row of half-timbered houses in all of Germany.

The modern Christmas market, meanwhile, is held in the town’s traditional marketplace, next to the towering St Dionysius Church. The modern market focuses on regional products, giving it an authentic Swabian feel.

“Esslingen is one of the most important mediaeval towns in all of Germany. We plan our market in the heart of our old town, which is the main reason for our great success. Everything fits together. The scenery suits the market. That’s why people like coming to Esslingen,” said Michael Metzler, head of Esslingen tourist board.

The mediaeval market is believed to be the most unique and largest of its kind in Germany. The spectacle itself is superb, with painstakingly erected wooden stalls that defy modernity with their rudimentary structures and animal skinned exteriors.

The city rejects hundreds of applications from traders each year, bringing to town the best vendors who promise to uphold the strict mediaeval guidelines for design, costume and products. This gives visitors the rare opportunity to learn what life was like for blacksmiths, candle makers, merchants, bakers, archers and knights long ago. In all, there are 180 stall holders in the combined markets.

“It’s interactive. You can come to Esslingen and experience mediaeval handiwork. You can experience ancient techniques and handiwork,” said Metzler.

Craftsmen present their calligraphy, art, pottery, leather, silver jewellery, glass blowing, woven baskets and ironware, giving visitors a real feel for these ancient professions back in the Middle Ages. The products are made in front of the throngs of shoppers on a daily basis.

Bring your taler coins, a good thirst and an appetite, because the smells alone will have you queuing for Glühwein brewed over an open flame and roasted pork direct from the spit. There’s always music playing somewhere nearby, whether it’s on an individual trader’s instrument or on one of the various stages set up to house daily concerts. Actors, dancers, jugglers, magicians and fire eaters are all at hand to please the crowds.

In all, more than 500 concerts will be offered on the various stages and throughout the town. The city aims to make this a cultural event, rather than merely a shopping opportunity. So churches and theatres around town hold events as well.

Children will love the mouse game and wooden Ferris wheel, as well as the arcade games, candle and horseshoe making, and the chance to hear fairy tales while nibbling on Stockbrot, otherwise known as bread on a stick. The modern section of the market offers more children’s amusement rides as well as a bakery where they can make gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies.

The whole family will enjoy the daily costume parade. And for those visitors seeking to warm themselves up in mediaeval style, public wooden baths are available in the Hafenmarkt, where you can feel free to soak in hot water while sipping mulled wine.

If you happen to visit the town on December 21st, be sure to stick around for the evening’s Fackelumzug, when hundreds walk with lit torches along the ancient vineyards and up to the town’s castle, where acrobats and dancers get the crowds moving and singing.

The market runs daily through December 22, from 11 am to 8:30 pm. For more information, be sure to visit the Esslingen Tourist Information at www.esslingen-tourist.de or phone them on (0711) 39 69 39 69.

Other mediaeval markets around Germany include:

Mittelalterlicher Weihnachtsmarkt zu Neu-Ulm

Wittelsbacherplatz, Mittelaltermarkt

Mittelaltermarkt Weihnachtsmarkt, Durlach: For more information, visit Karlsruhe’s tourist information

Biebesheim Rheinhalle, Mittelalterlich-Romantischer Weihnachtsmarkt

December 18-19, for more information visit Biebesheim’s tourist information

Mittelalterlicher Weihnactsmarket, Burg Herzberg

December 10-11

Mittelalterlicher Weihnachtsmarkt, Siegburg

Mittelalterlicher Weihnachtsmarkt Sulingen December 10-11

Mittelalterlicher Lichter-Weihnachtsmarkt Telgte, Planwiese

December 16 -18

Mittelalterlicher Adventsmarkt Burg Stettenfels December 17-18

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
35 hurt as trains collide in southern Germany
A Deutsche Bahn train. File photo: DPA

35 hurt as trains collide in southern Germany

Thirty-five people were injured, four of them seriously, when a passenger train collided with a freight train late Friday near Mannheim station in southern Germany, the operator Deutsche Bahn said. READ  

German hospitals ready for Ebola patients
Hamburg's UKE isolation ward is ready to take patients. Photo: DPA

German hospitals ready for Ebola patients

Germany's high-tech isolation wards remained on alert on Friday, ready to receive Ebola patients should they be required to. German airports seemed less prepared for the potential dangers of the viral epidemic, however. READ  

Two die in Bremen plane crash
The fire caused by the crash. Photo: DPA

Two die in Bremen plane crash

UPDATE: Two men died on Friday afternoon when a plane crashed in Bremen, causing a fire and a series of explosions in a warehouse near the city's airport. READ  

Merkel's party mutinies over tax cuts
Merkel in Münster last year at a meeting of her party's workers' wing. Photo: DPA

Merkel's party mutinies over tax cuts

Chancellor Angela Merkel faced a rebellion from within her own party on Friday after an unlikely coalition formed in favour of tax cuts for workers on lower incomes. READ  

Expat Dispatches
'Look at those German shanty towns!'
Kleingärten in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

'Look at those German shanty towns!'

Visitors to Germany can sometimes be confused by the country's love of allotments in cities, known as a Kleingarten. Teacher and blogger Kathleen Ralf tells us what it's all about. READ  

Lightning rods further delay Berlin Airport
Closed until further notice: Berlin's troubled new airport. Photo: DPA

Lightning rods further delay Berlin Airport

Too few lightning rods and an undersized emergency generator have prevented part of Berlin's new airport from opening. Safety inspectors refused to sign off on the airport's north pier, thwarting progress on the massively delayed construction project. READ  

Two thirds of Berlin's tourist flats now illegal
Photo: DPA

Two thirds of Berlin's tourist flats now illegal

Two thirds of Berlin's 12,000 tourist apartments advertised on sites such as Airbnb were being run illegally from Friday following a law change, leaving hosts open to potential punishment. READ  

Lost goat halts Munich Airport trains
Fritzi underneath the train. Photo: Freiwillige Feuerwehr Unterschließheim/DPA

Lost goat halts Munich Airport trains

A lost pet goat called Fritzi halted trains to Munich Airport and had to be rescued from the tracks after suffering a concussion. READ  

Germany crowned U19 European Champions
Photo: EPA/Tibor Illyes HUNGARY OUT

Germany crowned U19 European Champions

Germany’s U19 football team added to a glorious summer of sport for the country by winning the European Championships in Budapest on Thursday night. READ  

World War I anniversary
100 years ago, Germans celebrated war's outbreak
August 1914. German soldiers march off to war in France. Photo: DPA

100 years ago, Germans celebrated war's outbreak

A hundred years ago on Friday Germany declared war on Russia and was preparing for an attack on France in the hope that Britain would stay neutral. Four years on, famine was ravaging the country and two million soldiers had been killed on the battlefield. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Society
Meet the man allowed to grow his own cannabis
Photo: DPA
Society
Your lottery numbers are 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13...
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Five reasons to visit Oktoberfest (and five not to)
Photo: DPA
Society
Huge Bavarian crop circle puzzles crowds
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Have Your Say: Should Germany legalize cannabis?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Hamburg harbour lit up in blue
Business & Money
JobTalk: 'Application process is failing'
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,254
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd