The Best German Christmas Markets

What's Christmas without Christmas markets? We take a look at the wintry delights of Germany at this wonderful time of year.

Dating back to the 14th century, German Christmas markets are a long-held tradition that still stand today. The evocative smells, tastes and sights are all closely associated with Christmas, from the flavoursome aroma of spicy mulled wine and chestnuts roasting over hot coals to festively decorated gingerbread and cinnamon-scented baked apples.

With their fairy lights, traditional music, decorated trees and rows of wooden huts all selling hot food, drinks or crafts, a Weihnachtsmarkt is sure to get everyone in the festive spirit. Embrace the season with a weekend at one of Germany’s best Christmas markets.

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Dresden: The Striezelmarkt

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The oldest Christmas market in Germany, Dresden’s market dates back to 1434. Located in the Altmarkt Square in the city centre, the charming Striezelmarkt is one of the most popular markets in the country with over two million people visiting each year. Aside from being the oldest market in Germany, Striezelmarkt also features the tallest Nutcracker in the world and the highest Christmas pyramid. At night, the market glows golden, as its festive lights illuminate the wintery dark.

Some crafts on offer include pottery, candle holders and blown-glass Christmas decorations, as well as the traditional Dresden Pflaumentoffel – a good luck charm in the shape of a chimney sweep figure made of dried prunes.

Each weekend, a different local tradition is celebrated; one standout event is the Stollen Festival, where a giant stollen cake – a German Christmas cake, after which the market is named – is ceremoniously cut on the second Saturday of Advent. Slices of the cake are then handed out for a small fee, which goes to charity.

24th November – 24th December

Hamburg: The Rathausmarkt

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Out of Hamburg’s many diverse markets, the one outside the imposing Town Hall is probably the most well known. Set in front of the building’s impressive central clock tower, the Town Hall Square market is hosted by Roncalli’s Circus, accounting for the cups of punch served by clowns and performers.

Wander through the brilliantly lit stalls to watch the bakers from Aachen make printen biscuits and Nuremberg bakers mix their famous gingerbread. Silversmiths, woodcarvers and pottery makers also work in this market, where around 100 traders gather.

Children can climb aboard a 19th century-style carousel, walk wide-eyed through Toy Street and watch as Santa flies his sleigh above the market every day at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm. Adults can warm their hands on glühwein (mulled wine) whilst taking a boat cruise on Lake Alster.

21st November – 23rd December

Stuttgart: The Weihnachtsmarkt

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Another of Germany’s oldest markets and attracting around three million visitors every year, the city’s Weihnachtsmarkt is also one of the largest with over 282 glittering stalls assembled in the Renaissance courtyard of Stuttgart’s Old Palace. Each stall vies with each other for the annual ‘best decorated’ title, a competition which makes this one of the most spectacular markets in the country.

Along the cobbled streets, where the scents of vanilla, pine and cinnamon mingle, you can find local specialities, such as felted slippers, horsehair brushes and fruit brandy. Toasted almonds, roasted chestnuts and warming gingerbread sit alongside steaming mulled wine and Christmas punch. Families with children can head to the grotto on the Schlossplatz, where there are carousels, a big wheel and a miniature railway with a real steam train.

A highlight of the Weihnachtsmarkt is the free, festive concerts by music groups and choirs from all over Germany, which are conducted in the courtyard throughout the season. Better yet, the performances are free.

23rd November – 23rd December

Worms: The Obermarkt

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The small, ancient town of Worms hosts another of our favourite markets, with just 50 or so stalls, creating a much more intimate atmosphere than some of the other larger markets. From toys and jewellery to wooden crafts and festive decorations, there’s a wide selection of goods on offer.

The ‘living manger’ is a particular hit with children, who can pet the farmyard animals making up the Nativity scene. There’s also Santa’s ‘lucky dip’ to visit, where kids can pull out a gift from his sack of presents, and an ice skating rink, too.

Music plays a big part in Worms’ Christmas market, with brass bands, choirs and alphorn players performing, alongside some more off-beat selections, such as a gospel choir.

21st November – 23rd December

Cologne: The Weihnachtsmarkt Am Dom

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With the colossal Cologne Cathedral proving a suitably historic and impressive backdrop, the Am Dom Christmas market is understandably popular, attracting an estimated four million visitors. The Gothic church is the largest cathedral in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which surely affords this Christmas market one of the best settings in the country.

There are ceramics, toys, glassware and wood carvings to browse, plus traditional music to help you get in the spirit of things. Festively decorated mugs of Cologne’s ‘original Christmas mulled wine’ are the order of the day at this market.

In the square, the 160 wooden stalls are clustered around the central Christmas tree – the largest in the Rhineland, standing at 25 metres high and draped with around 50,000 LED lights.

21st November – 23rd December

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