• Germany's news in English
 
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
The Dresden Striezelmarkt covered in fresh snow! Photo: DPA

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
Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'
Photo: DPA

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Thursday that sanctions against Russia remain "unavoidable" until Ukraine regains its sovereignty and independence. READ  

Reus fined €500k for no driving licence
Photo: DPA

Reus fined €500k for no driving licence

Germany and Dortmund football star Marco Reus was hit by a €540,000 fine Thursday, after state prosecutors in Dortmund confirmed he has been driving for years without a licence. READ  

British and German troops relive Xmas truce
Soldiers in World War One period uniforms watch the football match. Photo: DPA

British and German troops relive Xmas truce

Teams from the British and German armies played a friendly football game in Aldershot on Wednesday in memory of the Christmas truce of 1914. READ  

American guilty of killing Hamburg student
Diren Dede's grieving parents outside the court in Missoula Photo: DPA

American guilty of killing Hamburg student

A US court has found a man who shot and killed 17-year old German exchange student Diren Dede guilty of deliberate homicide. READ  

Cabinet agrees road toll for foreigners from 2016
Photo: DPA

Cabinet agrees road toll for foreigners from 2016

After months of bickering among the coalition parties, the cabinet finally agreed to put a road toll for foreigners before parliament, but open questions about its financial viability and legality remain. READ  

Over half of Christmas trees carry pesticides
Ordinary people might soon be copying this contestant in last January's Christmas tree-throwing contest in Swabia. Photo: DPA

Over half of Christmas trees carry pesticides

Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) said that it found poisonous chemicals in more than half of German Christmas trees it had tested. READ  

'Breakthrough' in train strike: union
Stranded passengers during the train strike Photo: DPA

'Breakthrough' in train strike: union

The head of the train drivers union GDL claimed a "breakthrough" late Wednesday in talks with Deutsche Bahn, which may herald the end of a spate of train strikes which have caused travelling misery and cost the rail operator around 100 million euros. READ  

Opinion
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
The baroque skyline of Dresden Photo: DPA

What does Dresden have against Muslims?

The Pegida movement (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) was unknown three months ago. Now it's making Dresden famous - for all the wrong reasons. READ  

Amazon strike extended to Saturday
Workers at the Amazon distribution centre in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

Amazon strike extended to Saturday

Union Verdi announced on Wednesday that its members at two Amazon distribution centres would extend a planned three-day strike through the rest of the week, while four more sites saw new walkouts. READ  

Russia in clear over death of German MP
The late German parliamentarian Andreas Schockenhoff Photo: DPA

Russia in clear over death of German MP

A post-mortem on a prominent German MP and critic of Vladimir Putin showed no signs of foul play, prosecutors said Wednesday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate (IB) students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
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
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
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

3,167
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd