by Aoife Meagher, travel writer
There are few places in the world where Christmas feels more alive than in Germany. The Christmas Markets of Germany, spread throughout the country from big city extravaganzas to tiny village traditions, are focal points for the visitor seeking a truly festive experience. If the thought of drinking glühwein beneath glittering lights, or seeking out bargains and unique gifts for family and friends appeals, then read on to discover a handy guide to the best Christmas markets for your 2018 visit.
As Germany’s capital and tourist hub, Berlin hosts a wide array of markets to suit many tastes and interests, and the city and the many markets which it hosts during the winter months, is well worth exploring.
Most famous, the Charlottenburg Castle Christmas Market takes place from November 27th through to December 26th. The market is situated before the historic palace, beautifully lit and shown to its best advantage as the backdrop for this traditional market. While vendors sell food and crafts from 250 stalls, the markets boasts more than simply a shopping experience. Light shows, music and of course, a charming fairground for children and adults alike all work to ensure that a day at the Charlottenburg Castle Christmas Market is one sure to delight the whole family.
Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz is a must-see for the traveller looking for a chance to thrill-seek. Taking over Potsdamer Platz, this market boasts some of the largest slides in Europe, and is the ideal spot for a bit of city-centre tobogganing. In the centre of Berlin, you can slide down a snowy hill in an enormous tyre with a friend, and enjoy great views of the Brandenburg Gate at the same time. If sliding isn’t your cup of tea, you can take to the ice and impress on a free ice-rink, and take in the sights and sounds of the market. Winterwelt attracts a lot of craft workers who continue to create their art and crafts on site. Grab your skates and take a look at this true winter wonderland, which opens from the beginning of November.
A favourite market of Berliners is Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt. Beautifully located in the midst of landmarks like Deutscher Dom, the Französischer Dom, and the Konzerthaus, this market is the favourite stomping ground of skilled artists and performers. Prepare to be charmed by acrobats, musicians, and circus performers defying the cold to delight and charm anyone browsing through the market. The Gendarmenmarkt is particularly renowned for its unusual craft items. It’s possible to find ivory carvings, origami and art pieces which are sure to delight even the most discerning critic. The atmosphere of the market comes highly recommended, with choirs lending their voices to Christmas favourites and traditional German folk tunes. The market hosts troupes which perform daily plays in the market itself. There’s a small fee of €1 to enter the market, but it’s well worth the coin for such an array of entertainment and sights.
Moving into Bavaria, the Christkindlmarkt of Munich is one of the most important markets in Germany. The origins of the market are hazy, with some speculating that the market has been taking place since the 13th Century, but there is no doubt that it has become cemented as one of the key fixtures of Germany’s Christmas market tradition. The market takes place on Marienplatz and spills down the meandering streets nearby. With hundreds of stalls, this market is certainly one of the most traditional in the country. Visitors can admire the enormous Christmas tree which takes pride of place, donated each year from a different part of Bavaria and lit with thousands of twinkling lights. A particularly Catholic region of Germany, this market also boasts a prodigious array of religious crafts and an impressive display of hand-carved and decorated crib scenes. A trip to a Bavarian market is sure to be one of culinary delights too – grab some stollen, roasted chestnuts and hazelnuts and as many of the local delicacies as you can.
A feast for the eyes and the senses, a trip to Cologne in the winter is never a bad idea. Visiting theAm Dom Markt is sure to make all of your festive dreams come true. Stunningly located before the magnificent cathedral at Cologne, the Am Dom Markt shows the city off to gorgeous effect. Take a stroll through 160 stalls and find glasswork and crafts from all over Europe on sale. This market also offers live music and carousels, as well as traditional glühwein and goodies for the whole family. A trip to Cologne’s Christmas Market promises to be a memorable experience for the whole family and a unique chance to enjoy a stunning city at its favourite time of the year.
Sometimes, a Christmas market is the perfect excuse to pretend that we can truly live inside a Christmas card. To visit the market at Heidelberg city centre is to make this dream a reality. With romantic views of the castle above the city, it’s the perfect chance to walk hand in gloved-hand with a loved one and let the Christmas spirit move you. There’s also skating rinks and traditional wooden stalls offering everything from food and wine to children’s toys and trinkets galore. A few days gliding around Heidelberg seems like the perfect Christmas cure for even the Grinchiest among us.
The Floating Market of Vilshofen is the must-visit location for the traveller on the lookout for a market that’s a little bit different. On the banks and even on the waters of the Danube at Vilshofen, prepare to visit a charming Christmas market, replete with food and atmosphere. Enjoy the sight of the enormous Christmas tree reflecting sparkling lights off the surface of the river, and check out the biggest nativity scene in Europe, at 20 metres long. Local craft takes centre stage at this market, so head along and see if you can find the perfect part of Vilshofen to take home with you.
The Christmas Market of Nuremberg is the perfect choice for a visitor eager to experience a tradition dating back centuries. The Christkindlesmarkt of Nuremberg opens with the promenade of the Christkind: the Christmas Angel, played by a local girl each year. It meanders through the streets of Nuremberg, finishing in a dazzling celebration of lore in the reading of the festive prologue from the balcony of Nuremberg Cathedral to the crowds below. A beautiful city and rich in German tradition, Nuremberg is an ideal location to indulge your desires for a previous age. Hop in a horse-drawn carriage and grab a bite of gingerbread for the best way to see the city and step back in time.