Germany’s 12 Best Christmas Markets
If you're looking to get into the festive spirit, there's no substitute for an authentic German Christmas market. Sausages sizzle, rows of carved wooden toys for sale, traditional decorations hang on the stalls, and glühwein in mugs — and all are watched over by that quintessentially German festive tradition, a giant Christmas pyramid.
Here’s a collection of our favourite Christmas markets in Germany.
Head to the Mitte district, Berlin's historic core, for what is considered one of the most atmospheric Christmas markets in the city. Weihnachtszauber takes place in Gendarmenmarkt, the square between the Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom. On sale are designs from a multitude of artisans, from wood carvers and belt makers to graphic artists, photographers, and fashion designers. The culinary options are also numerous, and visitors can enjoy live jazz, classical, and gospel music, along with other forms of entertainment, including jugglers and fire-eaters. Once you've eaten and purchased your way through the market, you could warm up by visiting the German Parliament exhibition inside the Deutscher Dom.
Munich Christmas markets
Christmas market-hopping is commonplace in Munich, as there are so many great places to choose from — there's even one at the airport! One of our favourite routes to take is from Odeonsplatz to Isartor. Odeonsplatz's cosy market is fairly hidden, but once you find it, you can browse arts and crafts and eat traditional food. Next, head to the small market in the Residenz, where you'll be greeted by a moose-head singing Christmas songs or telling fairy tales. You can also get the best eierpunsch (egg punch) in the city here. Continue to Marienplatz, where you'll find a large, traditional market in front of the beautiful New Town Hall. It's a good place to refuel — you'll find everything from Christmas cookies to metre-long bratwursts. Finally, head along Tal to the Isartor market, where you can warm up with Munich's famous feuerzangenbowle, a fragrant mixture of rum, red wine, and sugar. The market is framed by the romantic backdrop of the Isartor, one of the main gates on the city's Medieval walls.
Dating from the 16th century, Nuremberg's Christmas market is one of Germany's oldest, and it feels particularly traditional. More than 180 market stalls are spread around the city, and you can expect all the typical German Christmas market ingredients. The main Market Square offers arts, crafts, and other creative gifts, while you can find culinary specialties and unique items on the squares around the St Lorenz and St Jakob churches. On Insel Schütt, an island in the Pegnitz River, the Sister Cities' Market brings crafts from Nuremberg's many sister cities, including Atlanta, Glasgow, Krakow, Prague, and Shenzhen.
Taking place in front of the historic Römer city hall beneath the huge Christmas tree, and surrounded by sparkling lights and historic half-timbered houses, Frankfurt’s Christmas market is one of Germany's most beautiful. The market dates back to 1393, and today 200 elaborately decorated stalls stand throughout the Römerberg, Paulsplatz, Liebfrauenberg, Fahrtor, and Mainkai, selling all kinds of goods including arts and crafts, and honey-based products. Look out too for local specialities, such as Bethmännchen Christmas cookies (made with marzipan and almonds), hot apple wine, baked apples, roasted nuts, and gingerbread, all of which you can sample while listening to carols being sung nearby.
Hamburg Christmas markets
Hamburg plays host to around 30 Christmas markets, so no matter where you wander the sparkle of fairy lights, the smell of sizzling bratwurst, and a chorus of carols won't be far behind. The market on the Rathausmarkt square (next to Hamburg's grand town hall) is perhaps the most famous, and comes complete with its own flying Santa, whose appearance at 4pm each day elicits a collective gasp of excitement from the mass of wide-eyed children below. Other options include the snow-white tents of Jungfernstieg Christmas Market, which sits beside Inner Alster Lake — it's a perfect opportunity to incorporate a gentle twilight cruise into your trip — and the adult-themed Santa Pauli Christmas market, in the city's buzzing Reeperbahn red-light district, which has a live music and entertainment programme.
Dresden Medieval Christmas Market
If you're looking to eschew the modern commercial trappings of the festive season, a good place to head is Dresden's Christmas market. Time seems to have stood still here: music doesn't come out of speakers, but from a host of performers including wandering minstrels. Stallholders wear traditional Medieval robes, there are no plastic decorations, and the products on sale are not mass-produced goods — they've been made by skilled craftsfolk using much the same methods as in Medieval times. Look out too for the traditional Christmas angel that watches from above the stalls. The market has a historic setting. It takes place in the Stallhof, a stable yard belonging to Dresden Castle, on a former tournament site where knights duelled hundreds of years ago. It's also close to other sites such as the Frauenkirche and the city's Roman Catholic cathedral.
Stuttgart Christmas Market
Visitors to Stuttgart are transported north during the festive season, when the city's Karlsplatz plays host to a Finnish Christmas Village. Among its wooden huts, you'll discover gifts, food, and traditions brought from the far north of Europe. There are culinary delicacies such as flammlachs (salmon smoked over an open fire), glögi (mulled wine), elk sausages, handicrafts made from wood and fur, linen textiles, and all kinds of Moomin goods. Of course, Santa Claus also drops by with his elves to hear what the children want for Christmas.
Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
The twin spires of Cologne’s world-famous cathedral form the perfect backdrop for the North Rhine-Westphalia city's most popular Christmas market. The market, in Cologne's Old Town, hosts about 150 wooden stalls, all towered over by a stunningly lit Christmas tree. For gifts, look out for toys, wood carvings, and gingerbread. There's also a children's carousel, and you can grab a mug of spiced glühwein and catch some live music or other entertainment — there's usually an extensive programme of performers. For some added magic, take a tour of the Gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Aachen Christmas Market
It's estimated that each year around 1.5 million visitors make their way to Aachen in the four weeks leading up to Christmas to visit the city's festive market. The market transforms the cobbled squares and lanes around Aachen's town hall and its Baroque cathedral — the resting place of the 9th-century King Charlemagne — with wooden kiosks decked in twinkling lights. As well as offering traditional arts and crafts, it's also a great place to try local food. Vendors dish up treats including mulled-wine-flavoured candy, kartoffelpuffer (a crispy potato fritter), and Aachener Printen (a distinctive anise-flavoured gingerbread). In fact, Printen is so well-loved that there's even a 6-metre giant gingerbread man watching over proceedings while the market is on.
Dusseldorf Christmas markets
Dusseldorf has several Christmas markets, so strolling around the city between them is a great idea. The busiest Christmas market takes place at Marktplatz, where you can pick up ornaments, trinkets, and festive food. Its special features include a century-old carousel and a hand-carved life-sized manger, while you can also watch demonstrations by craftspeople including glass blowers and wood turners. The pretty Engelchenmarkt (Little Angel Market) on Heinrich-Heine-Platz, where the light from hundreds of bulbs reflects off golden statures of angels, is a charming place to wander. Other markets in the city include Flinger Straße, Sternchenmarkt (Little Star Market), and the Scandinavia-themed market at Schadowplatz.
Heidelberg Christmas Market
Heidelberg Christmas Market may not be one of the biggest in Germany, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with its fantastic setting. The market takes place down in the beautiful Altstadt (old town), beneath the city's hilltop castle. There is some particularly good food on offer at the market, including tasty pork skewers and kaiserschmarrn, a kind of fluffy, shredded fried pancake. To make the trip even more memorable, take the funicular railway up to the castle for wonderful views over the town and along the valley of the Neckar River, then walk back down into the Altstadt to do some Christmas shopping at the market.
Ravennaschlucht Christmas Market, Black Forest
We love this magical market for its setting — beneath a railway viaduct (click the menu and then spracht to change to English) that carries the Höllentalbahn line across the Ravennaschlucht (Ravenna Gorge). You're surrounded by the Black Forest on either side of the gorge, and only the rumble of an occasional train overhead competes with the sound of the live music performances that take place at the market. The Christmas village offers handicrafts, gourmet food, and trinkets, while you can also join an hour-long, torch-lit hike through the valley followed by a stop for mulled wine. The colourfully lit viaduct frames the market beautifully, and the scene is all the more romantic when the snow has fallen.
Find out more about German Christmas markets. You can also indulge in our other Christmas market blogs: visit the UK's best Christmas markets, our favourite Christmas markets in Austria, the top Christmas markets in Eastern Europe, and Europe's favourite Christmas markets.
Nick Elvin, Rob Bearne, Adam Potter, and Regina Schneider contributed to this post.