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State by state: Germany’s Covid rules for Christmas markets

As Germany's historic Christmas Markets are due to open all across the country, surging Covid numbers are threatening to dampen the festivities for another year in a row. Here's which markets are confirmed in each state, and what rules you need to know before you go.

Christmas Market in Bielefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia
The Christmas Market in Bielefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Friso Gentsch

Christmas in Germany doesn’t feel like Christmas until you’ve trudged around a historic square lit up by fairy lights, clutching a bag of caramelised nuts and a cup of mulled wine. With Covid infections at their height and the majority of people unvaccinated last year, however, the humble Christmas market – a staple of the German festive season – was sorely missed in 2020.

This year, as Covid cases soar once more, there’s a distinct sense of a déjà vu. But in many parts of Germany, states and cities are nevertheless giving the green light to the historic markets, and even rising infection rates won’t dampen the excitement. 

Nevertheless, if you do want to enjoy a stroll around the wooden huts again this year, you will have to observe the Covid rules, which differ across the regions. Here’s a run-down of what each of Germany’s states have said about this year’s markets, and what their plans are for keeping people safe. 

READ ALSO: Quiz: How well do you know these festive German traditions?

Baden-Württemberg: 3G with a back-up plan

This year, many of Baden-Württemberg’s famous markets will be back on the scene. So far, Freiburg, Ulm, Mannheim, Heidelberg and Karlsruhe have opened their markets, most of which will run until around December 23rd. But there will also be a few notable absences from the festive scene: Stuttgart’s Christmas markets were cancelled at short notice, as were the markets in Heilbronn, Bad Wimpfen and Sinnsheim. 

At the moment, markets that do remain open will be subject to 2G rules. This means that visitors will have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test and will then receive a stamp or wristband in order to enter the market. Their wristband or stamp will then be checked at intervals by the operators of funfair rides and the owners of stalls. 

A carousel at Heidelberg Christmas Market
A carousel at Heidelberg Christmas Market. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa | Ronald Wittek

If hospitalisation rates increase even further, Baden-Württemberg’s government will switch to a ‘2G-plus’ rule on November 24th, meaning only vaccinated and recovered people with negative Covid tests will be allowed entry to the markets.  

Bavaria: cancellations across the board

In Baden-Württemberg’s neighbouring state of Bavaria – one of the country’s Covid hotspots – state premier Markus Söder has announced sweeping cancellations of all the major Christmas markets. 

This is accompanied by closures of nightlife such as bars and clubs, as well as strict curfews and 2G rules in restaurants.

READ ALSO: Bar closures and no Christmas markets: How Bavaria is tightening Covid rules

Berlin: Mandatory 2G with masks

In the German capital, many of the city’s most iconic Christmas markets will be returning this year, including Gendarmenmarkt, Alexanderplatz, Breitscheidplatz (near Zoologischer Garten), Potsdamer Platz, Rotes Rathaus and Spandau. However, the market outside of Charlottenburg Palace was cancelled at the start of October amid concerns that vendors would be unable to sell mulled wine or other alcohol drinks thanks to ongoing Covid restrictions. 

A Christmas Tree at Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market
A Christmas Tree at Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market. The traditional event in Berlin Mitte will take place with a 2G entry policy this year. Photo: picture alliance / Stephanie Pilick/dpa | Stephanie Pilick

In light of high infection rates, the Berlin Senate has switched its policy from a choice between 2G or 3G to a mandatory 2G. That means that, in order to visit the markets at Gendarmenmarkt and Rotes Rathaus, for instance, people will need either a vaccination certificate or proof of recovery from Covid in the past six months.

As of November 27th, people will also have to wear masks at the events. 

Most of the markets will run from November 22nd to December 31st this year.

READ ALSO: Berlin allows Christmas markets to exclude unvaccinated people

Brandenburg: All markets cancelled

For long time, it appeared that the magical markets would be returning to Berlin’s surrounding state again this year, but unfortunately, the state government decided to close them at the 11th hour amid growing health and safety concerns.

Potsdam Christmas Market
Visitors peruse the stands at Potsdam Christmas Market. The event is expected to take place with few restrictions this year. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Settnik

That means that, sadly, the streets of Brandenburg towns like Potsdam, Rheinsberg and Eberswalde will once again stand empty in December – though we can hold out hope that the markets return next year. 

READ ALSO: German Advent word of the day: Der Lichterglanz

Bremen: Christmas market already open

The Christmas market in Bremen’s market square kicked off as usual on November 22nd this year, and due to the high vaccination rate and relatively low case numbers in the city state, a basic hygiene concept will be in place rather than strict entry rules.

If infections go up significantly, however, the government could switch to 3G or 2G entry policy instead. 

Hamburg: Entry policy left up to organisers 

Much like in Berlin, Hamburg is opting for flexible rules that market organisers can choose for themselves this year. That means that each Christmas market operator can choose between exclusively 2G rules, or a divided market with separate 2G and 3G areas

So far, the renowned Roncalli Christmas Market has confirmed that they will be operating with no entry restrictions to the open-air market, though visitors will be required to show either proof of vaccination or recovery to enter eating and drinking areas at the fair. Meanwhile, the “Weißer Zauber” market at Jungfernstieg and the markets at Spitalerstraße and Fleetinsel are among those that will require 2G for mulled wine stands and indoor areas, while allowing free access to other areas. 

Only the vaccinated and recovered will be able to visit the markets at Santa Pauli, Gänsemarkt and the Apostelkirche, however, since these will be using an exclusively 2G entry policy. See here for a full list of the entry rules at each market.  

Hesse: Frankfurt’s famous market returns

The Frankfurt Christmas market has been brought back to life once again after its hiatus last year, and will be running from November 22nd to December 22nd. In addition, visitors are expected to flock to the historic markets in Kassel, Bad Homburg, Michelstadt and the quaint medieval town of Schlitz, high up in the Hessian hills. However, the Christmas Market of Nations in Rüdesheim has been cancelled once again this year amid fears that Covid would destroy the festive atmosphere

Frankfurt Christmas Market
Fairy lights glisten at the Christmas Market in Frankfurt Altstadt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

There will be no general access requirements for the market in Frankfurt, though people will be expected to wear masks as they stroll around. These can, however, be taken off when standing around munching Bratwurst or sipping on a Glühwein mit Schuss

READ ALSO: German Advent word of the day: Die Vorfreude

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: Social distancing and indoor 3G/2G

In the northeastern state of Mecklenburg, Christmas markets have opened their doors to visitors, with most relying on limited visitor numbers and social distancing for outdoor spaces.

In the indoor areas of the markets in bigger Mecklenburg cities like Rostock and Schwerin, 2G will apply to indoor areas, while other markets will be applying 3G rules. 

Lower Saxony: 2G and mask-wearing rules in place

According to Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), Lower Saxony’s most popular Christmas markets are taking place with strict Covid rules in place this year.

Hannover, Hildesheim, Braunschweig, Peine, Wolfsburg und Göttingen opened their festive markets from November 22nd to December 23rd. A 2G model is in place for people who want to eat, drink or enjoy rides at the markets. It looks likely that this could be enforced by handing out wristbands in exchange for proof of recovery, test or vaccination, though different markets may opt for different systems. 

In addition, people will be expected to wear masks while browsing the stalls at the festive events, though as usual, these can be removed for eating and drinking on the spot. 

North Rhine-Westphalia: 2G or 3G?

Much like in Berlin and Hamburg, Christmas market operators will be able to decide between 2G or 3G entry rules to their events this year – though 3G should apply as a minimum for all markets that attract more than 2,500 visitors.

Duisburg has already opted for the 2G rule, meaning those without proof of vaccination or recovery will be turned away when the market runs between November 11th and December 30th. In addition, unvaccinated people will be disappointed this year if they turn up to markets in Aachen, Bochum, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mönchengladbach, where 2G rules are also set to apply.

Bielefeld Christmas Market
Bielefeld Christmas Market will take place from November 18th to December 30th this year. Photo: picture alliance / Friso Gentsch/dpa | Friso Gentsch

For a full list of the Covid rules in different cities across the state, check out this up-to-date article in the Rheinische Post. Most of the markets are running from mid-November until late December, though some are running for shorter periods of time in December. 

Rhineland-Palatinate: 2G with admission controls

It looks like many organisers inside will go for 2G with access restrictions in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, though the state government is still debating whether to make this rule obligatory across the region.

In most cases, ministers have said that mandatory masks should apply in outdoor areas where it’s impossible or difficult to socially distance. 

Mainz will probably set up three smaller areas with stalls that will be dotted around the city centre, with one of them in the historic market place in front of the cathedral. There will be several entrances with people checking vaccination and recovery certificates. 

Saarland: Wave of cancellations

Numerous markets across the western German state of Saarland have been cancelled in recent weeks, including the markets in Wadgasser, Rehlingen-Siersburg-Eimersdorf, Fraulautern, Schwalbach und Elm.

As German daily Zeit reported, Saarbrücken Christkindlmarkt is running as usual from November 22nd to December 23rd, but will strict mask-wearing rules in place and 2G in areas where food and drink is consumed. 

Saxony: Christmas markets cancelled

In Saxony, the worst-hit Covid hotspot in the country, all Christmas markets will be cancelled this year as the state government introduces a partial lockdown and curfews on the unvaccinated.

READ ALSO: German states impose Covid curfews amid soaring cases

Saxony-Anhalt: No high-percentage alcohol, no party atmosphere

According to MDR, Christmas markets will be held in Magdeburg, Wernigerode, Halberstadt, Quedlinburg, Dessau-Roßlau and Halle this year in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.

Magdeburg Christmas Market
A view of Magdeburg Christmas Market on November 25th, 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

In Halle, the stalls will be placed in several locations throughout the city in order to divide them up and allow for social distancing. Though there were won’t be any entrance controls for people wanting to visit the market, though some areas will require proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test to enter. 

In Magdeburg, the state capital, the traditional Christmas market in the city centre is running from November 22nd to December 29th, and most areas will be free for the public to access.

There will, however, be a ban on high-percentage alcohol sales – meaning Glühwein mit Schuss (mulled wine with a shot of amaretto or rum) will be off the menu in Magdeburg this year. In addition, the organisers say they’ll opt for music that won’t create too much of a ‘party’ atmosphere, which could lead to reckless behaviour on the part of guests. The market will also shut earlier than usual: at 9pm during the week and 10pm on weekends.

In Dessau, 3G entry rules will apply.

Schleswig-Holstein: Majority of markets with 2G and masks

In the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, visitors will mostly have to have their vaccination or recovery certificates at the ready if they want to enjoy the Christmas markets. 

In Lübeck, Flensburg and Neumünster, 2G rules will be in place and visitors may be subject to spot checks from the police and Ordnungsamt, which may threaten to interrupt the seasonal good cheer. Kiel will be taking a more relaxed approach, though 2G rules will still apply in indoor areas. 

According to RND, some organisers may also opt for restricted visitor numbers in order to enable people to socially distance while perusing the arts and crafts. In addition, masks will have to be worn while walking around, but can be briefly removed while eating or drinking. 

READ ALSO: What do Germans like to eat at Christmas?

Thuringia: Erfurt Christmas market to run with 2G 

After months of forward planning, the rules for Christmas markets in the eastern state of Thuringia are gradually being announced – and it looks like the organisers will be putting safety first. 

In Erfurt, the state capital, the marketplace will be fenced off to allow the Christmas market organisers to check vaccination and recovery certificates upon entry. People with negative tests will be turned away.

The market will run from November 22nd to December 23rd, and those who can enter can enjoy a taste of the good old days, with no masks or social distancing required. 

Plan ahead

If you’re planning a trip to some of the above Christmas markets this season, it may be worth doing a quick bit of research beforehand to check everything is still running as planned.

But after a year without the much beloved sparkling lights and huts, most organisers are determined to bring a bit of festive cheer back to Germany’s towns and cities this November – and we couldn’t be more excited.

Member comments

    1. Me too, but since most kids are tested 2-3 in school weekly, they will probably be exempt. It does, however, mean you will have to get your 12-17 year olds vaccinated as soon as possible to make the dates since it takes 5-6 weeks for legal fully vaccinated status. I hate the idea that we will all have to show we are vaccinated, tested, recovered AND wear masks. So ridiculous.

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Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

With infection numbers shooting up once again in Germany, states are set to bring in a new set of Covid measures on October 1st.

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of 'difficult' winter

From Saturday, masks will no longer be required on commercial flights, though people will still be expected to wear an FFP2 mask on long-distance trains.

States will also be given the option to introduce mandatory masks in other public indoor spaces, including on local public transport and in schools. If they choose to bring in masks, they’ll also have the freedom to introduce exceptions to masks for people who are recently vaccinated or who have tested negative for Covid.

States will also be able to introduce compulsory testing in schools and nurseries.

READ ALSO: German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Speaking at a press conference alongside Robert Koch Institute (RKI) chair Lothar Wieler on Friday, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach defended the decision to keep Covid rules in place when other countries in Europe have largely got rid of their pandemic measures. 

“It’s not for me to criticise what other countries are doing,” said Lauterbach. “We have a particularly difficult winter ahead of us due to the energy crisis, we don’t want to make it worse through the Covid crisis.”

The SPD politician also defended plans for mandatory masks for residents and staff in nursing and care homes. Having 40 or 50 vulnerable people together in an enclosed space is “extremely high-risk”, he said. 

Under the new rules set to be introduced on Saturday, residents of care homes will be expected to wear FPP2 masks in all common areas of the home, and will only be able to take them off in their bedrooms.

“For people in nursing homes, the FFP2 mask requirement means a considerable cut in their quality of life,” Regina Görner, chairwoman of the Federal Association of Senior Citizens’ Organisations (Bagso), told DPA:

“The nursing home is their home, in which they can then no longer move freely without a mask.”

Visitors to nursing homes, meanwhile, will have to supply a negative Covid test, while staff will be tested three times a week. 

Under the autumn and winter rules, people across Germany will also be required to wear an FFP2 mask at their doctor’s surgery and in medical outpatient facilities such as hospitals.

“We’re better prepared than last autumn,” Lauterbach told reporters on Friday. “We have the infection numbers under control, we have this wave under control.” 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

Steep rise in cases

As the weather turns colder, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has reported a steep rise in respiratory infections, including Covid-19.

Last week, the number of Covid patients jumped dramatically from 500,000 to 1.2 million per week, with cases rising significantly in every age group.

Meanwhile, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people shot up from 409 on Thursday to 466 on Friday. The previous week, the weekly incidence stood at 294 per 100,000 people. 

The numbers are believed to be partially inflated by the ongoing Oktoberfest beer festival, which is being held for the first time since the pandemic started. In Munich, the location of the festival, the weekly incidence is almost 800. 

Speaking at the press conference in Berlin on Friday, RKI chair Wieler warned people not to get complacent about the threat of infection.

“A mild course of illness simply means not ending up in hospital,” he said. “We should be conscious of how much risk we want take on, and how much risk we can avoid.”

RKI chief Lothar Wieler

Robert Koch Institute chair Lothar Wieler (l) and Heath Minister Karl Lauterbach (r) hold a press conference in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Despite the looming energy crisis, the RKI boss advised the public to ensure that rooms were well ventilated, adding that spaces normally occupied by a large number of people should be aired out more regularly.

He also advised people with Covid symptoms to stay home until they felt better in order to avoid passing on any infections, and warned that people should be especially careful to avoid contact with vulnerable people.

“Just like before, these people need our solidarity,” he said. 

Self-isolation and quarantine rules vary from state to state, but people who test positive for Covid generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10.

In some cases, people can take an additional Covid test in order to end their isolation early.

The RKI has also recommended that people wear a mask in public enclosed spaces. 

READ ALSO: What will the Covid situation in Germany look like this autumn?