For people looking for a novel way to spend their Christmas holidays, travelling and shopping in the festive Europe is a good decision. Christmas is a wonderful time to visit Europe with its Christmas markets. Staged in the quaint postcard-perfect setting – cobbled streets, olden structures, nativity scenes, snowy backdrop, sparkling lights, and the aroma of roasted chestnuts and other Christmas delicacies – Christmas markets in this continent are so festive they are unforgettable.
Europe has hundreds of Christmas markets. If you’re spending weeks in Europe, take the train and have a great time splurging in several places. Most countries – Austria, France, Italy, Sweden, etc. – have something to titillate your senses and satisfy your pangs as a traveller and shopper. But if you are to choose just one country, choose Germany.
The Unforgettable German Christmas Markets
Germany is a top destination because of its Christmas markets. To best enjoy the visits, it would be practical to decide early on your itinerary. With so many options in so many cities, be realistic and choose the ones that would best appeal to your interests.
NS International says, “German Christmas markets are known for their warm and boisterous atmosphere. Visit one of the many Christmas markets in Germany and enjoy a glass of Glühwein (mulled wine) and strolling past the numerous stalls.” The site lets you into some of Germany’s best Christmas markets, namely: Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hanover, Hamburg, Munster, Oberhausen, and Berlin. To go from one city to another, take the train.
A Peek in Germany’s Top 8
In a blog posted in the Wanderlust, Penny Walker helps you track down eight of “Germany’s unmissable festive markets.” To best savor a tour of Germany’s Christmas markets, in what Walker describes as a “… traditional delights for the senses: aromas of spiced mulled wine, gingerbread and sausage fill the air as you wander through the finger-tingling cold streets, soaking up the festive atmosphere. From food and drink to hand crafted toys, tree decorations, candles and lambskin shoes, the stalls in German Christmas markets offer something for everyone…” she shares some information about her Top 8 German Christmas Markets.
- Cologne: If you can only pick one destination, make it Cologne. If you are already in London, make a side trip by train and you’ll be in Cologne in less than five hours. It is home to several Christmas markets, but the one that you shouldn’t miss is the one “held in the shadow of the Cologne Cathedral, the largest in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage site.” Experience the traditional Yuletide offerings from music, food, crafts, and don’t miss their famous Glühwein (mulled wine). If you are travelling with your kids, head to the Alter Markt with Rudolfplatz, a puppet theater, a Santa’s grotto, and stalls upon stalls of toys.
- Berlin: Some of the best markets are found in this city; the main market is the historic Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) market. For the best culinary experience, you won’t regret going to Gendarmenmarkt. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Market is the market to go to if you are on a hunt for special gifts to loved ones. Bask in the romantic ambiance of the Nordic-Scandinavian theme of the Lucia Christmas Market, but if you prefer the nostalgia of a classic Christmas, head to the Staatsoper and Opernpalais Market is for you.
- Dresden: Regarded as the oldest Christmas market in Germany, Dresden is a Winter Wonderland, a quixotic destination with River Elbe for a backdrop. The best market here is the Striezelmarkt that “boasts both the world’s tallest Nutcracker, and the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid.” December 8 is a wonderful day to visit if you want to be a part of the Stollen Festival. Other markets to steal your heart are those “… held in Residenzschloss, the famous Frauenkirche Market and the intimate market held in Loschwitz.”
- Stuttgart: Another nostalgic destination and one of the most beautiful is the Stuttgart market. The market is staged in the shadows of the splendid Old Palace. It lets you get a peek of the Renaissance Christmas replete with the aroma of vanilla and cinnamon permeating the air. From Stuttgart, head to some other popular markets, such as the medieval Ludwigsburg and baroque Esslingen Christmas markets.
The other Christmas markets that made it to the top eight are: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Munich, Nuremberg, and Schloss Guteneck.
The romantic and cheerful Rothenburg ob der Tauber is where you can find the magical Christmas Museum. This is also where you can find the medieval Reiterlesmark, a smaller but more intimate Yuletide market. While here, don’t miss their “Christmas pastries, white mulled wine and bratwurst… Rothenburg’s Schneeball (snow ball) is a must-try for those with a sweet-tooth…”
There are over 30 markets in Munich, but the three Yuletide markets that stand out are the one held in Marienplatz, the nearby Kripperlmarkt, and the Tollwood Market. Marienplatz is best remembered for its gothic architecture, Bavarian produce, and daily concerts that can be watched from the balconies of the impressive town hall. The Kripperlmarkt is known for “all things Nativity.” Tollwood Market offers an urban cultural flair in its “…diverse range of international music, drama and cuisine.”
Nuremberg is also home to one of the country’s oldest Christmas markets – the Kinderweihnacht, or Children’s Market. The medieval Imperial Castle sitting pompously at the peak of the Old Town hill and the stately Alps make a spectacular back drop this old-fashioned market – “…carousel, Ferris wheel, steam train and Nativity scene trail.”
The last on the list is Schloss Guteneck nestled in the lands of the gorgeous Castle Guteneck. It is another medieval market that boasts of its archaic fanfares – jugglers, Nativity scenes, fire-dancing, clowns, and other Advent ballyhoos.
If your idea of Christmas is old-fashioned, just like you see in the postcards, Europe is the best destination these holidays. Germany must find its way in that itinerary for the best archaic Christmas markets. You won’t regret that decision.