Christmas is fast approaching, and I can’t wait to see all the lights and catch that smell of mulled wine in the air. Because let’s face it –  there’s nothing better at Christmas time than strolling through rows of beautifully decorated stalls and browsing the lovingly decorated displays. And when you’re all wrapped up in your favourite hat and scarf with a mug of Glühwein in your hand, you’ll soon forget about the cold winter nights.

For me personally, there’s one country in Europe that comes straight to mind as soon as anyone mentions Christmas markets: Germany. Trust me – when it comes to the festive season, the Germans have got it sussed! Up and down the country you’ll find sprawling markets in beautiful locations. The atmosphere is absolutely breathtaking, maintaining a sense of cosiness and intimate despite drawing massive crowds. And when you’ve see all of these whopping Christmas trees and staggering light displays, well… You can’t help but feel like a little kid all over again!

Join me on a little adventure and discover my selection of the best Christmas markets in Germany. Who knows – maybe I’ll see you there this year! ;)

The Best Christmas Markets in Germany

Munich | Bremen | Dresden | Frankfurt | Berlin | Dortmund

Leipzig | Nuremberg | Hamburg | Cologne

christmas market

Munich, Bavaria – the Christkindlmarkt

Let’s start our German adventure in the province of Bavaria. The land of Lederhosen, Dirndls and Oktoberfest, it’s the region where most of the things we think of as being typically German come from. And when it comes to Christmas markets, Munich is a massive contender.

A Christmas market is known as Christkindlmarkt in these parts of Germany, and Munich boasts one of the largest and oldest in the area. It mostly plays out in front of the intricately designed city hall in Marienplatz, situated in the heart of the Old Town. There you’ll find hundreds of stalls that draw visitors from far and near. The Munich Christkindlmarkt was first mentioned in the year 1310, making it one of the oldest markets in the German-speaking regions of Europe. A particular highlight is the 30m-tall Christmas tree decorated with no less than 2,500 lights. Each year a different village or town in Bavaria will donate the tree – but sometimes Austria or Italy might help out too!

Useful information:

  • Best airport: Munich (MUC)
  • Dates: 27/11 – 24/12/2017
  • Open 7 days a week
The market in Marienplatz isn’t the only one in Munich. Why not visit the Kripperlmarkt – it’s a stone’s throw away from the Christkindlmarkt in the pedestian area between Stachus and Marienplatz. Here you’ll find hand-made nativity figures, mangers and craft accessories. You could even grab a Glühwein at the Sternenplatzl and enjoy some cosy moments together.
Christmas Market in Marienplatz, Munich
The market at Marienplatz. Photo: istock.com / Flavio-Vallenari

Bremen – Bremer Weihnachtsmärkte

The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen might be small, but it sure is mighty. Perfectly suited for a day or two of exploring, this cute city found its riches through maritime trade and as such boasts some seriously beautiful architecture. They couldn’t have picked a better place to have a Christmas market than Bremen’s main square!

The centre of Bremen really is bursting with magic during the Advent season. There are almost 170 stalls huddled together in a sea of lights in the main market square. As well as traditional stalls and German food you’ll also find fairground rides that are perfect for keeping little ones entertained, and you’ll be sure to find the perfect souvenirs to take home with you.

Useful information:

  • Best airport: Bremen (BRE)
  • Dates: 27/11 – 23/12/2017
  • Open 7 days a week
But as you’d expect from a Hanseatic city on the water, the city also puts a maritime spin on Christmas as well. On the banks of the River Weser you’ll find an embankment teeming with life and filled with market stands with fresh seafood, performers and docked boats. It’s known as the Schlachte Magic market and is well worth checking out while you’re there!
Colorful Bremen Christmas Market
Bremen Christmas Market

Dresden, Saxony – the Striezelmarkt

This is another heavyweight in the world of German markets. Dresden, the capital of Saxony, is famous for its breathtaking architecture. But it also happens to be home to the oldest Christmas market in Germany, having been established in 1434 when the Saxon Elector Friedrich II opened a market on the Old Market Square, one day before Christmas Eve.

Besides the medieval flair in the stable yard of the Dresden Royal Palace, there’s also one local delicacy that you just can’t to miss: Stollen cake! It’s a staple in Germany during the Advent season, but its origins can be traced back to the region of Saxony. An absolute highlight is the Stollenfest, during which a giant 4-ton Stollen cake is paraded in a carriage from Zwinger Palace all the way to the Striezelmarkt. There’s a ceremonial knife, known as the Dresden Stollen Knife (or Dresdner Stollenmesser), that’s used to cute the supersized Stollen – it’s almost two metres long and weighs around 12kg! Germans take Christmas seriously, like I said! ;)

Useful information:

  • Best airport: Berlin (SXF or TXL)
  • Dates: 30/11 – 24/12/2017
  • Open 7 days a week
As well as being the largest market in eastern Germany, it’s also one of the most traditional around. You’ll see a lot of handicrafts and regional customs being represented such as pottery and ceramics, woodworking and glass-blowing.
View over Dresden Christmas Market – Striezelmarkt
Dresden’s traditional Striezelmarkt.

Frankfurt, Hessen – Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt

To many, Frankfurt gives the impression of being a city of business. The skyline is dominated by towering skyscrapers, alluding to the city’s role as being Germany’s vibrant financial heart. Believe me though, Frankfurt is so much more than that!

In the very centre of the city you’ll find the Römerberg Square. It’s beautiful all year round, with its majestic half-timbered buildings and beautiful architecture contrasting with the glass-clad towers beyond. It draws plenty of international visitors anyway, but during the Christmas season it transforms into a whole new world! The Frankfurt Christmas Market is in fact one of the largest in all of Germany in terms of visitor numbers, completely filling up Römerberg Square and even sprawling out into the pretty streets and alleyway leading into the Old Town.

Useful information:

  • Best airport: Frankfurt-am-Main (FRA)
  • Dates: 27/11/2017 – 22/12/2017
  • Open 7 days a week
There’s a very romantic atmosphere here – enjoy some candy floss or candy apples as you take the traditional merry-go-round for a spin, cosy up with a glass of Glühwein and spend ages exploring all the stalls. There’s nearly 200 of them, so you’ve got plenty to get stuck into!

Christmas market in Frankfurt, Germany

Berlin – Weihnachtszauber

Aah, Berlin… Easily one of my favourite cities of all time thanks to its abundance of trendy neighbourhoods and bucketloads of sights. And sure, the entire city gets swept away by that festive feeling with markets popping up all across the map, but there’s one by far that’s the most magical of all!

Head to the Gendarmenmarkt square in the very centre of the city and you’ll be greeted with the Weihnachtszauber market. The name – which translates to “Christmas magic” – says it all really! You’ll be greeted with the sight of dozens of beautiful white tents, each one topped with stars and decorated with glistening garlands. And in the centre, a wonderfully decorated tree. The beautiful architecture all around only adds to the magic. I recommend heading to the top of the steps outside one of the two cathedrals either side and enjoy views of the market before entering. You’ll find lots of cosy places to enjoy some Glühwein or Eierpunsch, almost like the German take on eggnog.

Useful information:

  • Best airport: Berlin (SXF or TXL)
  • Dates: 30/11 – 24/12/2017
  • Open 7 days a week
Last time I was here you did have to pay to enter. That is enough to put some people off admittedly, but personally I think it’s worth it – the crowds remain small and calm and the atmosphere is very intimate and relaxed. But I think it’s a great way to escape from the hustle and bustle outside and just focus on the magic!
christmas market on berlin gendarmenmarkt at night shutterstock_42961615-2
Aerial view of the Weihnachtszauber market.

Dortmund, North-Rhine Westphalia – Dortmunder Weihnachtsmarkt

Football isn’t the only thing that’s larger than life here. The Christmas Market in Dortmund is easily one of the biggest when it comes to size and visitor numbers, featuring approximately 300 stands and drawing over 3.6 million visitors each year. There’s so much to see and admire here that you should dedicate a whole day to it!

Dortmund’s market also has another claim to fame – it boasts the world’s largest Christmas tree! Well… it’s not strictly one tree as such. Instead it’s made up of 1,700 separate pine trees built around a metal structure. In the days leading up to the market you’ll be able to see the construction slowly take shape, and once it’s complete it reaches an impressive height of 45m. The tree adorned with dozens of lights, giant candles and a massive angel on top. Locals love to come and watch the lights being switched on – think of it as the ‘official’ start of the Christmas season!

Useful information:

  • Best airport: Düsseldorf (DUS)
  • Dates: 23/11 – 26/12/2017
  • Open 7 days a week
Despite being busy, things feel super cosy. My personal recommendation: head to Wendler’s Almhütte for some fresh Glühwein. Situated in Hansaplatz close to the super-sized Christmas tree the hut is spread over 2 floors – you can enjoy the cosy atmosphere inside or enjoy the views of the market below! You’ll quickly forget about the cold winter weather, that’s for sure!
Night on xmas market in Dortmund
Photo: iStock / justhavealook

Leipzig, Saxony – Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt

From west to east – it’s back to Saxony to take a look at another fantastic German Christmas market! The sprawling markets in the city of Leipzig come with all the classic attractions and charms that any German market is renowned for, but it also has some tricks of its own.

Here in Leipzig, you’ll find the world’s largest Advent Calendar. It’s pretty hard to miss, since it takes up a whole building in the small street of Böttchergasse. As each new day breaks, another window is opened, and the whole thing culminates in a little festival at the end. The Christmas market in Leipzig is a fantastic experience especially for the kids too: they can chat to Santa on the stage or explore the enchanted forest! Carnival rides are guaranteed to provide lots of fun and there’s also the Elves’ workshop where they can create anything they want.

Useful information:

  • Best airport: Berlin (SXF or TXL)
  • Dates: 28/11 – 23/11/2017
  • Open 7 days a week
You’ll often hear trumpet players up on the balcony of the old City Hall playing pretty fanfares, another small details that adds to the overall magic of Leipzig’s bustling markets And when it comes to gastronomic offerings, you can choose between Scandinavian treats over in the Finnish Village, or try some local delicacies native to Leipzig that you won’t find anywhere else in Germany.
Leipzig christmas market
Photo: Shutterstock / LianeM

Nuremberg, Bavaria – Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt

Oh, the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg is just so pretty! I think this is the one that comes to most people’s minds when we talk about German markets. The Christkindlesmarkt is known all around the world and it’s definitely one of those things which you just have to see at least once! Underneath the gorgeous blaze of lights is a special, contemplative atmosphere.

Just stroll through the Christkindlmarkt with an original Nuremberg gingerbread or a Rostbratwurst or two. A Christmas village for the children is constructed at the Hans-Sach-Platz and visitors can experience some great attractions here: you can bake your own cookies, paint some jars, write a list of the things you want to the Christkind (a traditional Christmas gift-bringer in Germany), and go for a spin on the many merry-go-rounds.

Useful information:

  • Best airport: Nuremberg (NUE)
  • Dates: 28/11 – 23/11/2017
  • Open 7 days a week
If you’re there for the very beginning of the market, you’ll be able to see the famous opening ceremony, where the Christkind herself is there to deliver a traditional speech addressed to both young and old. If you ever have the opportunity to be there, don’t miss out! What better way to experience Germany’s most famous Christmas market!

Christmas Market Nuremberg (Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt)

Hamburg – Hamburger Weihnachtsmärkte

The maritime city of Hamburg has long been a hub of activity and a mixing pot of cultures. If you want to combine a Christmas market with a vibrant city with cool vibes and lots to do, then be sure to put this city on your list!

One of the prettiest Christmas markets takes place in front of the impressive city hall. The historic, beautifully decorated building sits right next to the Binnenalster Lake, and you can be certain that there’ll be lights and beautiful decorations all around. While virtually every district in Hamburg has its own, smaller Christmas market, the festivities in the town square are definitely something special!

Useful information:

    • Best airport: Hamburg (HAM)
    • Dates: 27/11 – 23/11/2017
    • Open 7 days a week
Here’s a handy tip: if you’re looking for a destination that has a lot to offer for LGBT+ travellers in winter, Hamburg is the one. In the district of St. Georg you’ll find the Winter Pride Festival. There’s an even where you can swap your most-hated presents for a good cause – you’ll raise money to help support the local LGBT+ community. (Winter Pride: 27th – 30th December)
Hamburg Weihnachtsmarkt, Germany
Beautiful illuminations in Hamburg at Christmas week. Weihnachtsmarkt

Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia – Kölner Weihnachtsmärkte

This famous city along the River Rhine is always a great shout if you’re looking for a short break away, but if you ever have the chance to go at Christmas time then don’t even think twice – just do it!

Cologne’s breathtakingly massive cathedral dominates the centre of the city, and it’s there where you’ll find the main market of the city. Expect lots of stalls all huddled up together, a beautiful display of lights and the magnificent sight of the cathedral lit up at night. You can’t help but feel so small when standing close to it – in a way it almost adds to the cosiness! But of course that’s not the only market going on. In the Heumarkt square you’ll find an ice rink that’s always popular with the kids and even more stands.

Useful information:

    • Best airport: Cologne-Bonn (CGN)
    • Dates: 27/11 – 23/11/2017
    • Open 7 days a week
When it comes to Cologne’s markets, my personal favourite is the Angels’ Market (Markt der Engel) in the Neumarkt. Boasting a truly magical atmosphere, you can’t help but feel nice and cosy when you see all the stars lighting up the trees. Keep an eye out for the Angels who sprinkle fairy dust everywhere. And you might even see Santa if you’re lucky…

koln-christmas-market-istock-resize

Feeling festive? Then get inspired…

I’m always on the look out for great deals to Germany, as well as other European destinations. Here are some handy links to help you plan your next festive break – and save plenty of pennies too!

Guru Tip: Stay up to date with my selection of amazing city break deals to Germany here!

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