• 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
Wolf spotted in North Rhine-Westphalia
File photo: DPA

Wolf spotted in North Rhine-Westphalia

Camera traps have spotted a wolf for the second time in a month in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state environment ministry reported on Friday. READ  

German ranchers murdered in Paraguay
Paraguayan police on patrol in an area known to contain EPP rebels. File photo: DPA

German ranchers murdered in Paraguay

The Foreign Ministry in Berlin confirmed that two Germans living in Paraguay were kidnapped and killed earlier this week. READ  

AfD braces for busy conference weekend
"Vote AfD!" reads the flyover message. Photo: DPA

AfD braces for busy conference weekend

As leaders of the Germany's anti-Euro upstart party Alternative for Germany (AfD) prepare for its party conference this weekend, the potential for chaos is rising. READ  

Sudden dose of winter causes traffic chaos
Snow in Oberharz. Photo: DPA

Sudden dose of winter causes traffic chaos

UPDATE: Two people were rescued from avalanches as a blast of winter has taken Germany by surprise, while snow and ice accounted for several traffic accidents across the country on Friday. READ  

BND collects 220 million phone records a day
Photo: DPA

BND collects 220 million phone records a day

Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) collects 220 million pieces of information about foreign phone calls and SMS every day, Zeit Online reported on Friday. READ  

U-turn on minimum wage for foreign drivers
Photo: DPA

U-turn on minimum wage for foreign drivers

Germany temporarily hit the brakes Friday on applying its new minimum wage to foreign truck drivers transiting the country in a move welcomed by Poland, which vigorously opposed the system. READ  

Crises make Germany EU foreign policy leader
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: DPA

Crises make Germany EU foreign policy leader

Foreign policy think-tank the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) gave Germany top marks in its annual check-up of EU member states released on Thursday. READ  

Prost! Beer sales hop up for first gain in 8 years
Photo: DPA

Prost! Beer sales hop up for first gain in 8 years

New figures released Friday by federal statistics office Destatis are numbers breweries can drink to, as German beer consumption saw its first year-on-year rise since 2006. READ  

Germany has thousands of uni spots open
Photo: DPA

Germany has thousands of uni spots open

New research published by Spiegel on Friday shows that there are thousands of university placesa unoccupied across the country, while certain hot spots cope with too much demand. READ  

Borussia coach admits to 'downward spiral'
Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp at a press conference. Photo: DPA

Borussia coach admits to 'downward spiral'

Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp admits feeling the pressure as his side resume their fight to stay in Germany's top flight on Saturday at fellow Champions League side Bayer Leverkusen. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
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

3,969
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd