Germany is famed as the home of Christmas, with some of the oldest and best Christmas markets in the world. With medieval squares lit up in fairy lights, traditional music, glühwein and roasted nuts filling the air, you’ll be amazed by these enchanting winter wonderlands. From the old-world traditions of Dresden and Nuremberg to the hidden gems of Eisenach and Erfurt, here are the best German Christmas markets to get your fill of stollen, snowflakes and Yuletide magic. Fröhliche Weihnachten!
When you think of German Christmas markets, you think of Nuremberg. With a history dating back to 1628, the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world, and one of the best too. Set in the gorgeous main square, the locals affectionately call the market “our little town of wood and cloth”, as all the treasures here are locally made.
We’ll take you to this special Yuletide paradise where you can explore over 180 beautifully decorated chalets, 30 of which date back to 1890! You’ll find gingerbread hearts hanging from the huts, Franconian delicacies like brandies, jams and clothes made from local wool, and the famous Zwetschgenmännle prune men.
Time your visit right and you’ll get to see the market’s amazing opening celebration at the start of Advent. The star of the show is the Christkind (‘Christ child’ or Christmas Angel played by a local girl), the traditional gift-giver and symbol of the market. The beautiful Christkind reads out a special prologue originally written by the playwright Friedrich Bröger in 1948, from the balcony of the Frauenkirche.
It’s all as impressive as you’d dreamed it would be, and you can’t miss experiencing this magical Christmas market in one of Germany’s most stunning medieval Old Towns.
EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF: German Christmas Markets
Munich Christmas Market
As the beautiful capital of Bavaria, Munich’s Christmas market is truly spectacular. Held in the iconic Marienplatz, surrounded by medieval buildings like the Town Hall and Glockenspiel, this market is the oldest in Munich, dating back to the 14th century.
We’ll take you here to marvel at the giant 30-metre Christmas tree with 2,500 lights, and the largest manger market and nativity scene in the country. Listen to lovely carol-singers and live music while you explore hundreds of wooden stalls illuminated in fairy lights. You’ll find all kinds of traditional Bavarian handicrafts like intricate wood carvings and hand-painted glass ornaments.
You can even take a ride on the ChristkindlTram (Christmas Tram), or watch the Krampus Run, where 300 runners dressed in spooky costumes race through the city. Be sure to get your fill of festive treats like roasted chestnuts, stollen and berry mulled wine. Later, we’ll take you to a classic beer hall at one of the most authentic restaurants in Munich.
EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF: Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland
With a history dating back to 1434, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt was the first genuine Christmas market in the world. The city has truly perfected their Yuletide celebrations since! We’ll take you to this historic city, famed as the ‘Florence on the Elbe’, to admire all the dazzling light displays and handcrafted gifts, along with some very unique traditions.
You’ll marvel at the world’s biggest nutcracker and the largest Christmas pyramid in Germany, standing at 14-metres high. And don’t forget to see the famous Plaumentoffel, the traditional figurines made of prunes.
If you’re visiting on the second weekend in Advent, you can witness the giant Dresdner Christstollen (traditional German fruitcake) parade. It’s the world’s biggest stollen, usually weighing up to 4 tons and measuring at least four metres. The Christstollen is wheeled through the Old Town in its own carriage to the Striezelmarkt, and pieces are ceremoniously cut off and handed to the crowd for a small donation along the way.
Once the Christstollen arrives at the market, it’s cut into thousands of pieces and sold to festival-goers. Even the knife used to cut it is 1.5 meters and silver-plated! If you don’t make it for this event, don’t worry, as you can still get a taste of the delicious stollen, or striezel, as it’s known locally. The Christmas market is even named after this special fruit cake and it’s sold throughout the celebration.
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Leipzig Christmas Market
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you discover Leipzig’s Christmas Market in the medieval Old Town. Located just an hour away from Dresden’s famous Striezelmarkt, the Leipzig Christmas Market is something of a hidden gem. It’s just as ancient with origins dating back to 1458, making it one of the world’s first real German Christmas markets.
We’ll show you around the streets illuminated in twinkling lights and garlands, then explore the market with more than 300 beautifully decorated stalls. Soak up the scent of glögi wine, shop for traditional handicrafts, sample local treats like kräppelchen, and enjoy the live musical entertainment.
Take your little ones to meet Santa Claus and explore the fairytale ‘Magical Forest’, a light display with German woodland animals. You can also check out the replica Finnish village with delicacies like reindeer meat and smoked salmon. For an extra dose of history, head to the spot in front of the Old Town Hall, where Johann Sebastian Bach (who lived here for almost 30 years) first signed his employment contract.
Frankfurt Christmas Market
If you want to get into the Christmas spirit, head to the historic Römerberg in Frankfurt! The Römerberg is the most beautiful square in the city lined with timber-framed medieval houses. It really comes alive in winter, with hundreds of traditional wooden huts filling the square. It’s also one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world dating back to 1393, with records showing a ‘December Market’ was held here.
We’ll take you on a tour of the city, with the stunning Römerberg contrasting with the gleaming buildings of the financial centre, and you’ll smell the stollen and glühwein wafting through the air as we get closer to the Christmas market.
You can shop for handmade trinkets and traditional crafts, and fill up on all the local Franconian specialities. Don’t miss the hot apple wine and the famous marzipan cookies like the almond-covered Bettmännchen and the rectangular Brentens.
Also, be sure to check out the giant gingerbread Santa Clauses and the gorgeous Quetschemännchen. The locals make these little figures from prunes and nuts and they were traditionally used by young men to give to their sweethearts.
Cathedral Christmas Market, Cologne
You’ll definitely tame your winter wanderlust at Cologne’s Cathedral Christmas Market. It’s located in the shadow of the iconic Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO-listed site and a Gothic masterpiece. The first thing you see at the Christmas market is the giant Christmas tree in the centre. It’s the largest in the region, illuminated in dazzling lights, ornaments and ribbons.
Next, you can grab a mug of hot glühwein and munch on some South Tyrolian ham. Browse the market stands filled with artisanal crafts and gifts, and be sure to check out the live entertainment. There are more than 100 stage performances with everything from gospel music to Christmas swing music, and you’ll happily dance the night away to warm up in the winter chill.
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Reiterlesmarkt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
For a truly traditional German Christmas market experience, it’s got to be the Rothenburg Reiterlesmarkt. This medieval Bavarian city dates back to 950, and every winter, the charming gabled roofs, ancient walls and cobbled streets transform into a Yuletide wonderland. The city is dusted in snow and thousands of twinkling lights, while brass bands play festive music, and the aroma of roasted nuts wafts through the air.
We’ll take you to admire the gorgeous half-timbered houses and the Old Town Hall, then we’ll dive into the Christmas market. You have to try the famous Rothenburg Schneeballen, a snowball pastry of rolled fried dough or shortcrust pastry, smothered in everything from melted chocolate to powdered sugar.
As you munch on your sweet treat, you can shop for gifts or duck into one of the glowing taverns for a mug of warm mulled wine. Simply magical!
Berlin Christmas Markets
There are dozens of Christmas markets to choose from when you visit Germany’s capital, and we’ll help you find the very best. The biggest event is the gorgeous Gendarmenmarkt, located by the glowing French and German Cathedral. Here you can visit the heated craftsmen tent to watch wood carvers, goldsmiths, glass blowers and toy makers at work.
There’s also the Saint Lucia Christmas market, a local favourite held at the Berlin Kulturbrauerei. You’ll find an incredible fusion of German and Scandinavian customs, with traditional food, songs and crafts.
One of the most romantic spots is the Weihnachtsmarkt Schloss Charlottenburg in front of the Charlottenburg Palace. There’s a live choir and more than 250 stalls selling sweet snacks like marzipan and gingerbread. We recommend grabbing some mulled wine and taking a stroll through the palace’s gardens to top off a beautiful evening.
There’s also the Hanukkah Market at the Jewish Museum and the Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus. For something unique, check out the Domäne Dahlem Advent market, set around a 16th-century manor house. You’ll find weavers, potters, blacksmiths and instrument makers taking you back to the Yuletide of old in this magical setting.
Düsseldorf Christmas Markets
The Düsseldorf Christmas Markets are an unforgettable experience, and you’ll need to devote at least one whole evening to explore it all. The market has eight themed markets all next to each other, including the popular Art Nouveau-themed Engelchen-Markt in Heinrich-Heine-Platz.
Here you’ll find market stalls adorned in dazzling lights and golden-winged angels. This market is also quite unique, selling everything from clothing and vinyl records to car parts and more. If you’re looking for handicrafts, head to the Weihnachtsmarkt am Rathaus und Marktplatz. You can even watch the blacksmiths, woodworkers and glass-blowers practising their crafts.
Eisenach Christmas Market
Held in the UNESCO-listed Wartburg Castle, Eisenach takes the crown for the most unique location of all German Christmas markets. We’ll take you high above the countryside to this 11th-century castle, where you can wander the stalls throughout the castle’s grounds.
In true medieval fashion, you can find all kinds of traditional products. Be sure to check out the handcrafted wooden carvings and glassware, and festive baked goods made with locally-sourced ingredients. Fill up on sizzling bratwurst and hot mugs of glühwein and soak up the beautiful atmosphere. Then head inside the castle to enjoy the wonderful Christmas concerts.
Erfurt’s medieval Weihnachtsmarkt may be one of the lesser-known Christmas events, but it’s just as extraordinary. It’s set against the stunning backdrop of the well-preserved Old Town, including the St. Severus Church and St. Mary’s Cathedral.
We’ll take a stroll along Merchants’ Bridge, the longest inhabited bridge in Europe dating back to 1325. Then enjoy the magical atmosphere, with the aromas of gingerbread, eggnog, bratwurst and schnitzel filling the air. You can browse more than 200 stalls selling traditional crafts like pottery and blue-dyed fabrics. And don’t forget to sample the Erfurt schittchen, the city’s trademarked fruit bread which originated in the 15th-century.
Which German Christmas markets are at the top of your festive bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!