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A view of the Christmas market outside the Rathaus across the water in Hamburg
Photograph: Pixabay / Karsten Bergmann

The 10 best Christmas markets in Germany

Want to make merry and glug the Glühwein this winter? Here’s our guide to the absolute best Christmas markets in Germany

Written by
Anna Geary-Meyer
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There’s something magical about a German winter, which isn’t surprising when you consider how many Christmas traditions originate in the land of the Tannenbaum: the advent calendar, gingerbread (Lebkuchen), Sankt Nikolaus himself and, of course, the Christmas market. In fact, nearly every German town puts on its own Weihnachtsmarkt each year, and the major cities positively brim with them.  

In a country where Decembers are notoriously grey, the German Christmas market makes perfect sense: a central location where neighbours can eat, drink and be merry under the glow of festive lights, embracing the winter rather than cowering indoors. Market themes may differ, but you’ll always find certain staples: wooden stalls selling mulled wine (Glühwein), sizzling Bratwurst from the grill, candied almonds and roasted chestnuts, plus an array of local craftspeople selling their finest handmade wares. Whether you’re planning to ski in the Bavarian Alps or immerse yourself in the Berlin clubbing scene – surely among the very best things to do in Germany – don’t miss the chance to catch even the frostiest of Deutsche in the Christmas spirit. 

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Best Christmas markets in Germany

Perhaps the most quintessentially German Christmas market, Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is – literally – a shining example of winter warmth and wholesomeness. With nearly 200 independent vendors selling handmade crafts (think beeswax candles, hand-carved wooden toys and figurines made of dried prunes, because why not?), the market is the perfect place to do your Christmas shopping and unwind after a brisk walk around the historic city centre. Atop the list of moreish local specialities are Nürnberg Rostbratwurst and Lebkuchen, which was first baked here.

The medieval town of Rothenburg is a sight to behold, especially in the Adventszeit, when the city’s long-running Christmas market lights up the long winter nights. With its winding streets and Tudor houses, the whole city feels like a fairytale, and the appearance of the mythical Reiterle (rider) at the market’s opening ceremony certainly enhances the impression. Don’t leave without trying the famous Rothenburger Schneeball (‘snowball’) pastry, fried golden and made with plum Schnapps.

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Home of the ubiquitous Christstollen (a fruitcake made from rum-infused raisins, orange peel and almonds), this city in south-eastern Germany exerts a surprisingly large influence on European Christmas culture. The Striezelmarkt, in Dresden’s Baroque old town, also happens to be one of the world’s oldest Christmas markets, celebrating its 595th birthday in 2019. For a more low-key experience, crowds flock to the medieval-themed Mittelalter-Weihnacht market, as well as the arts and crafts fair at the Frauenkirche.

Markets in Berlin and Spandau
Photograph: Sergey Galyonkin / Flickr

4. Markets in Berlin and Spandau

Dozens of Christmas markets spring up around the German capital in winter, some more traditional and others erring on niche (our favourite is Prenzlauer Berg’s Scandinavian Lucia Markt). The large-scale affairs at Potsdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz are cheerful enough, but can sometimes feel like touristy replications of the real thing. Instead, make the half-hour journey outside the centre to neighbouring Spandau, where the medieval old town fills up with craftspeople, food vendors, musicians and, of course, a rosy-cheeked public, drinking their Glühwein with a shot of rum.

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Munich’s central market at Marienplatz is always thronging come Christmas – and with good reason. Here you can enjoy live concerts every evening underneath the towering Tannenbaum (fir tree) while shopping for picturesque souvenirs and filling up on roasted nuts and hot apple wine. But you’d be remiss not to check out the Bavarian capital’s other markets, too, especially the funky Märchenbazar at Leonrodplatz. With its international food stalls and live music programme, this delightfully ‘Alice in Wonderland’-esque market delivers constant surprises.

If you’ve got kids in tow, the glittering Christmas market in front of Hamburg’s town hall makes for a fantastic afternoon out, as do the five ‘fairytale ships’ on the Alster Lake. If you haven’t, head to the city’s infamous red light district St. Pauli for the Santa Pauli market, which puts an X-rated spin on the traditional Christmas fair. Come out for live music and variety shows while you drink and mingle with the locals... or do some sex toy shopping for the holidays.

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When two children from a peasant family hiked from the Zillertal Alps to Leipzig in the 19th century, they planned on selling gloves at the local market. That didn’t work out, so they resorted to making a buck by singing a previously unknown song, ‘Silent Night’. Since then, Leipzig has been a focal point of Germany’s Christmas culture, and the central Weihnachtsmarkt, dating back to 1458, is no exception. Definitely come hungry.

Cologne is a delightfully international city with a huge personality, and the Adventszeit is celebrated just as wildly here as the infamous Karneval in February. The Markt am Dom sits just below the imposing cathedral, creating an unmistakably grand atmosphere for eating, shopping and mingling. The Old Town market has plenty of charm, too, while the rustic Stadtgarten market, hidden among the park’s chestnut trees, draws more of a local crowd.

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Skirting the Black Forest and in the middle of south-western Germany’s wine region, Stuttgart is the place to be if you fancy hopping from tavern to tavern, supping red wine, Black Forest Schnapps and, just maybe, some beer. Find these, plus nearly 300 wooden market stalls, around the central Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt, where the sweet treats and carnivalesque atmosphere leave little else to be desired – except simply wanting more

Dusseldorf’s Christmas market on the central Marktplatz makes for a thoroughly enjoyable winter evening and isn’t to be missed, but the Engelchenmarkt (Little Angel Market) is easily the city’s most alluring. This Art Nouveau-themed fair is decorated with floral motifs and wrought iron angel figurines, which, when lit up by the glow of fairy lights, transform into a heavenly vision you won’t forget.

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