• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Your guide to German Christmas markets

Elizabeth Norgard · 3 Dec 2014, 11:30

Published: 26 Nov 2013 08:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 03 Dec 2014 11:30 GMT+01:00

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

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 treats to stuff the stockings. One of the oldest and most famous of these is the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, which gets some two million visitors every year.

Christkindlesmarkt, well-known for its 180 stalls and specialty sweets, dates to 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 aged 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 three 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 Gendarmenmarktsquare. 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 is 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 carnival organ, vending trolleys from the turn of the century, an art nouveau coffee house, and a 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.

Story continues below…

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 6th 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 theErzgebirge 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!

READ MORE: Germany's weirdest Christmas markets

Related links:

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Elizabeth Norgard (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Dresden 'most woman-friendly’ city in Germany
Photo: DPA.

Sorry Berlin, you're not the most progressive city for women, according to a new report.

The future belongs to these 10 German regions
This east German city won the 'most improved' category. Photo: DPA

A new study shows that one city above all will dominate the future of Germany, but if you're canny you might still want to think about moving to Leipzig or Erfurt.

Fugitive ex-terrorists 'on huge crime spree' in north Germany
(L-r): ex-RAF members Volker Staub, Daniela Klette, and Burkhard Garweg. Photo: BKA

In their struggle against capitalism they once murdered businessmen and politicians. Now three ex-terrorists have taken to robbing supermarkets - and rather successfully, too.

Scooter singer finally reveals how much the fish cost
H.P. Baxxter. Photo: DPA

It is the question Germans have wanted to know the answer to for almost two decades - and now they have the answer, thanks to a US talkshow host.

'I'm definitely not a paedophile': disgraced MP
Former MP Sebastian Edathy is in hiding after a child pornography scandal destroyed his career. Photo: DPA

Former MP Sebastian Edathy quit his job and left Germany after videos of naked children were found on his computer.

Weekend promises storms, humidity - and a bit of sun
A storm in Cuxhaven last weekend. Photo: DPA

The forecast for the coming days isn’t the pristine blue skies many of us are longing for. But, in among the storms, the sun will still peek out.

Prosecutors take aim at unedited Hitler book
An original edition of 'Mein Kampf' featuring a photo of Hitler on an inside cover. Photo: DPA

German prosecutors said on Thursday they were investigating whether to bring charges against a publisher who has promised to print a version of Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic manifesto "Mein Kampf" without annotations.

VW bets on battery factory for electric car dominance
A VW logo is seen in front of a plugged-in electric car. Photo: DPA

Scandal-hit car giant Volkswagen is set to sink huge sums into building a factory for batteries to power its future electric cars, German media reported on Friday.

Raging ticket controller seizes Chinese traveler's passport
File photo of a plainclothes ticket controller. Photo: DPA.

Germany's national rail operator is in hot water after a ticket controller reacted aggressively to a newly arrived Chinese traveler who made one of the most basic transit mistakes: forgetting to stamp her ticket.

Berlin politician crusades for health of skateboarding dog
File photo: DPA

Can a canine enjoy skateboarding? That's the question Berlin politicians are struggling to address in a row over a dog on four wheels.

Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Society
Pegida enraged by black children on chocolate bars
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
National
Monsanto takeover would be 'diabolical': environmentalists
Lifestyle
10 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
Politics
MP recites explicit Erdogan bestiality poem on live TV
National
China beats Germany in readiness to help refugees
Hamburg
Headless Lübeck corpse turns out to be discarded sex doll
National
Pensioner claims to have found hidden Nazi nukes
Business & Money
Here's why Munich is worth 20 times more than Berlin
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that will stay with you forever
Technology
Church plans to connect with faithful at Wi-Fi 'Godspots'
Technology
Online hate speech can cost users thousands of Euros
Society
Bavarians in rush for non-lethal weapons licenses
Sport
Here's Germany's Mannschaft for Euro 2016
Culture
The Syrian pianist playing his way into Germans' hearts
The parrot who flew fast enough to trigger a speed camera
Technology
New law could let free Wi-Fi bloom across Germany
Politics
Berlin's plans to beef up the German army
Sport
Lufthansa's Euro 2016 ad takes aim at England
National
Supermarkets must pay massive fine for fixing beer prices
National
4/20: Five things to know about weed in Germany
Berlin
Police break up hipster swarm at vegan restaurant opening
7,862
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd