Bundle up and stroll through the softly-lit, carved wooden stalls. Take in the Christmas ornaments, marionettes, cuckoo clocks and countless German gifts for sale. Enjoy the aroma of grilled bratwurst and candied almonds. Revel in the sound of live Christmas music punctuated by the chestnut vendor’s cries. Hold a cup of mulled wine that somehow is the perfect way to keep warm in the snowy square. This is Bamberg’s annual Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market.
Annual Weihnachtsmarkt in Bamberg’s Maxplatz
Each year near the end of November, and roughly corresponding to America’s Thanksgiving weekend, the annual traditional Christmas market opens in the Franconian city of Bamberg. This beautiful baroque city is famous for its smoke beer (Rauchbier), its cathedral (Bamberger Dom), the Klein Venedig (Little Venice) fisherman’s houses, Michaelsberg monastery and many other treasures.
The market is located in the Maximiliansplatz, or Maxplatz as the locals call it, in front of the courthouse. The tall baroque buildings bordering all four sides of the market square protect it from some of the harsh winter weather. At one end is a large nativity scene in half-timbered Franconian style that changes every few days to tell the traditional story of the birth of Jesus throughout the season.
Traditional German Christmas Presents
The items for sale at Bamberg’s market range from mass-produced trinkets to handmade, one-of-a-kind treasures. Some of the booths will carry things such as cuckoo clocks and puppets you can see at other market locations such as Heidelberg and Frankfurt. However, there are a large number of stalls offering unique, locally-made items as well. And gifts are available in almost any price range.
Traditional Bavarian Christmas Food: Gluhwein, Lebkuchen and Gebranntenen Mandeln
Among the Christmas goodies to be had at the Bamberg market is mulled wine, or Gluhwein. It is served incredibly hot from various vendors and warms your hands as you stroll about the traditional European market. In addition, something about the composition of the spices and red wine warms you inside like nothing else, making your Christmas market experience surprisingly comfortable.
Feast on two fresh-roasted bratwurst on a hardroll (Ein Paar) or a paper cone filled with warm, candied roasted almonds (Gebranntenen Mandeln). Of course, you have to pick up several packages of gingerbread (Lebkuchen) for the folks back home. Make sure it’s from nearby Nurnberg.
Opening Hours of Bamberg’s Weihnachtsmarkt
The market is open daily, usually through December 23. Hours may vary by year, but generally the market opens around 9:00 a.m. and closes around 8:00 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. It opens around 11:00 a.m. on Sundays and stays open til around 8:00 p.m.
Four Other Christmas Markets in Bamberg
In addition to the month-long market on Maxplatz are four other markets in Bamberg during the Christmas season. One is the renowned Nativity Trail (Krippenweg), which is a route of over 30 stops with a vast array of nativity figures and scenes.
The Advent Market on Sandstrasse is usually held on the last weekend of November. It is associated with St. Elisabeth’s Church and takes place in the Sandstrasse district.
The Bamberg Artisan Market takes place around the second weekend in December and features handmade arts and crafts.
The Medieval Christmas Market takes place for about a week in the middle of December. It is held at the Castle Geyerswörth near the Old Town Hall.
How to get to the Bamberg Christmas Market
Driving: If you drive to Maxplatz, parking is convenient because there is a parking garage right under the square. Follow your map, GPS, or signs to the Parkhaus Bamberg Karstadt which is open 24 hours a day. You must pay to park, but the vending machines accept most major credit cards.
From the train station: Maxplatz is 1.3 miles from the Bamberg train station and is quite walkable. Take Luitpoldstrasse that leads straight out from the train station’s main doors for most of the way until you cross the bridge over the river. Just past the bridge, take a right onto Heinrichsdamm and a left onto Hauptwachstrasse which will take you to the market square.
Alternatively you can catch a city bus in front of the train station. As you exit the station, the bus stop is across the street and to the right. Any bus will take you to the main bus station (ZOB). Buy your ticket from the bus driver.
From the bus station: At the main bus station (ZOB) walk through the Honer store or the Muller store to reach Maxplatz. Both stores have signs that say “Passage zum Maxplatz.” If the stores are closed, take the side street to their left.
Of course, you can always take a taxi from anywhere. Just don’t miss this wonderful experience of old world charm.