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German Christmas Markets

The magical world of traditional German Christmas Markets is casting more visitors under its spell every year. The historic Christmas Markets, held in cities, towns and villages throughout the country, are becoming increasingly more popular, due, no doubt, to the enchanting Festive Season atmosphere they evoke.

The Christmas fairs and markets of Germany are unique. If you're tired of commercialism taking over this holiday period and would like to get right away for a real traditional and romantic Christmas Market you might want to consider heading to Germany where gifts are not mass-produced but craftwork of real quality.

Here you can buy all kinds of Christmas merchandise and gifts, especially traditional things such as crib figurines, toys, wood carvings, marionettes, candles and lambskin shoes. Many are difficult to resist - as will be the glass of delicious mulled wine you are offered and the baked apples that are very welcome on crisp winter days.

The ambience is further enhanced by the aromas of  hot chestnuts, grilled sausages and other tasty snacks. Youngsters especially will be attracted to the gingerbread biscuits known as Lebkuchen, marzipan figures and other sweets.

With so many Christmas Markets through out Germany the most difficult decision to make is indeed where to go. The best solution is to sample at least two Christmas Markets, preferably in a city for some serious shopping and a small town or village if you are looking for something a little bit more romantic.


 

Well-known Christmas Markets


Learn about the most famous of the German Christmas Markets below.

Augsburg Essen Leipzig
Berlin Frankfurt Munich
Bernkastel-Kues Hamburg Regensburg
Cologne Hamelin Rothenburg
Dresden Heidelberg  


 

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Augsburg
It's held on the Rathausplatz and Martin-Luther-Platz. Each year the city hall becomes one big Advent calendar, with scenes in the windows.


Berlin
Berlin, has many Christmas markets, at least one in each of its 12 districts. They include one in the Prenzlauer Berg district that is modeled on the Swedish Lucia Festival, in which a girl with a wreath of lighted candles in her hair plays the part of the patron saint of light. Another is on the impressive Gendarmenmarkt, but the Weihnachtsmarke Mitte, on the festival grounds on Alexanderstrasse, is probably the most impressive. The stands are grouped around a Ferris wheel and carousels, and a little railroad takes the kiddies through a "fairytale forest" under a huge Christmas tree.

 
 
 
 
Bernkastel-Kues
It takes place in front of the 600-year-old Michaelskirche in the old city of this famous, half-timbered wine town on the Mosel. The program includes a "Nikolaus-Wanderung" through the forests and vineyards that surround the town.
Cologne
Cologne, has no fewer than six Christmas markets, each with its own character. Artistic craftsmen dominate the scene in front of the Cathedral, under the largest Christmas tree in the Rheinland. The stands are "half timbered" at the traditional market on the Alte Markt in front of the city hall in the old city, while the oldest of the markets is on the centrally located Neue Markt in the shopping district. There is even a "floating market" on one of the Rhine excursion boats, which will be at anchor on the Rhine Promenade during the market.
     
 
Dresden
Stands at the Striezelmarkt here feature wooden folk art from the nearby Erzgebirge; the "smoking men" who emit real smoke from their mouths; the Christmas pyramid which rotates by the rising heat from candles and tinkles as it strikes bells; angel candleholders, and especially those fierce nutcrackers; soldiers, kings and other authority figures who crack nuts in their mouths. Dresden is also the home of the rich stollen cake and the market usually includes one of record size.
Essen
This city's Christmas market takes place simultaneously with its Lichterwochen, "light weeks" in which a hundred thousand lights in fantastic patterns turn night into day. Visitors to the fair can watch craftsmen at such occupations as gem cutting, glass blowing, wood carving and candle making.
Frankfurt
The fair takes place on the Römerberg, in front of the restored, medieval town hall. The Glockenspiel on the Nikolaikirche plays daily at just after 9 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. There is choral singing and trumpet music from the Nikolaikirche. The Frankfurt Christmas market has been "exported" with great success to its partner city of Birmingham, England, and it has been declared the most authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany.
Hamburg
Hamburg, too has a number of Christmas markets to offer. The one in front of the city hall includes an art nouveau Viennese café, while guests at the one on the Spitalerstrasse are greeted by a giant plastic St. Nicholas.
Hamelin
It takes place around the Marktkirche in this celebrated, half-timbered city of the Pied Piper. There are Advent cruises on the Weser in connection with the market.
Heidelberg
Heidelberg holds its Christmas market in three locations; Universitätsplatz, Marktplatz and Kornmarkt. At the last named, with a splendid view of the castle, there is a crèche where children can pet the live animals.
Leipzig
The Alt Leipzig Christmas market, on the Marktplatz in front of the Alten Rathaus, has the largest free-standing Advent calendar in the world to fascinate young and old alike.
Munich
The Christkindlmarkt is centered around a 30-meter Christmas tree in front of the city hall on the Marienplatz. The tree is a good place to meet your friends. The attraction Munich's residents love the most is the Kripperlmarkt, or crèche market. The figures of terracotta, wax or wood represent the Infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Three Kings, the shepherds and their sheep, the donkey and the steer. They are lined up side by side in peaceful harmony, awaiting the buyers who will give them a place in their homes.

Regensburg
It's held in the courtyard of the Turn und Taxis Palace, decorated with thousands of lights, candles, lanterns and sparklers.


Rothenburg ob der Tauber
This celebrated fairy tale city is all the more picturesque during the Christmas Reiterlesmarkt. The Reiterle was the Germanic god Wotan, who rode his horse around during the winter to distribute gifts to the poor. At this market he, along with St. Nicholas, distributes gifts to the children. A traditional manger scene is set up in the courtyard of the city hall, and children march past it carrying lanterns made especially for the occasion.