Christmas is here! I am sure that you are going to spend the day opening presents, setting up your new electronics and of course cleaning up the wrapping paper later before you sit down to a Christmas dinner and end the night in a ‘food coma’. But before you slip into sweet food coma bliss, I wanted to share some ideas to get you planning for next year’s holiday season.
This year I had the privilege of being able to take a trip to Germany specifically to experience Christmas Markets. When I shared with my family what I was doing and where I was going, the first response I always got was “what is a Christmas Market?” Now, this can seem like a silly response to you but if it isn’t – I will explain briefly. A Christmas market in Europe is a HUGE Christmas themed party that has food, vendors, mulled wine, sweets, carousels, music and more! Normally, set outside in a main town square location that is close to the “heart” of the city.
Before packing my bags, I had to do some research to decide where I was going! There are tons of markets to choose from and I had to pick 1) what country I was going to 2) what cities was I going to hit? And 3) how grand were the markets in those cities?
There was a bit of research that had to be done before I grabbed my passport but after much deliberation, I decided on Germany. Now, I want to share with you the top 5 Christmas Markets in Germany:
1) Striezelmarkt, Dresden
You will find yourself singing when you are walking around Striezelmarkt “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”, even if you visit in November. This Christmas market dates to the 15th century! The name of this market, Striezelmarkt derives from Strüzel or Stroczel, which is the name of a style of cake sold at the market, which is now known as Stollen. The market is set up in the heart of one of the oldest areas in the city with the River Elbe flowing in the background, the market square is covered in the calm twinkle of festive lights that lures visitors with beautiful features such as the Plaumentoffel – decorative figures made of prunes – and of course, the big crowd-pleaser is the largest Christmas pyramid in the country, which stands at 46 feet high!
2) Cathedral Christmas market, Cologne
Cologne’s number one Christmas Market is based at the foot of the city’s most renowned attraction and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Gothic Cathedral. There is a massive Christmas tree that acts as the centerpiece for the entire market. Enjoy sipping on some Glühwein while browsing the market’s stands as live-music acts perform Christmas tunes. This market truly feels magical!
3) Römerberg market, Frankfurt
Be prepared to get lost a few times in this one! Römerberg is MASSIVE! If should you arrive prior to the market’s start you will see hundreds of wooden huts getting moved into the old town squares surrounding Frankfurt’s Römerberg. Römerberg Market is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, with records suggesting it dates back as far as 1393! Here you can have history and beauty in a single market.
4) Marienplatz Christmas Market, Munich
If you think that you should only visit Munich during Oktoberfest, think again! Enter a world of Neo-Gothic New and Old Town architecture while visiting the Marienplatz Christmas Market. You will see hundreds of wooden stalls that have completely transformed the town square into an authentic winter wonderland. Every inch of the square is decorated with lights, garlands, and ornaments, and of course, traditional German Christmas treats like stollen, chestnuts and berry mulled wine.
5) Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg
If you hear the term “Christmas Market” what is the first image that pops into your mind? I am hoping it is like the markets we’ve already covered. But many travelers think that Nuremberg is the quaint and quintessential image of a Christmas Market. Folklore and tradition set the theme at Nuremberg. The Christkindlesmarkt opens at the beginning of Advent and runs until Christmas Eve. If you are looking for a unique souvenir from Nuremberg, vendors from the Franconian region provide just that with items such as brandies, fruit jams, and clothes made from local wool.
I hope my research and experience has helped guide you into a comfortable food coma and has also inspired you to visit a Christmas market (or six) next year!
Traveling Photographer Out!