Christmas markets are a regular seasonal feature in many German towns and they are fantastic for a family weekend away. As well as magical winter markets, Germany has some amazing cities which blend the best in old and new architecture, with cutting edge cultural experiences ranging from world class orchestras to art galleries and fairy tale castles.
Germany’s Christmas markets are one the most popular reasons to visit Germany. Beautifully decorated festive stalls start popping up from late November in Berlin, Cologne, Leipzig and Frankfurt as well as in lesser known places to UK holidaymakers like Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt and the Striezelmarkt in Dresden.
The markets take pride in their appearance, and you’ll feel as though you’re jumping into one of those picture perfect Christmas cards. On a cold sub 10 degrees day, you could wonder past choirs and brass bands playing festive music, enjoying the warm glow of the festive lights on the decorated wooden stalls and sipping on your flask of mulled wine. Not least, you’ll be able to choose a few artisan presents to take home to place under your own Christmas tree.
The food on offer is also delicious. Each market sells something unique and encourages you to try each region’s culinary specialities and treats. Germany is also home to some of the best sausages and beer in the world.
A good day to be there is Saint Nicolas Day on 6 December – a traditional day of giving gifts, a favourite among German children. On the eve of 5 December, children clean and polish their boots and leave them outside on the door step. When they wake up, they find their shoes filled with nuts, candy, and small gifts from St Nicholas. Christmas celebrations start early in Germany and Markets will be celebrating for most of December.
Here are some of the best German Christmas markets to visit and interesting regional foods to discover:
Berlin is incredibly popular with those looking for fantastic nightlife, but it has so much more to offer with world-class art galleries and concert halls, beautifully restored buildings and stunning parks. It also has sixty different markets including a special sweets-only one in Kreuzberg which would be festive treat for both the little ones and big ones. It boasts, being the ‘one-stop shop for the sweetest cakes, pies, tarts, brownies, scones, cupcakes, cookies, macaroons, marshmallows, chocolates, honeys and jams Germany's capital has to offer.’
Markets in Cologne sell traditional foods from its region, North-Rhine Westphalia where you’ll try smoked fish specialities, chestnuts with doughnuts, as well as cabbage and bacon strudels. The biggest market in Cologne is the Cathedral Christmas Market, which has 150 attractively designed wooden pavilions selling gift ideas such as woodcarvings, glass balls, ceramics, accessories, children's toys, and soaps. To explore outside of Cologne you could venture north of the city, to Schleswig Holstein.
If you’re travelling to Berlin, try a duo city break with nearby Leipzig. Leipzig is a captivating medieval city, which has one of the oldest Christmas markets, dating back to 1458. Its 250 twinkling stalls wind around its historic centre. Visitors can also catch the traditional performance of the trombonists staged at the Old Town Hall every day of the market at 6pm.
Frankfurt Christmas market is another one of the largest and oldest markets in Germany. It has a full programme of entertainment to plan for from listening to the chiming of the bells, Christmas carols and to taking a ride on a historical steam train or booking onto a guided tour around the market.
There’s also a famous ‘Green Sauce’ (Hessen) delicacy to try which you put on top of roasted almonds. While you’re there, you can also try “Feuerzangenbowle” – a warm red wine, orange juice and rum mix, made with a burning sugar loaf over a big pot.
So it seems there is something for everyone looking to take a short trip to Germany at this festive time of the year and the opportunity to learn some extremely long German words too!
Find out more about ABTA's 2018 Travel Trends report by visiting: abta.com/traveltrends2018.