Here you will find some interesting facts about German Christmas markets. Read how families enjoy the festive season at the different festive markets of Germany and get some interesting insights about Christmas markets in Germany.
German Christmas markets are a long-standing tradition in the German events calendar.
These festive markets are wonderful to embrace the Christmas spirit, mix and mingle with the locals and delight in Christmas treats and have fun with shopping for unique little gifts for friends and family. There are free carol concerts, meetings with Santa and musical performances held at the markets in many towns and cities across the country.
Families love to visit the festive markets in their region in the evenings and might even venture further to nearby towns to experience the christmas atmosphere the many different markets exude. German Christmas markets are usually referred to as Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlmarkt (Christ market).
At the typical markets there are dozens of stalls selling traditionally homemade arts and crafts such as glass baubles, wooden toys and crafts, knitwear and ceramics, as well as stalls that cater for the visitors’ cravings of traditional German Christmas delicacies such as Lebkuchen (ginger bread), roasted sweet almonds and Maroni (hot chestnuts) as well as more hearty food such as Bratwurst (sausage), Flammkuchen (flatbread) oder the obligatory hot tea or Glühwein (red spiced wine).
German Christmas markets are usually held during the whole month of December and last until the day before Christmas Eve, 23 December. Some Christmas fairs might extend their activities until the beginning of January while others already open their market stalls in the week before the first Sunday in Advent.
1. Hamburg: During the month leading up to Christmas, Hamburg hosts about thirty Christmas markets. The biggest market is held at the city hall, at the Rathausmarket Square. There is even a flying Santa who visits the main Christmas market.
A big Christmas parade is held every Saturday afternoon during the market weeks. Then dancing angels and happy Santas, magic elves and funny reindeer spread the cheer amongst the visitors.
In Hamburg you should also make time to visit the largest model train set in the world which is located in the Speicherstadt, where there is also a lovely Christmas market. Hamburg’s splendid Alster river location can be admired from the city’s landmark - St Michael’s church, also called ‘Michel’. From the 132 m/ 433 ft. high viewing platform, you can see the the busy city harbour and the christmas lights will create a very special atmosphere. More info on the Hamburg Christmas parade here.
2. Berlin: The capital city of Germany is famous for its Weihnachtsmarkt in the historic city centre around the opera house, however, there are over 70 other festive markets held throughout Germany’s biggest city during the festive season.
Some of the most popular markets are the Historic Market at the Gendarmenmarkt, the Advent Eco Market at Kollwitzplatz or the Medieval Market at the Rotes Rathaus which even includes a 50 m/ 154 ft. high ferris wheel and will be open until 6 January 2020. More info here.
3. Munich: The Munich Christkindlmarkt (Christ market) in front of the neo-gothic city hall building is a firm family favourite. Here the 30 m/ 98 ft. high Christmas tree and the live Advent music which is playing from the balcony of the town hall are quite an experience.
Every afternoon you can listen to Bavarian folk music, singers and wind players performing Christmas tunes. St Nicholas who is always quickly surrounded by children attends the market in the afternoons as well.
At nearby Saint Peter’s Church and Rindermarkt (just follow the little stars on the pathway) you can admire the biggest nativity market of Germany. 12 market stalls are entirely dedicated to nativity figurines, stalls and mangers of all sizes and materials. And on 22 December about 20 scary looking creatures are the main attraction at the annual Krampuslauf (Krampus run) of the Christmas market. The Krampus is the scary looking companion of Saint Nicholas. More info here.
4. Frankfurt: One of the largest christmas markets in Germany is taking place around Römerberg, Hauptwache and the promenade along the Main river. The first market held on Römerberg dates back to 1393 and according to old documents included a church’s mystery play. Then the market was purely a local affair. Today, among many other traditions, international Christmas concerts are held on the market’s stage on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
At this festive market, you must try the ‘Bethmännchen’ candy figures, marzipan-filled biscuits that were a favourite already with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German’s most famous poet who was born in Frankfurt and lived there as a child. Free guided tours around the market are offered every Saturday and Sunday around lunchtime. At 17h00 on 24 December, ten churches will ring their 50 bells in celebration of Christmas for half an hour. A very special sound experience not to miss. More info here.
5. Nuremberg: The Bavarian city is not only home to one of Germany’s oldest festive markets but world-renowned for its Christkind (Holy Child).
In Nuremberg, every second year a young woman is selected in this city to represent the Christkind - dressed in a white gown and she is the one who opens the festive season. The German tradition that the Christkind (literally translated as Christ child) delivers the presents and gifts originates from the protestant reformer Martin Luther’s teachings (1483-1546). Prior in the area’s Catholic tradition, gifts were presented to kids by Saint Nicholas on Nicholas Day, the 6 December.
Luther broke with this tradition and in the mainly protestant city, the Christkindlesmarkt keeps the new tradition alive. Nuremberg is also known to be the hometown of the famous Nürnberger Bratwurst (sausages) and the Nürnberger Lebkuchen (gingerbread). In Nuremberg there is also a special Christmas market for young children at Hans-Sachs-Platz where there is a merry-go-round and a steam train to entice the little ones. More info here.
6. Cologne: At the foot of Cologne Cathedral, this festive market with about 150 market stalls and more than 100 events attracts visitors from around the world. Here you will find pretty much everything - from the traditional homemade wooden gifts and Stollen (Christmas cake), Flammkuchen and Glühwein-Stalls to the unique Kölner Spekulatius-biscuits and Heinzelmännchen-biscuits or up-cycled gifts made from old basketballs - not only the kids will love these unique gifts.
This Christmas market is unique also regarding the fact that several stalls are offered by the city free of charge to charities such as Greenpeace or Kindernothilfe (‘Children in Need’) and the donations raised during the fair and at various events are gifted every year to a variety of charitable project in and around Cologne. More info here.
7. Oberammergau: In Oberammergau, a small town in the Bavarian Alps, it is a tradition to display intricately designed nativity scenes made by local wood carvers during the festive season. The 1.5 km/ almost one mile long ‘Krippenweg’ trail passes 25 nativity scenes that are exhibited in the storefront windows of the town centre until 6 January 2020. Visitors can stroll along the town centre and admire the creative work of the local wood carvers.
The trail ends at the Oberammergau Museum which exhibits a huge church nativity scene that was created by local carvers over 100 years. On the third weekend in Advent, there is also a special Christmas market held at the Ammergauer Haus where local crafters exhibit their gifts and fares. More info here.
8. Weimar: It is in Weimar that the first christmas tree was erected for the public - in 1851. A librarian wanted to share his wealth with all the children and residents of his city and put up a festively decorated tree in the market square.
The town hall is decorated in style of an huge Advent Calendar where every day leading up to Christmas a door is opened and Santa Claus distributes gifts to little children. There are several market sights in the eastern German town and an ice rink has been built in front of the National Theatre for the annual ‘Weimar on Ice’ event that will be open until 5 January 2020. More info here.
9. Ulm: More than one million visitors come to marvel at the Minster Square market’s unique living nativity scene every year. This nativity scene is complete with real animals: little lambs, some sheep and a donkey gather around the manger!
Every evening a choir and a band perform at the market and delight the visitors with Christmas carols and festive music. More than 18,000 lights illuminate the tall Christmas tree in front of the Ulm Münster.
The Ulm Münster has the highest church spire in the world. It is 161 m/ 528 ft. high. You can climb up the 768 steps of the tower and be rewarded with fantastic views - when the weather is clear, you might even catch a glimpse of the snow-covered Alps! More info here.
10. Würzburg: This Christmas market has one of the most romantic settings in Germany as the market is located in front of the gothic chapel of St Mary’s. The tradition of holding festive markets in the city dates back to 1800.
Today, 120 stalls invite visitors to get handmade gifts such as artfully knitted wollen socks or handcrafted paper. Do not miss to visit the fabulous fresco-staircase in the nearby palace, the Würzburg Residence, which is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. More info here.
Do you know how we say 'Merry Christmas' in German?
Fröhliche Weihnachten! or: Frohe Weihnachten!
and: Happy Holidays - Frohes Fest!
We hope you enjoyed our information about these ten fabulous German Christmas markets. Let us know if you experienced a German christmas market and want to share your insights about favourite market and special Christmas market treats. Looking forward to hearing from you.
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Image sources for German Christmas Markets page: 1. visitBerlin/DagmarSchwelle, 2. weihnachtsparade-hamburg.de, 3. muenchner-christkindlmarkt.de, 4. Tourismus+Congress GmbH Frankfurt am Main, 6. koelnerweihnachtsmarkt.com, 7. oberammergaumuseum.de, 8. Mikhail Markovskiy / Shutterstock.com, 9. Rainer Maiores, 10. Ulm Messe GmbH as well as own images and intro images by shutterstock.com