Just an hour south of Frankfurt, Heidelberg is a modern university town with a historic Old Town where this magical market takes place.
The Christmas market in Heidelberg features all of the traditional German holiday staples like warm gluhwein, bratwurst, pretzels and gingerbread.
But Heidelberg also has its own specialty- the Kurfurstenkugel, a fine sponge dough ball covered in chocolate and filled with nougat cream.
Heidelberg is also one of a few places in Germany where you can shop year-round at the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas store.
But Heidelberg’s spectacular outdoor ice rink really sets this quaint town apart from other markets. The rink is nestled right beneath the famous Schloss Heidelberg. Where else can you skate with a view of a 13th-century castle?
The rink is surrounded by festive lights and booths with plenty of gluhwein to warm you up after a round on the ice. It’s a perfect spot for a magical winder evening or a festive family day trip.
– contributed by Cassie of Cassie’s Compass
Many German cities have a single main Christmas market – but Berlin has dozens of different markets dotted all across the city.
From big to small, and from traditional to quirky, there are more than 50 unique markets to choose from in the German capital.
You’re really spoilt for choice in Berlin and you certainly won’t get bored.
Gendarmenmarkt is one of the city’s most popular Christmas markets. The market is inside a gorgeous square surrounded by historic buildings that make a magical setting. The entrance fee is one euro but that’s a small price to pay for such a pretty market.
Charlottenburg Palace has another wonderful market. The palace is a beautiful backdrop for this traditional market. And there are great views of the palace and the market from atop the Hungarian food hut.
Head to Lucia market at Kulturbrauerei for a less touristy experience and a fun Nordic theme.
There’s also a vegan market and others more focused on art or shopping.
The Potsdamer Platz Christmas market and the Rotes Rathaus market are great choices if you’re traveling with kids. They both have kid-friendly activities like ice skating and amusement rides.
And don’t miss the must-try foods like Kartoffelpuffer (a fried hashbrown potato pancake) and all sorts of sweets and pastries.
Keep your Glühwein mug – they make great Berlin souvenirs. And shop the stalls for handcrafted Christmas decorations, ornaments and nutcrackers. Other vendors offer locally made hats, scarves and gloves. You’ll even find tool-shaped chocolates for the handiman in your life.
– contributed by Ali of Berlin Travel Tips
Dating back to the 14th century, Frankfurt’s traditional Christmas market is one of the oldest in Germany.
It’s set in the gorgeous Romerberg, a square surrounded by half-timbered medieval homes and the glistening tips of the financial center’s skyscrapers. An enormous glittering tree and vintage carousel create a scene that’s straight out of a fairy tale.
The market traces its roots to 1393, which makes the Weihnachtsmarkt Frankfurt Römerberg one of the world’s first wintertime markets.
The well-connected airport at Frankfurt also means it’s easy and affordable to reach.
And it’s one of Germany’s largest with some 200 stalls lined with festive lights. The stalls offer anything from spicy mulled wine to gingerbread and dried plum figurines. There are also modern crafts from local artists, handmade Christmas ornaments and wooden toys.
Don’t miss local favorites like hot apple wine and Bethmannchen, or traditional marzipan cookies.
Stop at the nearby Paulsplatz Market for some honey products at Wagner’s Honighaus.
And for a truly unique experience, visit Frankfurt’s LGBTQ market at Rosa Weihnacht for pink Christmas trees and colorful goodies.
The Dresden Striezelmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest and most iconic with Saxon treats, festive lights and folk art that bring in thousands of visitors every year.
Set against a backdrop of breathtaking Baroque architecture, the market is famous for the stollen, or fruit loaf, Moravian stars and the world’s largest nutcracker.
It’s a prime destination for any arts and crafts lover – and a great spot to load up on handmade souvenirs. Keep an eye out for the Plaumentoffel, traditional figurines made from prunes, and the rows of handcrafted nutcrackers.
Handbrot is another local specialty and consists of bread generously filled with cheese.
The market also hosts puppet theaters and an enchanted forest that’s great if you’re traveling with children.
With a history that spans some 600 years, Dresden’s Christmas market is known for its enourmous carousel and the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid.
An array of 10 smaller markets dot Dresden during the holidays.
Head to Frauenkirche to watch artisans at work on traditional crafts.
And don’t miss the medieval atmosphere of the Stallhof on the footsteps of the Dresden Royal Palace – a market with no electric lights or plastic.
The main (and most traditional) market Christkindlmarkt dates back to the 14th century. It’s held in the heart of the city with some 140 food and craft vendors underneath the neo-gothic town hall.
The centerpiece is the warmly lit Christmas tree that’s sustainably harvested from the nearby Bavarian forests.
A traditional Bavarian band plays advent-themed music daily from the town hall balcony.
And for the kids, there’s the Heavenly Workshop that lets the young ones express their festive creativity.
There’s even special Christmas music concerts for the whole family at the Residenz Palace in King Ludwig I’s former throne room.
As you explore the market, don’t miss the traditional Bavarian bratwurst which is regionally served with sweet mustard and horseradish. Or grab a vegetarian Flammkuchen topped with tomato and locally-made pesto.
Take home an authentic handmade wooden Christmas tree ornament that’ a specialty of the Bavarian region.
You can also book a Christmas market tour through Marienplatz and learn about its history while discovering some hidden gems.
It’s hard to know where one market starts and another begins as downtown Munich explodes with gemütlichkeit – or warm fuzzy feelings.
If you’re looking for an alternative experience, head to the Oktoberfest grounds for the Tollwood Winter Fest. This sprawling Christmas village has a sustainable theme and features upcycled art, live music and international vegan cuisine.
– contributed by Susanna of Curiosity Saves Travel
Gosler is full of half-timbered houses and boasts a rich mining tradition with many historic buildings.
The town’s Christmas market is also fittingly in the medieval style. It features delicious products that have been enjoyed in Goslar for centuries, including gratinated flatbreads prepared in a wood-burning oven just like in the old days.
The Christmas forest is another magical highlight of the Goslar Christmas market. It stands in a town square and it’s made with more than 50 real Christmas trees.
This little forest is strewn with lights and offers a quiet atmosphere to warm up with a hot drink. Wooden huts peeking out between the trees sell traditional German mulled wine and other tempting drinks. And don’t miss the snacks like the garlic baguettes or the Goslar pepper roll (spicy bratwurst with pepper).
Take a few leisurely strolls around the Christmas market and let its festive atmosphere inspire you. The surrounding historic buildings and the church all add to the charm.
The region is also famous for liquor so indulge in some locally-brewed schnapps like Jägermeister or the Christmas cinnamon liqueur. And don’t miss the local sausages famous across Germany for their meat.
– contributed by Vicki of Vicki Viaja
If you love a picturesque Christmas market with plenty of regional goodies, then a visit to Nuremberg in December is an absolute must.
Nuremberg hosts three different Christmas markets packed with festivities. The largest market is right in front of Frauenkirche cathedral. It hosts a grand opening that draws in locals and tourists alike. And each year a child dressed as an angel opens the market during a traditional show.
Locals take this market very seriously – and you can even buy a map of the wooden stalls.
Vendors offer anything from bratwurst to the traditional sausage so stringy that it could fit through a keyhole.
Don’t miss the Feuerzangenbowle, a mix of mulled wine and caramelized rum.
And load up on some Zwetschgenmaennla for souvenirs, or little handmade figurines made from dried plums and nuts.
The nearby Kinderweihnacht is dedicated especially to children. There are carousels and a small train for the little ones. And it’s lined with small houses inspired by fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel and Snow White. And there’s plenty of sweet and spicy gingerbread to indulge in.
Nuremberg’s third Christmas market has an international fair. All of Nuremberg’s sister cities have their own stalls with regional products, including such diverse places as Antalya in Turkey, San Carlos in Nicaragua and Shenzhen in China.
– contributed by Raluca of TravelWithASpin
The Cologne Christmas Market is one of the best in Germany thanks to its many different themed markets throughout the city.
Head to Angel Market for twinkling stars hanging from trees, angels adorning the stalls, and mulled wine mugs decorated with angels. Women dressed as angels walk around the market for photo-ops and ambiance.
And don’t miss the nautical-themed Harbor Market or the Dom Market right at the Cologne Cathedral with live performances every night. There’s also the woodland- themed Altmarkt with its ferris wheel and Heumarkt with a carousel, ice rink and curling rink that’s great for kids. Heavenue Market has a neon theme and is known as the gay market.
Ride the little hop-on/hop-off sightseeing train to get around the different markets in the city.
And try some of Cologne’s regional specialties like baumbrot (tree bread) and muzen – fried bread that’s soft on the inside and crispy on the outside and rolled in powdered sugar or cinnamon.
For handmade crafts and gifts, load up on specialty shot glasses, painted glass ornaments and pressed copper candle covers.
– contributed by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast
Trier’s Roman roots, famous baths and archaeological wonders make its annual Christmas market especially magical.
The market has tons to offer for both children and adults – from regional specialties to spectacular concerts.
Be sure to try Trier’s tempting regional delicacies. Sugar beet syrup is one of the most unique goodies to sample. It’s typically used as a spread on bread – and it’s surprisingly sweet and savory.
And don’t miss Trier’s famous mulled wine, which is another popular treat at the glittering market. It will keep you warm in the silver winter weather as you browse the market stalls.
The market hosts numerous artisans from across the region who showcase their handmade handicrafts and ornaments. These handicrafts are wonderful options for Christmas gifts.
Head to the breathtakingly beautiful Trier Cathedral for special music and spoken word advent concerts.
This is Germany’s oldest cathedral and it houses a number of religious relics. It’s also the final resting place of several archbishops – and a must-see for any architecture buff. The concerts are free and the music is heavenly.
There’s also a children’s nativity play and concert along with children’s activities and games that make Trier an incredible Christmas destination for the whole family.
Set at the foot of Hamburg’s gorgeous city hall, the Rathausmarkt Christmas market is one of the most festive in Germany with its tempting goodies and handmade crafts.
The market boasts a huge array of Christmas ornaments, souvenirs and gifts. Prices are very reasonable and there’s a huge range of goodies from handmade toys, glassware and jewelery to local and international delicacies.
And Hamburg has plenty of other different Christmas markets to browse. There are more than 30 different markets that span the city, including a market especially for dogs and the Nordic-themed Scandinavian Xmas Market.
The Jungfernstieg Xmas Market against the backdrop of the glistening Alster lake is especially picturesque with its elegant white stalls and fragrant roasted nuts.
The Bergedorf Christmas Market is held at the idyllic Bergedorf Castle – and it’s great for a cozy evening with a hot drink browsing handmade gifts.
And don’t miss Hamburg’s regional treat – the Fischbrötchen. This simple fish roll comes in countless varieties so you can enjoy it whatever your taste.
The Franzbrötchen is another local treat that’s only available in the region. This butter and cinnamon pastry is incredibly popular at Christmas and makes a great snack between browsing.
Hamburg has some of the best Christmas markets in Germany – and they’re definitely worth adding to your Europe itinerary.
– contributed by Alex and Leah of Alex And Leah On Tour