While most people think of summer as the ideal time for a vacation, you shouldn’t overlook Christmas and the holiday season as a great time for travel. European-style Christmas markets are one of the more charming examples of destinations during the holiday season.
And while these markets are beginning to pop up across the United States, Europe is still the worldwide destination for the biggest, most traditional, and most memorable Christmas and holiday markets.
Countries like France, Spain, Belgium, the UK, and Austria have unique charms and festivities in their Christmas market offerings. But the country that offers the most beautiful Christmas markets for your holiday trip is Germany.
Cities across Germany feature gorgeous and unique Christmas markets, where you can find traditional wooden stalls adorned with twinkling lights, wonderful options for Christmas gifts, traditional German holiday food, and even fun and games for the whole family.
Learn about some of the best Christmas markets in Germany, what you can find there, and how you can make your German Christmas the best ever.1. Aachen Christmas Markets
The ancient German city of Aachen offers more history than perhaps any other place in the country. As the center of the medieval Carolingian Empire, Aachen offers visitors an authentic European vibe that really comes out during the Christmas season.
Aachen’s superb Christmas market is set up every December in the old medieval market squares between the city hall and the centuries-old Aachen Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in all of Europe. In addition to the sheer beauty of the twinkling Christmas lights playing against the medieval square, visitors can avail themselves of delicious German Christmas treats from one of the many food booths set up around the market.
You can try a cup of delicious German “glühwein,” a type of hot, spiced mulled wine commonly served at Christmas time. You can also try one of the city’s regional treats, which includes a local gingerbread recipe known as “Aachen printen.”2. Cologne Christmas Markets
If the draw of an old, towering Gothic cathedral appeals to you, the Christmas market in the German city of Cologne should be at the top of your list. Cologne’s annual Christmas market is set up in the shadow of the world-famous Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited attractions in Germany.
The Christmas market in Cologne is a group of several different markets, all set up with their own distinct theme. In these markets, you can find arts and crafts on sale from all across Europe, in addition to delicious Christmas food, high-quality gifts, and entertainment options for visitors of all ages.
You might even find a German Christmas pyramid, a traditional Christmas decoration to adorn your home or place near your Christmas tree.3. Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Markets
Of course, not every memorable German Christmas market is located in a big city. Sometimes a smaller town can offer a unique memory in and of itself. The small Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is just such a visit, and its Christmas market is no different.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the best examples of an authentic medieval walled city, as you will find anywhere in Europe. When the holiday season hits, the town’s narrow streets, medieval architecture, and old-world vibe transform into a festive atmosphere with its one-of-a-kind Reiterlesmarkt.
Located in the town’s Old City, Rothenbur ob der Tauber’s Christmas market features traditional choral music, stalls selling thoughtful gift options, and an awe-inspiring Christmas tree lying at the center of it all, adorned in traditional Bavarian decor.
4. Nuremberg Christmas Markets
Elsewhere in Bavaria is the old city of Nuremberg, famed for its beautiful architecture, old city squares, and volumes full of history. Nuremberg’s Christmas market, known as the “Christkindlesmarkt,” is one of Europe’s oldest continuous Christmas markets.
In addition to all the normal gifts, treats, and sights of other major German Christmas markets, Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt also offers guided tours in both German and English for excellent sightseeing around the city. Of course, you can also wander around by yourself, browsing the numerous gift options and sampling some local Christmas treats, such as the region’s Spekulatius almond cookies or authentic Bavarian bratwurst.5. Düsseldorf Christmas Markets
Located in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the city of Düsseldorf features one of Germany’s most unique collections of Christmas markets. Rather than one single market, Düsseldorf hosts several markets, all based around different themes.
Wandering around the beautiful streets of Düsseldorf’s Old Town or theater district, you can find markets based around handmade wooden crafts, miniature villages, glistening glass decorations, and more. Plus, you can always stop to snack on roasted almonds, glühwein, or a number of regional treats.6. Ravenna Gorge Christmas Markets
Sometimes, the best Christmas destinations aren’t in the city or small town. Sometimes, you need to venture outside into nature to get the best of the Christmas spirit. And that’s exactly what the annual Christmas markets at Ravenna Gorge have to offer.
Ravenna Gorge is a natural gorge in the famous Black Forest region in Baden-Württemberg in southwest Germany. Less than an hour by car from Freiburg, Ravenna Gorge’s yearly Christmas market is set up underneath a 40-meter-high viaduct. This unique setting, combined with the snow, Christmas lights, and festivities, provides an authentic fairy tale atmosphere you won’t ever forget.
Of course, the Christmas market at Ravenna Gorge also offers unique attractions. Although you can find extensive offerings of Christmas gifts and treats, the actual purpose of this market is to showcase the musical and artistic traditions of the Black Forest region.
Therefore, when wandering around the Ravenna Gorge Christmas market, you’ll likely encounter musicians, artists, and performers enchanting the surrounding scenery with their unique gifts and traditions. And you will, of course, find plenty of yummy Black Forest cake as well!7. Stuttgart Christmas Markets
Find yourself in the German state of Baden-Württemberg at Christmas Time but don’t feel like going all the way out to the Ravenna Gorge to celebrate. You can also find beautiful and traditional Christmas markets in the state’s capital city of Stuttgart. Dating back to 1692, Stuttgart’s Christmas market usually features as many as 300 stalls selling all kinds of gifts, decorations, and Christmas treats. The market also features fun concerts, a live nativity scene, and special attractions for children.8. Leipzig Christmas Markets
Moving on to the eastern side of Germany, the city of Leipzig in the ancient German state of Saxony boasts another excellent Christmas market that is well worth the visit. As one of Germany’s largest and most popular Christmas markets, Leipzig’s annual Christmas market dates back to at least 1458. The city makes sure to integrate that long history in its contemporary displays.
Centered around the city’s medieval marketplace, Leipzig’s Christmas market features six different areas set up in historical scenery, glowing Christmas lights, gorgeously decorated trees, and abundant warm food and drinks to contrast with the cold air. Plus, you can take in a performance of the city’s traditional trombonist ensemble that takes place on the balcony of the city’s Old Town Hall.9. Dresden Christmas Markets
The East German city of Dresden is considered one of the most beautiful in Germany. With its Renaissance and Baroque-era architecture and enthralling city squares, Dresden offers visitors something to remember year-round. But, it is during the holiday season that the city really shines.
Dresden’s main Christmas market is known as the “Striezelmarkt.” Dating back to the 15th Century, the Striezelmarkt goes out of its way every year to give visitors something to remember.
For example, in 1999, the Striezelmarkt made its way into the Guinness Book of World Records for building the world’s largest Christmas step pyramid, which can still be seen to this day. The city also features numerous other Christmas markets. This includes the beautiful Winterlights of Dresden market, the Romantic Christmas Market, and the St. Nicholas Market, all of which offer music, art, and food.10. Munich Christmas Markets
The Bavarian city of Munich may be world-famous for its beer gardens during Oktoberfest, but two months later, the city makes another name for itself with its breathtaking Christmas markets and holiday displays. The city’s main Christmas market, the Christkindlmarkt, is located in the old, gothic city square at Marienplatz.
The Christkindlmarkt could very well be the single oldest continuous Christmas market on this list, with origins dating back to perhaps the 14th Century. Today, the Christkindlmarkt is also notable for hosting Germany’s largest living nativity scene.
You can find additional Christmas markets elsewhere in the city. Munich’s Winter Magic market at the Viktualienmarkt food market specializes in a diverse offering of tasty Christmas treats to munch on while you explore the city.
The “Eiszauber” market features the largest portable ice skating rink in all of Bavaria. And the city’s central palace, known as the “Residenz,” has its own Christmas market display in its central courtyard, featuring handcrafted gifts, puppet shows, and unique gifts.11. Berlin Christmas Markets
Every year the city of Berlin sees numerous holiday markets, big and small, pop up in virtually every neighborhood. If you’re wandering around Berlin during Christmastime, it may be difficult not to run into an authentic Christmas market on a city corner.
You might come across a traditional Christmas market with Christmas trees and olden-type wooden stalls or a more modern display in a trendy, upscale district.
The largest and most popular Christmas market in Berlin is usually the one set up in Alexanderplatz, a large public square and transportation hub in the center of the city. Alexanderplatz’s Christmas market offers visitors an excellent mix of traditional German Christmas aesthetics and a modern party atmosphere.
Another Berlin Christmas market worth visiting is the Berliner Weihnachtszeit, set up between the city hall (Rote Rathaus) and St. Mary’s Church. Although this market is relatively new, it provides a definitive medieval vibe. However, this does not mean you should ignore the nearby 50-meter-high panoramic Ferris wheel, which can provide you with an excellent scenic view of Berlin decked out in all its Christmas glory.
Plan Your Trip to Germany with Tips-Travel.com
All in all, a trip to Germany can offer lasting memories during all times of the year. But the Christmas season is a whole world unto itself. If you are interested in traveling this holiday season, consider a trek around Germany to take in the sights and sounds of some of the oldest Christmas traditions in Europe.
Of course, any Christmas trip would benefit from the best travel advice beforehand. Tips-Travel.com has in-depth articles, product recommendations, and trip-planning resources that will make your future Christmas trip to Germany a breeze.