If you’re travelling to Europe at the end of the year, specifically in the month of December, you know your visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Christmas markets. They’re in every country, and specifically in Germany, it is tradition to immerse oneself into the hustle and bustle of the markets, enveloping oneself in the Christmas spirit while enjoying a mug of glȕhwein, some gingerbread and snapping up specially handcrafted items as Christmas gifts. These are the most beautiful ones in Frankfurt, Cologne, Nuremberg and Munich which we recommend you should visit.
For the whole family: Römerberg Christmas Market, Frankfurt
Most German towns have numerous Christmas markets to choose from but Frankfurt does it all in one place. Picture the Christmas lights and stalls in the market square in all its splendour with a backdrop of classic Frankfurt buildings and you’ll truly feel like Christmas is here. One of the oldest markets in Germany, with reports stating that it goes all the way back in 1393, it’s one of the biggest around and there’s something for everyone here. The kids will enjoy the carousel, the adults will like apfelwein, Frankfurt’s specialty of apple wine, glȕhwein – steaming hot mulled wine brewed with spices and served in kitschy Christmas mugs, Christmas cookies like bethmännchen, chocolate covered fruit on sticks, gingerbread, wrusts of course and all kinds of crafts for sale. If you’re really starving, cheese fondue served with crusty bread from one of the many stalls in the market will be sure to satiate your hunger.
There are a few highlights to see, one of which is a 300-year-old timber frame ‘honey house’ in St Paul’s Square that houses all things honey and beeswax for sale especially at this time of the year. Another stall you mustn’t miss is the one selling uniquely flavoured almonds by Monika Eiserloh. She does a huge variety of flavours like amaretto, Red Bull, cheesecake, Bailey’s, Nutella, cappucino, pina colada, strawberry and even edible gold leaf and creates new flavours every week (there were chili almonds when we were there). “She’s the original one…there have been other stalls set up trying to follow her but her’s is the best,” declared a local.
For the open minded and lovers of pink: Pink Christmas Market, Frankfurt
If you take a walk about 5 minutes from the main Römerberg Christmas market, you’ll come across the Rosa Weihnacht or Pink Christmas Market in Friedrich Stoltze Square. It’s not the biggest but it’s cosy and you’ll know you’re there because the area is bathed in pink-purple lights and pink Christmas trees. Friends and Frankfurt’s hip crowd gather here for after work drinks and a bite to eat, and the stalls are owned or run by people from the LGBT community. A highlight is the Feurerzangenbowle stall with its 15-feet high cauldron full of spiced punch. Sugar is melted into the cauldron and its contents served in mugs. It gives you a bigger kick than the regular glȕhwein since it has a shot of rum added in. Perfect for warming you up and giving you a happy buzz.
For the most popular and well-known market: Christkindlstmarkt, Nuremberg
We were told that Nuremberg is one of the oldest and most popular Christmas markets in Germany where more than 2 million people travel to visit annually. Located in the old town in front of Frauenkirche church (Church of Our Lady), the market dates back to the early 17th century and is one of the largest. There are over 180 stalls filled with traditional gingerbread, handmade Christmas decorations, gingerbread, brandies, fruit jams, clothing, small finger-sized Nürnberger sausages served with potato salad or sauerkraut and of course, glȕhwein. The start of the Christmas market at the end of November is marked by the tradition of parading the holy cherub Christkind (‘Christ child’) – the traditional giver of gifts at Christmas time, played by a teenage girl in the city – through Nuremberg’s central square, the Hauptmarkt.
Christkindlstmarkt, Nuremberg, Photo: iStock
Gingerbread galore at Nuremberg Christmas market. Photo: iStock
Personalised gingerbread for sale at Christkindlstmarkt, Nuremberg. Photo: iStock
For ice skating and local crafts: Münchner Christkindlmarkt, Munich
There are around seven different Christmas markets in Munich alone but the biggest of them all is the Münchner Christkindlmarkt in Marienplatz which goes along the shopping street to the Richard Strauss Fountain. Snap pictures in front of the huge Christmas tree and 2,500 candles illuminating the area in front of the town hall and if you’re up for a bit of ice skating, Germany’s largest one in Karlspatz Square is just a few minutes walk away and will be open. Stalls at the market offer a variety of Bavarian goodies such as handmade ornaments, toys and wood carvings, gingerbread and other sweets, clothing made out of sheepskin and wool and hot mugs of feurersangenbowle. Like at all the markets in Germany, you will be required to pay a small deposit for each mug when you purchase a hot drink, usually about €2 or €3, and when you return the mug, you will be given your deposit back. You can also choose to keep the mug instead of collecting your deposit back if you wish.
A highlight of the market is the Christkindl tram that travels around the markets with mulled wine offered on board for the adults and kinderpunsch for the kids. And if you stick around Münchner Christkindlmarkt, you can enjoy live music, which is performed every evening at 5:30pm on the balcony of the town hall for a truly festive vibe.
For a variety of food, stunning architectural surroundings and lively music: Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
Surrounded by historical buildings and museums, Cologne is also home to about seven Christmas markets, and perhaps the most famous of them can be found directly outside the majestic Cologne cathedral – Weihnachtsmarkt Am Kölner Dom. There are more than 100 stage appearances, culinary delights and artisan handicraft by 150 exhibitors housed in wooden structures, with many of them offering organic certified cuisine. It’s a place that’s perfect for foodies with glazed apples, apple strudel, bratwurst hot dogs, roasted chestnuts, crepes, potato pancakes and even raclette cheese melted on toast to tempt the taste buds. To add to the atmosphere, there is a stage set up for musical performances and the kids will love the traditional carousel and spinning the wheel of fortune.