Christmas markets are a wonderful part of Germany's holiday tradition and a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Prepare for your mittens to get sticky with glühwein and to enjoy chestnuts roasted over an open fire.
Plan your visit to the best Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas Markets) in Germany and enjoy the country at its most magical.
Nuremberg (or Nürnberg in German) has an altstadt (old town) filled with sites that attract visitors year-round, but it really lights up for Christmas.
The Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt was first mentioned in 1628, making it one of the country's oldest weihnachtsmärkte in the world. The market is within the main square with 180 traditionally decorated huts - more than 30 of which date back to 1890. Locals fondly call the market "our little town of wood and cloth" as there is nothing plastic or tacky here.
Most of the goods sold here are locally crafted from quality material, something that is becoming more and more unusual. Eat a few - or a lot - of the tiny Nuremberg Rostbratwurst and stay warm with sweet schmalzkuchen.
The spectacular opening celebration includes the Christkind (Christmas Angel), played by a local girl. This heavenly being reads out a prologue from the balcony of the Nuremberg Cathedral to open the festivities.
If you are looking for the absolutely oldest Christmas Market in Germany, that lies in the eastern city of Dresden.
Dresdner Striezelmarkt began in 1434 and is famous for having the world's biggest nutcracker, a massive Christmas pyramid, and the largest Stollen (traditional German fruitcake) that gets its own parade. The world's biggest Striezl (the local term for Stollen) usually weighs in at between 3 to 4 tons, measures at least 13 feet in length, and is pulled through the city in its own carriage. As it makes its way through the town, pieces of it are ceremoniously cut off and handed out to the crowd for a small fee which is then donated to charity. Even the knife is grand with its silver-plating and 5 foot length.
During the market, a huge 100-foot Christmas tree twinkles with with 2,500 lights. The many stalls sell artisanal handcrafts like intricate wood carvings and fine crystals. There is also an array of live performances and music.
Steps away is the Kripperlmarkt, Germany’s largest manger market and nativity scene. Located to the west on Neuhauser Strasse, Visitors in search of the jolly should also catch a ride on the ChristkindlTram (Christmas Tram) for a jolly ride through the city center.
There is nowhere like Germany for Christmas, and in Rothenburg it is Christmas all year-round. The town looks like it jumped right out of a fairy tale with its narrow cobble-stone streets, half-timbered structures, and surrounding medieval walls. At Christmas, the snow falls and the markets open and it is full-on winter fantasy.
Go into the Christmas store of Käthe Wohlfahrt with three floors of ornaments and holiday decor. The Christmas Museum inside covers tree decorations through the ages, the first advent calendars, and antique Christmas cards - yes, that is a thing.
Cologne may have the largest Christmas market of all with seven interlocking markets throughout its city center. The market directly in front of the Cologne Cathedral is lent the grandeur of the city's most well-known landmark. There is also one of the largest Christmas trees in the region (although the largest Christmas tree in Germany is at Dortmund).
Berlin's Christmas markets have a reputation of being sub-par for Germany - but that is changing.
There are almost 100 different Christmas markets in Berlin and they include traditional, avant-garde, and pop-up events. One of the most charming is at Gendarmenmarkt, close to Friedrichstraße. Framed by the illuminated French and German Cathedral, you pay just a euro entry to wander the many festive booths or visit the heated craftsmen tent where you can watch toy makers, goldsmiths, and wood carvers at work.
If you can't get enough of the holiday spirit, visit more of Berlin's best Christmas markets like at Schloss Charlottenburg, Scandanavian-themed Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt, Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus, or the Hanukkah Market at the Jewish Museum.