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DISCOVER GERMANY

Seven unmissable Christmas markets that open this week in Germany

Following two winters of fully or partially closed Christmas markets, Germany’s famous 'Weihnachtsmärkte' are opening their doors again - and are mostly free of restrictions. Here are seven you won't want to miss.

Dresden Striezelmarkt
The illuminated entrance to Dresden's historic Striezelmarkt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

While some are limiting their opening hours in order to save on electricity costs, it’s again possible to gather in a group with a steaming glass of Glühwein, or sift through the many stands selling homemade goods and sweets, be it Lebkuchen (gingerbread) or gebrannte Mandeln (roasted almonds, usually laced with cinnamon and sugar).

While some Christmas markets have become more commercial in recent years (we don’t recommend to head to Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz as your only Weihnachtsmarkt stop), there are still many that retain a traditional character, serving up local specialties in a gemütlich (cozy) atmosphere. 

Here are seven of our top recommendations of top markets starting the week of November 21st.

Streizelmarkt, Dresden, November 23rd-December 24th

No Christmas Market list would be complete without the Streizelmarkt – Germany’s oldest Christmas market in the “Florence on the Elbe”.

This market, situated in Dresden’s charming city centre, first took place in 1434, and since then it has acquired quite a reputation. The ancient festival is home to the tallest Christmas pyramid in the world, as well as its largest nutcracker.

Amongst the dozens of traditional stands, visitors to this market must also indulge themselves with a Dresdner Christstollen: the famous fruit loaf that is baked according to a traditional recipe with chopped dried and candied fruits, nuts and spices and dusted with powdered sugar.

Visitors can also take a ride on the historic Ferris wheel and gaze down upon the lovingly decorated huts of the Striezelmarkt.

READ ALSO: The secrets behind Stollen, Germany’s beloved holiday treat

Mainzer Weihnachtsmarkt, November 24th-December 24th

Recently crowned Germany’s ‘most dynamic city’, Mainz also boasts a fascinating history stretching back over a thousand years. It is also known for one of Germany’s most charming old towns, making it the perfect setting for this market. 

Visitors can’t miss the eleven-metre high, ornately decorated Christmas pyramid, which lights up the entrance. Just a few steps away, hand-carved, life-size nativity figures glow in front of the Gotthard Chapel of the famous St. Martin’s Cathedral.

READ ALSO: The unlikely place crowned ‘Germany’s most dynamic city’

Medieval Market and Christmas Market, Esslingen, November 22nd-December 22nd

The Medieval Market and Christmas Market in Esslingen in Baden-Württemberg, with its backdrop of medieval half-timbered houses, offers visitors a trip back in time, with traders and artisans showing off their goods from times gone by.

The stands show off the wares of pewterers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, broom makers and glass blowers, as well as some old-fashioned merchants selling fun themed goods like drinking horns and “potions” in bottles. 

Esslingen Christmas market

Crowds of visitors peruse the stalls at Esslingen Christmas market. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jan-Philipp Strobel

Christkindlesmarkt, Augsburg November 21st to December 24th

With its origins in the 15th century, the Christkindlesmarkt in Augsburg is one of the oldest in Germany, and the Renaissance town hall provides a particularly beautiful backdrop to this winter wonderland.

As well as a wide variety of stands selling handcrafted nicknacks and tasty treats, the Augsburg market also has some especially magical features, including the “Heavenly Post Office,” and “Fairytale Lane”: an animated fairytale depicted in ten scenes in decorated shop windows around the marketplace.

Maritime Christmas Market on the Koberg, Lübeck, November 21st-December 30th

Centred around the gothic, middle-aged church of St. Jacob, this market in the so-called “Christmas city of the north” celebrates the city’s historical sea-faring residents by creating a cosy harbour atmosphere with old wooden barrels, nets and a stranded shipwreck as well as a Ferris wheel with an unforgettable view of Lübeck’s old town and harbour.

Culinary stands offer visitors sweet and savoury dishes, and beverages such as hot lilac punch, mulled wine and, of course, rum.

Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt, November 22-December 22nd

It may come as a surprise to some that this Christmas market in the lesser known eastern German state of Thuringia consistently tops lists of the country’s (and even Europe’s) best Christmas markets. 

The enchanting Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt encompasses over 200 stands, many of which sell local culinary specialties such as the Thüringer Bratwurst. There’s also a particularly large selection of arts and crafts, be it pottery or folk art from the nearby Ore Mountains. Kids will especially enjoy riding on the glowing Ferris wheel with its panoramic views of the Medieval Old Town. 

Christmas market Erfurt

Erfurt’s Christmas market in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt, November 25th-December 24th

One of the oldest and most famous Christmas markets in the world, this market is practically synonymous with the Christmas season in Germany. Numerous stands sell local woodcrafts as well as the two sweets the city is known for: Lebkuchen gingerbread and Spekulatius almond cookies, in addition to many other delicacies. There’s also a special market for children, which includes a carousel and steam train. 

If you make it for the opening day, you can see the market’s namesake Christkind give an opening speech and gift-giving ceremony.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Das Christkind

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DISCOVER GERMANY

9 things to know if you’re visiting Germany in December

From Christmas markets to local holidays, here's what you need to know when visiting Germany this December.

9 things to know if you're visiting Germany in December

If you’re travelling to (or around) Germany this December, here are a few key things to keep in mind, from Covid restrictions – or lack thereof – to the best Christmas cookies to scoff down guilt-free. 

No more Covid restrictions for travel to Germany

Unlike the past two holiday seasons, no negative coronavirus test or vaccine card is required to enter Germany by plane, train, bus or other overland transport. 

While Germany specifies that anyone coming from a virus-variant region faces restrictions such as quarantine and a test requirement, it currently does not list any countries that fall into this category.

Still a few nationwide rules

Until April 7th, 2023, Germany still has a few COVID rules in place. FFP2 masks are required in all long-distance public transport, with children ages 6-13 allowed to wear medical OP masks.

Those entering a hospital or care facility will need both an FFP2 mask and a COVID test. Anyone entering a doctor’s office or other medical practice is also required to don an FFP2 mask.

READ ALSO: Will Germany get rid of masks in public transport?

Otherwise, each of Germany’s 16 states has its own rules. While most still require masks on local public transport, a handful of states have voiced plans to drop the requirement soon.

Local holidays 

While St. Nicholas Day on December 6th is not an official public holiday in Germany, it’s celebrated by almost all families and for some is a bigger gift-giving occasion than Christmas itself.

READ ALSO: Why is Nikolaustag celebrated before Christmas itself?

December 24th and 31st are not official holidays, but most local employees give at least half of the day off as a gesture of goodwill. 

Note that Germans open gifts on Christmas Eve (or Heiligabend, Holy Evening), usually after a special dinner with close family members. Then on the 25th, they gather for the first celebration day (Erster Feiertag) with extended family. 

December 26th, which falls on a Monday this year, is a day off.

Candles decorate a Christmas tree in a living room. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Christmas markets are on again

After two winters of being fully or partially closed due to Covid restrictions, Germany’s beloved Weihnachtsmärkte are now back in full swing. You will find them everywhere you go, from big cities to the tiniest of towns. 

READ ALSO: Seven unmissable Christmas markets that open this week in Germany

While each has its own regional twist, you can sample staple treats such as Glühwein, or mulled wine, Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread) and Stollen

Everything is more expensive

While it’s dipped slightly, inflation in Germany is still 10 percent, which has led to price increases for everything from daily groceries to energy bills and dining out.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Germany

Even the Christmas markets are more expensive this year due to higher prices for the Glühwein mugs. This means some markets in Berlin are charging almost €5 for the Pfand (deposit) for that first glass of mulled wine.

The same applies to ski resorts with hotels, lift tickets and restaurants all costing more this year.

It’s not too warm to ski

While Austria and Switzerland are the best known in the German speaking-world for their ski resorts, there are still many options in Germany starting at the beginning of December, especially in the south of the country. Like nearly everything else, though, expect some hefty price increases. 

The top resorts in Germany include (but are not limited to) Arber, Alpsee-Grünten, Garmish-Partenkirchen, Winklmoosalm-Steinplatte, Oberstdorf, Winterberg and Oberjoch.

Advent countdown 

Starting December 1st, Germans count down the days till Christmas with either a homemade or store-bought Adventkalendar. Traditionally, children open a small door each day to receive a tiny piece of chocolate, but in recent years it’s been possible to find calendars offering all sorts of small goodies, from a daily new flavour of tea to different dog treats.

READ ALSO: How do Germans celebrate Christmas? 

Christmas treats 

German restaurants have special menus for all seasons and occasions, and the holiday season is no exception. Check for a special ‘Weihnachtskarte’ (Christmas menu) with Gänsebraten (roasted geese) usually featured as the main specialty. And everywhere you go you can sample a batch of Weihnachtskekse (Christmas cookies), in all shapes and sizes. Many are baked by local schools or charities, so you can alleviate some guilt in chowing down on Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) or Vanillekipferln (vanilla crescents).

Loud New Year’s Eve celebrations 

New Year’s Eve (or Silvester) is notorious in Germany for firecracker chaos. While people in Germany were banned for two years from setting them off due to coronavirus restrictions, fireworks should be back in full swing this year – especially in the centre of big cities. So watch where you step, or if you’re lucky, look out of your window with a glass of champagne and enjoy the countdown till 2023.

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