The tradition of the German Christmas market stretches back hundreds of years. According to Come to Germany, today there are over 2,500 Christmas markets across Germany. They can be found in almost every city and town, are held outdoors, and are free to the public.
Most importantly, they capture the magical spirit of Christmas and provide families, friends, and visitors from all over the world with an old-fashioned holiday experience, free of modern commercialism. These markets are a full sensory experience for both the natives and tourists alike.
What to Expect from a Visit to a German Christmas Market
German Christmas Markets states that the markets generally open toward the end of November and stay open until Christmas Eve, which is the day the Germans hold their main Christmas festivities. The markets are open all day, from around 10 or 11am to eight or 9pm.
The markets consist of various stands and vendors featuring hand-crafted items, hand-blown glass ornaments, candles, and other types of gifts. The items sold are not cheap, however, and the selection, while vast and varied, will not necessarily cover one’s Christmas shopping list. The cheerful and peaceful atmosphere, though, is plentiful and free.
Perhaps the highlight of the market experience for most people is the food. The markets serve an array of traditional German Christmas treats, such as “Glühwein” (hot spiced wine), as well as candied apples, chocolate covered bananas, chocolate covered marshmallows called “Schaumküsse” (foam kisses), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), and marzipan figures. For those with a taste for the savory and not the sweet, there are roasted chestnuts, sausages, and traditional potato pancakes, eaten with either sour cream or apple sauce.
Popular German Christmas Markets
The largest Christmas market is in Nuremberg, but others have special highlights, such as the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid at the market in Dresden, which is also Germany’s oldest Christmas market, and the Roncalli’s circus performers entertaining guests at the market in Hamburg.
How to Germany lists the following as some of the top Christmas markets:Augsburg, Berlin, Bernkastel-Kues, Cologne, Dresden, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hamelin, Heidelberg, Leipzig, Munich, Regensburg, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
German-style Christmas markets are now becoming popular in major cities in the US as well, with vendors coming over directly from Germany to share their traditional wares and foods with an American audience. According to How to Germany, these markets can now be found in Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, New York City, and Philadelphia, among other places.