10 of our much-loved German Christmas Markets

In Christmas, En-Route, Europe, Germany, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Trip-Typesby GaryLeave a Comment

And why you should give them a try

We think we're becoming a little obsessed with Christmas markets; we've been travelling to Germany for over 12 years to soak up the fun of the German Christmas markets. We love them, and we hope we can inspire you to give them a try if you haven't already.

One of the circular ends to the ice rink in Cologne, lit at night,  overlooked by a carousel and the two-storey drinks cabin.

The end of the ice rink in Cologne

One of the things we love about visiting the different regions of Germany is that they all have their own unique delicacies.

It's great fun standing in the bustling market juggling your aromatic Gluhwein, the local spicy Bratwurst or Lebkuchen.

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We understand that it's not always convenient or practical for everyone, but, we have found that the best way to visit these markets is on a road trip. That way you can stuff your boot/trunk full of as many of those German treats as you like, and we do.

We've written a post 'Your first German Christmas Market by car', aimed at those heading from Calais onto Germany. I have to be honest I find it really easy (much easier than covering the same distance in the UK).

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Aachener Printen for sale at the Dom Christmas Market in Cologne

Also, if you can stay for the evening all the better, it's when the markets twinkle, and they really seem to come to life.

Our Tip

It sounds obvious but dress warm and comfortable, especially make sure you have comfy shoes.

A collection of huts on the edge of one of Munich's markets as it drizzles and the pavement glistens.

Stalls in Kripperlmarkt, Munich

Now, honestly, we have listed these locations in alphabetical order, we're not biased.

Our favourite travel reads

1

Berlin

History, style and some very nice Christmas Markets.  To be honest they are spread around the city, so you best get familiar with the cities public transport system, but it's quick, relatively cheap and easy.

The Christmas Tree in front of the illuminated Brandenburg Gate at dusk.

The tree in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

I think we found we liked the Berliner Weinachtszeit market next to the Rotes Rathaus the best, and it's only a short walk to the one at Alexanderplatz. 

As always a great selection of food & drink available on the Market.

Highlights

Gendarmenmarkt & Rotes Rathaus

History everywhere

Brauhaus Georgbraeu - great beers

A skater on the ice rink around the Neptune fountain in Berlin, with the giant Ferris wheel in the background.

The ice rink in front of the Ferris Wheel at Berliner Weinachtszeit

The added bonus is there's so much more to see and do in Berlin. 

There's the Berliner Fernsehturm, that iconic '60's viewing platform, the Berlin wall memorial, The Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Reichstag Building and the Currywurst Museum.

You may want to consider the Berlin WelcomeCard which offers discounts on attractions and free transport for 48hr,72hr or 4, 5 or 6 days.

How we did it

By Car:

We travelled from Bremen to Berlin in around 4 hours (250miles/400km). Easy but a little dull. Interesting to see the point of entry into the old East Germany.

Hotel:

We stayed at the Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Checkpoint Charlie.
We give it;

It was a short walk to the Gendarmenmarkt, with public transport also very close by. Great car-parking facilities

2

Bremen

We loved Bremen and thought it would make a great introduction for the first timer.  There's two main market area's but the whole of the old town really comes to life.

The illuminated Rathaus in Bremen after the sun has gone down.

The Rathaus in Marktplatz, Bremen

The town's web-site indicates there's around 160-170 stalls here, but they're spread out so it's never too claustrophobic.

A group of people in front of a small, brightly lit, children's Ferris wheel.

The little Ferris-wheel

Then there's the river market which is just 3 or 4 minutes from the old town. 

Strictly speaking there's two markets here the Winter & Maritime, but they join in the middle. 

The markets are great and do have two distinct feels - there's less pirates in the Winter Market.

Highlights

The size - plenty to see and do for a weekend, but all within easy walking distance of the oldtown.

The Schnoor district

Glockenspiel House

Schmalzuchen - sorta mini doughnuts.

People perusing a stall at Hamburg's maritime market.

Always something to buy

However, visiting a town or city is more than just the markets, and Bremen has that covered.

You have to take a stroll around the Schnoor district (again, it adjoins the old town, so no big walks here), and don't miss Glockenspiel house either, check the timings of the peel of the bells.

If you're interested you can pick up a guided tour of the city centre in English.

 

How we did it

By Car:

We travelled from Home to Bremen.
Now, I normally only count the distance from Calais when I'm planning trips because we're only about 30-40 minutes from the Folkestone Shuttle Terminal. So, from Calais it's 400miles/650km, and it took us around 6.5hrs witha fuel stop.

Hotel:

We stayed at the Elements Pure Hotel which has now been rebranded as the ACHAT Plaza-City Bremen.
our experience of the hotel was great so we give it;

It was only a short walk (5mins) from our hotel to Sögestraße and onto the main old town market that wrapped itself around the old Rathaus.

3

Cologne

We would highly recommend Cologne for various reasons, firstly, is that it has so many markets, seven we believe.

The first time you walk into the Dom (cathedral) market it is magical. The towering sparkling Christmas tree stands as the centrepiece, all its twinkling lights draped across the red huts, almost acts as a warm blanket hovering above you. 

Looking up at the lit Dom Cathedral at night with the Christmas tree and its blanket of lights meeting the red-topped market huts.

The Dom towers over the Christmas Market in Cologne

Our favourite market in Cologne is the Alter Markt (Old Market). We have nicknamed it the Gnome market, as the theme throughout revolves around these little folks. 

Highlights

The ice rink - it has to be seen to be believed.

Heimat der Heinzel Martket

Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass - a must

Actually - Everything

People entering through an advent arch into the Meimat der Heinzel market as snow falls in an already wintery scene.

Entrance to the Home of the Elves in Cologne

The Alter Markt stretches through the main cobbled square, by the Town Hall (Rathaus) tempting you all the way with baked apples, cinnamon sticky nuts & currywurst.

The aromas just shout out Christmas.

Baskets full of hand made spiced pomander balls on a stall at Colognes Altstadt market or the market of the elves.

Arts & crafts stalls at the Christmas Markets

If that isn’t enough in the Old Market, you then have an ice rink like no other. The young and old take to the ice and put us Brits to shame, it's good fun to watch though.

The Cologne ice rink from the bridge that straddles it, looking to the loop around the statue to Friedrich Wilhelm III on horseback.  In the foreground to the right is a beautifully crafted and ornate cabin serving gluhwein.

Skating around Friedrich Wilhelm III


One illuminated entrance to the Angel market at night.

The Angel Market at night

We just have to mention the Angel Market as well in Neumarkt, always a favourite for a hot chocolate with a splash of Baileys. Just before we head off into the Käthe Wohlfahrt store.

Looking into the side of the Cafe Paris, a drink hut in the Angel market of Cologne.  Two ladies wrapped warmly, serve gluhwein to the queueing customers.

Cafe Paris in the Angel Market

How we did it

By Car:

We travelled from Home to Cologne many times.
From Calais it's 255miles/410km, and it takes around 4 hours dependent on weather/traffic.  It's an easy journey, and covered in that post 'Your first German Christmas Market by car' - full of top tips.

Hotel:

We stay at the Eden Hotel Früh am Dom
Our experience of the hotel is pretty good.  The rooms are warm, tidy in a minamalist fashion.  The hotel bar is street facing so there's no quiet place to relax at the hotel.  Also the Buffet breakfast can get very busy at times.  All in all we give it;

You practically fall out of the door onto the Dom market, and you can request Dom view rooms.  We've loved our stays here.

There's no hotel parking, but there's plenty available at the Dom car park a minute or two's walk from the hotel.  We've never had an issue parking here, but being central it is a little pricey.

A snow-covered Christmas tree under the blanket of lights at Cologne's Dom Market

In 2012 snow fell

It gets busy

Some of these markets get very busy at weekends so small children may feel a bit swamped with the crowds.

4

Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf is not too far from Cologne (45km/28 miles), so you could incorporate both together. Düsseldorf also has seven markets to its name, and I think there is a little rivalry between the two west German cities.

Market stalls either side of the steps up ornate bandstand decorated with curtains of golden fairy lights.

The Bandstand at the Engelchenmarkt, Düsseldorf

Once again, the atmosphere within the markets is great fun.

We enjoyed it around Marktplatz and the colourful carousel, with the traditional Rathaus as a backdrop.  

Highlights

Marktplatz, Burgplatz & Engelchenmarkt markets

Hot Chocolate at the Lindt Shop

Altbiers at the traditional brauhauses

A traditional carousel at the edge of the old town market in Marktplaz in Düsseldorf with the old town hall as a backdrop.

The Beautiful old carousel at Marktplatz, Düsseldorf

Also, the market on the banks of the river, at Burgplatz with its towering Ferris wheel. We found the Burgplatz market to be a little quieter than others, perhaps timing, but certainly not lacking in fun. 

A lit five-storey historic tower than now acts as a museum, with the large Ferris-wheel, named Wheel of Vision, in the background.

The Schifffahrt Museum and Wheel of Vision, Düsseldorf

Weave your way up through the pedestrianised town, passing the spinning pyramid tower and treat yourself to a warming Gluhwein along the way.

You can pick up the DüsseldorfCard, a discount card that gives you free access to public transport and discounts on attractions.

How we did it

By Car:

We travelled from Home to Düsseldorf.
From Calais it's 250miles/400km, and it took us around 4.5hrs.

Hotel:

We struggled to find a hotel at the right pricepoint for us in Düsseldorf.  In the end we opted for Square Rooms, a short walk from the old town.
The accomodation was great so we give it;

There was no onsite parking so we parked at a public car park 5 minutes away.

Something to make your travels easier?

Let us know

What your favourite German Christmas market, as we’d love to add them to our list.

5

Frankfurt

Frankfurt can trace its Christmas market history back 1393. However, it wasn’t until the early 19th century that the Christmas tree was introduced.

The brightly lit carousel in Frankfurt's Römerberg

One of the carousels in Frankfurt

When Janis did her initial research on the festive season in Frankfurt, she thought the market was going to be reasonably small.

However, on our arrival, we were pleasantly surprised.  It weaved its way effortlessly through the highlights of Frankfurt’s old town, it was certainly bigger than we had expected. 

Highlights

Easy to walk between all the markets

Römerberg market

Schokoküsse

The singing reindeer

A stall in the based of an illuminated Christmas Pyramid

The Christmas Pyramid

Two drinks from the Frankfurt's Christmas markets.  The first is a mug of Frankfurt's speciality apple gluhwein; the other is a glass Irish-Coffee style glass with a cherry gluhwein, topped with cream.

Local tipples

It had a great mixture of local crafts and gifts and also had some excellent food & drink cabins. Here we tried apple gluhwein and a blackberry gluhwein.

You can pickup a Frankfurt Card offering free transport & discounts on wide range of attractions, experiences and even shopping.

How we did it

By Car:

It was our third location on our 2017 Christmas market road trip, and we were heading back from Munich.  A road trip is a great way to experience different towns & cities, but remember alcohol & driving does not mix. Take it easy on the night before you hit the road again.

Hotel:

We chose the Adina Apartment Hotel Frankfurt Neue Oper, for it's off-street parking. It was a short 10 minute walk from the old town.
The accomodation was great so we give it;

The Pfand

You always pay a deposit for the mug you get your glühwein in, this is the pfand.  In some regions in Germany give you a token for your mug, so, you’re able to return it to a central kiosk, rather than the hut you bought your drink from.  Either way you get your deposit back when you return your mug.

6

Hamburg

Now this is a great city. I'm not sure what the official number of markets are, 4 or 5? But it feels like there's more.  We don't get too hooked up on the number of markets, it's more about quality than quantity, and Hamburg is quality.

A view across the street to Hamburg's Rathaus, and its Christmas market, under the blue sky of dusk

The market in front of the Rathaus, Hamburg

The main market, centred around the Rathaus is where you'll see Santa fly above you on his sleigh, before addressing the crowd. 

No really, you have to see it to believe it. 

He performs 3 times daily at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm. 

Highlights

Easy to walk between all the markets

Rathaus market

The architecture

Miniatur Wunderland

Flying Santa

A real Santa is sitting in a sleigh drawn by four plastic reindeer that 'flies' above the Rathaus market in Hamburg.

Santa and his reindeer, Hamburg

However there's plenty of other markets to discover all within close proximity to the Rathaus.

A collection of white tents that form another of Hamburg's Christmas markets along a lake edge.  The trees are decorated with blue fairy lights.

Attractive white huts, Hamburg

As we say, the markets come to life after the sun has gone down.  So what to do during the day?  Well Hamburg will not disappoint.  It has excellent shopping (Or so I'm told!)  Just head to Neuer Wall for some fine stores.  

The brightly decorated bar of the Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht.  There's hundreds of coloured baubles.

Christmas in Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht, Hamburg

There's more, for us, we love history culture, and great architecture.  So there's Chilehaus and the Speicherstadt, home to Miniatur Wunderland - If you've an inner geek then don't miss it.

Don't forget there's the Hamburg Card, offering free transport, and discounts on restaurants & activities in the city.

How we did it

By Car:

It was our third location on our 2018 Christmas market road trip, and we were heading back from Berlin.

Hotel:

We chose the Adina Apartment Hotel Hamburg Speicherstadt. , for it's off-street parking. It was a short 5 minute walk from the markets & also the Speicherstadt in the other direction .

The accomodation was great so we give it;

7

Munich

Oh, we love Bavaria and arriving at is capital Munich was fantastic, if not a little cold. Janis even had to invest in a new hat!

Pedestrians are walking along one of Munich shopping streets at night under fairy light telling you you are entering 'Müchner Christkindlmarkt.'

Müchner Christkindlmarkt

Marienplatz Market is Munich’s most popular, as the magnificent Rathaus looking down from above, creates a fantastic surrounding. There are some great stalls here, with everything that twinkles.

Looking up at the tower of Munich's Rathaus with markets stalls below as snow falls.

Snowing in front of the Rathaus

A hanger from a stall in Munich's Christmas market lit with a spotlight catch the decorations hanging from it.

Attractive gifts in Munich

However, one that we really enjoyed was the Medieval Market on Wittelsbacherplatz.

Fire-breathing dragons, birds of prey and goblets of feuerzangenbowle (which is a gluhwein with a lump of sugar balanced above, drizzled with alcohol then set alight), what’s not to like? 

Highlights

The Medieval Market & Feuerzangenbowle

The Marienplatz & English Garden Markets

Kirsch glühwein

Hofbrauhaus

Janis wrapped up warmly with her bright red Jack Wolfskin jacket, and strippy scarf,  reaching out to her terracotta goblet containing her gluhwein.

Warm to touch

A mobile performance piece of a dragon skeleton puppet breathing flames as the crowds watch on.

Fire-breathing dragon

Of course, being British (English) we had to head to the English Garden. Within here is Christmas Market held under the Chinese Tower. I know I keep saying it, but, this market was very charming too, it felt very family orientated.

Two horses are pulling a small wooden carriage with tourists in Munich's park market.

Your carriage awaits

In Munich, we found the Apfelschmarrn, apple pancakes with nuts and a plum sauce, you were even able to eat the bowl that it came in (it tasted like an ice cream cone).

An edible bowl containing apple pancakes with lashings of plum sauce and two wooden forks.

Trying Apfelschmarrn, Munich, Germany

Munich's a fabulous city, with so much to see and do. Even on our three days in the city we barely scratched the surface, and it's a city we'd love to return to.

If you've got the time to explore, then we'd recommend grabbing the Munich City Pass, check out the benefits to see if it's for you.

How we did it

By Car:

It was our second location on our 2017 Christmas market road trip, and we were heading on from Strasbourg, France.

Hotel:

We chose the Mercure Hotel München Altstadt, parking was a little tight. It was a short walk to Kaufingerstraße and your first glühwein.

The accomodation was great so we give it;

Tempted to?

If you’re flying into Germany and fancy visiting a few of the Christmas markets, why not hire a car with SIXT car hire and create your own road trip.

8

Nuremberg

Nuremberg was another town we fell in love with & the people were so friendly. There’s plenty of markets to explore here and a city with quite a bit of history.

We are following the crowds through Nuremberg's main market, with the illuminated church in the background.

Wandering through the Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg

The central festive hub in Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is on Hauptmarkt in front of Frauenkirche.

With over 160 red & white striped cabins enticing you with baubles, toy soldiers & snow globes.

Then there’s the obligatory German stall which sells all types of brushes (obviously, you can never have too many brushes).

Highlights

The Christkindlesmarkt in Hauptmarkt

Nuremberg Gingerbread

Our prune man & Imperfect Angel

The Nuremberg Glühwein, Winter Warmer & Feuerzangenbowle

Hausbrauerei Altstadthof,

A close-up of a selection of traditional, predominately red, baubles for sale.

A selection of baubles

The local differences in Nuremberg were their traditional recipe gingerbread, the “Drei im Weggla” – “Three in a bun” sausages and one not to eat was the Prune Men. 

Our prune man bought from Nuremberg.  Actually, only his arms and feet are prunes; his body is made up of two dried figs, and his painted face on a walnut head, along with a false beard and hat.

Our prune man

A stall stacked high with the Nuremberg gingerbread loaves as folks pass by.

Gingerbread loaves for sale

Take a little wander up to the Craftsmen’s Courtyard, this market had a lovely Medieval feel about it and had some different ornaments to tempt you with. 

Looking along a cobbled lane within Nuremberg's Craftsmen courtyard with one of the cities medieval towers in the background.

Inside the Craftsmens Courtyard

The view under a canopy in Nuremberg's Craftsmen courtyard.

The cobbled lanes of the Craftsmens Courtyard

The 2-Day Nuremberg Card is ideal is you want to explore more around the historic city.

We can highly recommend the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, even if it's not the most festive of activities

How we did it

By Car:

It was our third location on our 2016 Christmas market road trip.

Hotel:

We chose the SORAT Hotel Saxx, with on-site parking available (at cost) on a first come basis.  It's right next to main Christmas market

We loved the hotel, and you even had the option for a 'breakfast to go' if you was in a hurry, nice touch.  We give it;

So you know

Germany’s Christmas markets are really for all ages, don’t be put off that it is all for children, it really isn’t. We are all big kids at heart.

9

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber has to be one of the most magical destinations to experience Christmas.

A view of a split in the cobbled lane leading from Rothenburg og der Tauber main town square to one of the gate towers at dusk under a blue sky.

The classic view of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Santa playing a traditional street organ with a stuffed monkey as his collection assistant.

Santa and his organ,

The markets here are quite small, but that really goes with the essence of the town.

Half-timbered homes, cobbled streets and all surrounded by fortified walls.

Highlights

The Christkindlesmarkt in Marktplatz

Exploring the town, its walls & towers

The Flammbrot

The Käthe Wohlfahrt stores

The Magic

The Marktplatz of Rothenburg ob der Tauber on a misty evening with groups of people huddled together.  There are  a few stalls on the left in front of the Rathaus, and the Christmas tree to the right in front of another historic building.

Gathering in Markplatz, Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The evening we arrived was extremely cold, with a mist just hovering above us, but we didn’t care it just made the whole atmosphere even more enchanting.

A Flammbrot, which looks like an olive-shaped pizza without a tomato base, but topped instead with bacon & onions.

Oh Flammbrot,

Rothenburg's Christmas tree in front of the tower in the centre of the Rathaus.

The Rathaus and Christmas tree

In Rothenburg ob der Tauber the whole town embraces the festive season. Christmas lights were running up and down the gables of the houses and trees hanging from doorways. This town is also home to the Käthe Wohlfahrt’s “Christmas Village”, their flagship store. Their Christmas fun last all year around.

Käthe Wohlfahrt's period reproduction of a small six-seater coach painted bright red and its roof packed high with wrapped gift boxes.

Käthe Wohlfahrt deliveries

A lifesized soldier nutcracker stands in a decorated doorway of the  Käthe Wohlfahrt store in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, next to a Christmas tree.

The Toy Soldier stands guard

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is small, and you may not have the opportunity to dedicate a night to it.  It'll be a shame, but you can experience it on a day trip from Munich, or Frankfurt.

How we did it

By Car:

It was our forth location on our 2016 Christmas market road trip.

Hotel:

We chose the Hotel Eisenhut, a histotic, quaint, Barvarian lodging. We give it;

10

Stuttgart

Stuttgart is the capital city of the German state Baden-Wurttemberg & has been holding a Christmas market for over 300 years, so they certainly know how to do it. We found that all the Christmas markets were more central in the town, which made them very easy to stroll between and lots going on. 

A stall decorated with red & gold ribbons and a single reindeer pulling Santa on his sleigh.

Santa on the rooftops

Once again, it’s those little things that make the difference.

Stuttgart loves to decorate the roofs of their huts, they were terrific.

We’d also never seen a miniature railway in any markets we’d previously visited.

Highlights

The Weihnachtsmarkt

Alten Schloss, especially at night

Carls Brauhaus

 Stuttgart's miniature railway full of small children with their parents in the early evening after the sun has gone down.

The miniture steam train

The Alten Schloss is particularly picturesque and holds daily concerts, and for something, a little different is the indoor antiques Christmas market.

Inside Alten Schloss with its decorated Christmas Tree and balconies.

Alten Schloss at night

We’ve tried our fair share of different food throughout all the markets; however, we’d never seen mackerel being smoked over charcoal.

A couple of dozen mackerel cooking over charcoal on one of the stalls in Stuttgart's Christmas market.

Cooked over charcoal

You may want to consider the StuttCard for your stay.  As well as being your ticket for public transport, you also have free access to nearly all museums, including the Mercedes-Benz & Porsche ones.

How we did it

By Car:

It was our fifth & final location on our 2016 Christmas market road trip.

Hotel:

We chose the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin.  It's a 10-15 minute walk to the markets, but the best we could find with parking.

The hotel was pleasant enough, and the staff wonderfully friendly, but we were tired at the end of this trip, and it just didn't wow us.  We give it;

Something for the Traveller

Inspired to visit one or more of these enchanting German Christmas markets?

I’m just excited thinking about it. Give our favourite Cologne ago, and stay in the heart of the city by the Cathedral at Eden Hotel Früh Am Dom.

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About the Author

Gary

Gary, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born and raised in London. An IT guy who likes to takes snaps. Along with Janis his partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, over a Sherry in Seville, they decided that enough was enough with suits. The decision was made to take their knowledge and experience to create a blog to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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