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

German Christmas Markets – Truths & Trivia

In Europe, Germany, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Our Tips, Trip-Types, Truths & Trivia by JanisLeave a Comment

Just a little fun...

So this post is our light-hearted view of  Germany’s Christmas Markets

It has some of the interesting stuff, a few trivial facts, and our thoughts on these magical experiences.

Quick Links

Let’s start with the truths about the German Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets in Germany are full of so much tradition, joy and excitement even for the big kids amongst us. I’m sure you’ll be returning year after year.

Location

The 3 C's

Continent

Europe

Country

Germany

Capital

Berlin

  • Christmas in Germany is not just for children, all generations embrace it young and old.
  • A Christmas Market is also known as Christkindlmarkt.
  • The German Christmas Markets run from when advent starts on 4th Sunday before Christmas (some locations often sneak in a bit earlier).
  • We have the Germans to thank for Christmas trees, where its origins date back to the 16th century.
  • Christmas Eve is the primary day when Germans exchange presents with their families.
  • Germany has a flaming Glühwein, named Feuerzangenbowle, stand back while your rum- soaked sugarloaf is lit.
  • The German Christmas markets are enchanting; however, when it snows, it feels truly magical.
  • The German Christmas markets we’ve visited so far are; Cologne, Düsseldorf, Munich, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Nuremberg.

All the towns and cities that I’ve mentioned make an ideal location for a mini-break. Clearly, I’m going to say visit at Christmas time; however, these German destinations are delightful to visit all year round.
 
For history lovers, Germany is incredibly fascinating, from its fairy-tale castles to the ancient medieval walled cities.

 

National Flag

The national flag of Germany
 

It’s good to talk

What speaks?

Language

German (but English widely spoken)

International Dialling Code

+49

Currency

 Euro (EUR)

What Time?

Timezone

Central European Time (CET),

Difference from UTC

+1 Hour

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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 in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

So what’s this Trivia then?

Regarding our beloved German Christmas Markets, where bratwurst, baked apples and gluhwein are the order of the day.

Did you know?

  • There’s a real flying Santa at Hamburg’s Christmas Market. Old St Nick takes to the skies in his sleigh at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm.
  • The Christmas markets truly come alive when darkness falls, and the twinkling lights come into their own.
  • Käthe Wohlfahrt is the place to shop for all your Christmas decorations, from nutcrackers, incense smokers, glittering baubles and spinning wooden pyramids.
  • Every German town or city has its own annually designed Christmas mug. Some larger places even have different mugs in each market.
  • If you’re not a German speaker then ‘pfand’ means deposit. If you don’t wish to keep your festive mug, then you’ll receive a deposit back.
  • Often, you’ll find local delicacies at each German market. In Nuremberg, they have their own gingerbread, gluhwein and bratwurst which is known as “Drei im Weggla” – “Three in a bun”.
  • Keep an eye out for the edible bowls, the apfelschmarn and plum sauce we had in Munich came with its own eatable wafer dish.
  • Ohh yes, Father Christmas is real.

Tempted to?

Visit two or three of Germany’s Christmas Markets on a road trip, then browse the offers that Rental Cars have available.
 
With just a few clicks Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.

It's famous for...

Food

Bratwurst

Yes, it had to be top of the list. In my opinion, the Germans produce the best sausages and such an incredible choice. There’s Krakauer, currywurst, rostbratwurst, weisswurst, Käsekrainer, and Nürnberger mini sausages, to name just a few.

Fish

You can opt for fish if sausages aren’t your thing. One of my go-to favourites is Flammlachs. Which is half a whole salmon angled over an open wood fire. In Stuttgart, they had whole mackerels cooked over coals. Of course, there’s always the backfisch to try.

For the Carnivores

Ohh, there are so many options to choose from. Pork steak, ham hock rolls, turkey skewers, burgers and another of my favourite gulaschsuppe.

Vegetarian savoury treats

Once again there is plenty for the vegetarian, flammekueche, flammbrots, kartoffelpuffer (potato cakes served with apple sauce), garlic mushrooms, pretzels and a Swiss favourite fondue.

Lebkuchen

· Lebkuchen – Mmmm, gingerbread and in particularly lebkuchen from the German city of Aachen. Every year in Cologne, we visit the Klein Aachener Printen stall and take home a selection of sweet and spicy delights.

Sweet Treats

As you would expect at a Christmas market, there are sweet treats a-plenty. Baked apples, apfelschmarn, stollen, crepes, waffles, cones of sweet sticky nuts, chocolate fruit skewers and marshmallow filled chocolate kisses.
A snow-covered Christmas tree under the blanket of lights at Cologne's Dom Market
Real snow at the Christmas Markets in Cologne
A seven-metre Christmas tree, lit with golden fairy lights, stands in front of a stone tower of Nuremberg's Castle

Christmas tree in Nuremberg

It's famous for...

Drink

Glühwein

When it comes to Glühwein, you are spoilt for choice. Do you choose red, white, spicy, fruity, kinderpunsch, or do you add a shot of your favourite spirit (in moderation of course)? Personally, I enjoy a rum with the red glühwein and a Calvados with the white.

Hot Chocolate

It is Christmas after all so why not add a shot of Baileys and a generous helping of cream on top.

Other German favourites

A couple of other tipples that perhaps are an acquired taste are eierpunsch also known as eggnog. Then there is Kirschglühwein or alpenpower, this delicacy is made from cherry brandy and one that Gary loves. Also, you can indulge in warm cider.

German Beers

Unbeleivebly you can have a beer hot or cold in Germany I’ll stick with cold thanks. Although Gary did sample a couple of hot beers that he enjoyed. One at the Harbour Market in Cologne and the other was a local beer to Munich, and that was gluhbier.

You know but...

Alcohol & cars don't mix. Make sure you're parked up before enjoying the markets.
 
Also, if you're driving the following day, then take it easy - we all know alcohol stays in the system for hours.

Christmas decorations and regional gifts

Nutcrackers

If there is one Christmas ornament that shouts Germany like no other, then to me it is the traditional wooden soldier nutcrackers. They are delightful and come in so many colours and sizes, yes, we have a couple.

Incense Smokers

These decorations are so beautifully made. When I first bought one, I actually didn’t realise it was a smoker. I just loved the design and décor and later understood that you could lite a cone-shaped incense candle and smoke filtered through Santa’s pipe.

Christmas Market Mugs

As mentioned, every German Christmas Market has its own symbolic town mug, which is usually re-designed annually. We have so many that we have collected over the years; however, they all bring back memories from Christmas markets past.

Christmas Baubles

When the sun begins to set, and the fairy lights are lit, the cute Christmas stalls start to twinkle, with the sparkling baubles and the glistening angels floating high above.

Zwetschgenmännle

Prune men to you and me, they have been a tradition in Nuremberg for many years. The little figures are made from prunes, figs and nuts and not to be eaten. Nuremberg had so many unique gifts from locally produced gingerbread to spicy glühwein.

Wooden Toys

Strolling through Germany’s Christmas markets, you really feel like they are steeped in tradition and seeing the beautiful handmade wooden toys you feel a sense of nostalgia.

A reference guide

I love nothing more than planning a trip and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books.  I find them  extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our Germany road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.


And our thoughts on Germany’s Christmas Markets

(Would we return? Is it good value? And did we feel the love?)

Return-a-bility

or What are the chances of us revisiting?
100%
(0% - You'll have to drag us over hot coals to go back 100% - Why am I not there now?)

Notes:

Christmas doesn’t come around quickly enough when it comes to German festive markets. Yes, I do have a favourite, it is Cologne, we’ve visited 11 times.
 

Value for Money

Our value for money index. Don't forget we're Londoners, and that means our baseline is quite high.
95%
(0% - How much? I wanted to buy a drink, not the bar 100% - How much? I'll take two.)

Notes:

Of course, we’d all love things to be cheaper; however, in my opinion, the street food and glühwein are not too bad value. Especially if you compare them to the UK.

Getting around town

What's it like discovering the city?
 
Is it walkable? do you need to use public transport? did we leave with weary feet?

95%

(0% - It's mountainous and public transport's a joke 100% - I'm in paradise.)

Notes:

Most of the Christmas markets are in the heart of the historic city centres, so are often walkable between each of them. Berlin may be a slight exception, but public transport is easy enough to navigate.
 
Two glasses of Glühwein served in decorated glass mugs at a table in the bandstand in Düsseldorf

Glühwein at the bandstand in Düsseldorf

Janis's Hi's & Lo's

Highlight

I just love the welcoming festive atmosphere of the Christmas markets. The German’s make it fun for all ages to enjoy and truly bring out the big kid inside me.

Lowlight

For obvious reasons the markets get exceptionally busy at the weekends, my advice is to visit midweek if you can.
 
 

Gary's Hi's & Lo's

Highlight

The smiles; so many smiles, and the warmth of the Germans. We have had so many great experiences and brought back so many wonderful gifts.

Lowlight

Like Janis the crowds, especially Cologne on a Saturday night, however, we have found ways to plan our trip to avoid the crowds, but still soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the experience.

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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