• Germany's news in English
 

The Local's guide to German Christmas markets

Published: 10 Dec 2012 07:30 GMT+01:00

Germany’s Christmas markets, or Weihnachtsmärkte, are world famous for their seasonal cheer. Musical programmes, parades and the unique traditions in each city make the German Weihnachtsmärkte more than just a place to buy gifts and enjoy Yuletide treats — they are long-standing cultural events, some dating back centuries.

Christmas markets typically open the last week of November and stay open until just before Christmas. Almost all markets serve Glühwein, or mulled wine, perfect for warming chilly fingers on cold winter nights. Vendors sell regional food specialties, as well as classics like the gingerbread-like Lebkuchen, roasted chestnuts, spiced almonds and sausages.

Germany’s larger cities typically host a number of markets where locals and tourists stroll past craft stalls full of hand-made nicknacks to stuff the stockings on the mantle. One of the oldest and most famous of these is the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, which gets some 2 million visitors every year.

Christkindlesmarkt, well-known for its 180 stalls and specialty sweets, dates as far back as 1628. The appearance of the Nuremberg Christmas Angel, known in German as Christkind or “Christ-child,” gives this and many other German Christmas markets the name Christkind(e)l(s)markt.

The Christmas Angel, a girl between 16 and 19-years-old, is chosen every two years by Nuremberg residents and opens the Christmas market by reciting a short speech. She also visits charities, children’s hospitals and other Christmas markets. Representing the Christ child, the Christkind was first suggested by Martin Luther to replace the Catholic gift-giving figure of Saint Nikolaus.

Bavaria’s capital Munich also has a historical Christkindlmarkt, lit by 2,500 candles that bedeck the 30-metre Christmas tree in the city centre’s famous Marienplatz. Merrymakers can try Munich’s culinary specialties such as Bratäpfel, or fried apples, and honey cake called Honigkuchen while they watch spectacles such as the Krampuslauf, when St. Nick’s trolls march through the market.

Just around the corner from Munich’s Christkindlmarkt is the Kripperlmarkt, or manger market, which features nativity scenes.

The Römerberg Weihnachtsmarkt in Frankfurt was first referred to in documents some 600 years ago. These days it receives some 3 million visitors per year. The carillon bells at Frankfurt’s Nikolaikirche can be heard three times daily during the Römerberg Christmas market, and visitors can enjoy visits from St. Nicholas and a number of choir performances.

Click here for The Local's visual guide to Christmas markets.

Berlin also offers a number of markets to choose from, with at least one in each of the city’s twelve districts. For an upscale market, the WeihnachtsZauber - which charges a small admission fee – occupies the refined Gendarmenmarkt square. Covered tents provide gourmet food specialties and pricey handmade goods - offering much more than standard kitsch.

The charming Scandinavian-influenced Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt, nestled into the courtyard of a former brewery in the gentrified former East Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg, also has a cozy atmosphere. There’s even a sauna for those who want to beat the chill alpine style.

Berlin's largest market in the Spandau district old city centre has about 200 stalls on weekdays and 400 on weekends. But the biggest attraction is a big nativity scene with live animals in front of the Nikolai church.

Hamburg also has several markets to offer. The old-fashioned Rathausmarkt, named for its location in front of town hall, is one of the most popular. Styled by a former circus director, it holds rarities like an old carnical organ, vending trolleys from the turn of the century, an art nouveau coffee house, and an 1920's merry-go-round.

Another well-known Christmas market is the Hanseatischer Weihnachtsmarkt in Hamburg’s Gänsemarkt. This market will enchant visitors with gospel choirs, literary goodies, trumpet orchestras and church services.

In Cologne, the most popular market is located in front of the city’s stunning Gothic cathedral, the Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom, which boasts the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland and a number of open-air concerts. There is also a medieval Christmas market at Cologne’s Chocolate Museum. Visitors in search of extra novelty can find it on the MS Wappen von Köln, the city’s floating Christmas market on the Rhine River.

Dresden is home to the world-renowned Striezelmarkt located near the recently restored Frauenkirche. The market is named for its traditional Christmas cake, Hefestriezel, which has come to be known as Stollen, a popular holiday treat across the country. The Stollen festival, which takes place this year on December 6 is one of the market’s highlights. Dresden also boasts the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid, celebrated this year on December 13th. Christmas pyramids – spinning towers decorated with lights and figures - originated in the Erzgebirge mountain region near Dresden.

While bigger cities have the most well-known Christmas markets, almost every German town boasts a smaller, and perhaps even more charming market, each with its own traditions and regional specialties.

Frohe Weihnachten!

Related links:

Elizabeth Norgard (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Greece crisis
Merkel to meet Tsipras at Tuesday summit
Over 60 percent of Greeks voted 'No' in the referendum. Photo: DPA

Merkel to meet Tsipras at Tuesday summit

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel is to meet Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at a eurozone summit on Tuesday to discuss new Greek reform proposals, Greek government sources said. READ  

Students fight for life after chimney plunge
The Düsseldorf Kunstakademie (Academy of Arts). Photo: DPA

Students fight for life after chimney plunge

Two students had to be rescued by fire services after falling 30 metres down a chimney at the the Dusseldorf Academy of Arts on Sunday night. READ  

July heatwave
Bavarian town roasts in record temperatures
A farmer waters strawberries near Kitzingen in Lower Franconia. Photo: DPA

Bavarian town roasts in record temperatures

The small town of Kitzingen in Bavaria registered a new record temperature for Germany, as the mercury reached 40.3 C on Sunday. READ  

Greece crisis
How will Germany react to the Greek vote?
Angela Merkel has some more sleepless nights ahead of her. Photo: DPA

How will Germany react to the Greek vote?

Now that Greeks have voted against accepting tough austerity conditions in return for a fresh tranche of bailout cash, The Local asked Professor Michael Wohlgemuth of Open Europe Berlin how Chancellor Angela Merkel, other political leaders and the German public may respond. READ  

Post strike ends Monday as agreement reached
Photo: DPA

Post strike ends Monday as agreement reached

Public sector union Verdi has reached a final agreement with Deutsche Post after a strike that lasted four weeks, meaning postal service should return to normal starting on Tuesday. READ  

Women's World Cup
Löw defends Neid as critics circle after defeat
Silvia Neid congratulates England after Germany's 1-0 defeat. Photo: DPA

Löw defends Neid as critics circle after defeat

World Cup winning coach Joachim Löw defended his female counterpart Silvia Neid on Monday after Germany fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat to England in the third place play-off of the Women's World Cup. READ  

Hamburg districts make UNESCO heritage list
An eightfold composite picture of different views of the Chilehaus (Chile House) and the Sprinkenhof in Hamburg. Photo: EPA/Christian Charisius/dpa/picture alliance

Hamburg districts make UNESCO heritage list

The UN cultural agency on Sunday designated Hamburg's historic maritime warehouse and business districts, boasting early 20th century German brick architecture, as World Heritage sites. READ  

AfD ditches Lucke as party swings to right
Frauke Petry, the new leader of the AfD. Photo: Lukas Schulze/picture alliance/dpa

AfD ditches Lucke as party swings to right

Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD) party ousted its co-founder and frontman Bernd Lucke on Saturday to elect a Frauke Petry as sole party leader, signalling a shift in focus to immigration from its anti-euro origins. READ  

Extreme heat causes Autobahn to rupture
A fissure on the Autobahn near Heidelberg. Photo: DPA

Extreme heat causes Autobahn to rupture

The heatwave sweeping across the country may have Germans flocking to the sea this weekend, but the extreme temperatures are also causing Autobahns to break apart. READ  

Nazi island resort to be turned into luxury flats
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Nazi island resort to be turned into luxury flats

A vast Nazi mega-complex meant as holiday homes for German workers and later used by the Soviets as a Cold War barracks is about to be turned into luxury flats. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
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

6,912
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd