German Christmas Markets are magical. Crowds of be-gloved, jolly people Prost! over steaming mugs of Glühwein and tasty Bratwurst. Everything is for sale from Nußknacker (nutcracker) to wooden nativity scenes to the very mug your drinks come in. A visit to a Weihnachtsmarkt is a chance to experience Christmas every day from late November to Silvester (New Years Eve).
But (how can there be a but!?), it can all get a little repetitive and lose its romance. No matter how beautiful the market, they can all start to blend together - as I've found by dragging friends and family to Berlin's 60+ Weihnachtsmärkte.
To combat this, I tracked down Germany's most unusual Christmas markets that will amaze both newbies and market Profis.
01 of 06
The Ore Mountains (known in Germany as the Erzgebirge) are the site of many cherished Christmas traditions from wooden pyramids to Schwibbögen (arched candle holders) to smokers.
The market in Annaberg-Buchholz is one of the largest and features all of the favorite German customs, as well as unique local flavor. Their massive pyramid displays the history of Christmas and that of the city and mining industry. Along with Santa Claus' Workshop, there is a Grand Miners’ Parade (held December 18th, 2016 at 13:30). This mountain procession of 1,200 hearty Saxon miners' appears wearing traditional garb and following the parade, everyone gathers to sing in front of St.-Annen-Kirche.
Unlike the mass produced schlock sold at many markets, goods here tend to be authentic and handmade. Look for Erzgebirge wood figurines and lace from Plauen.
And don't forget to fill your belly with Ore Mountain specialties. With meals "just like Grandma's", this is German soul food. Try exotic-sounding Buttermilchgetzen, Taagplinsen and Kreitersupp. Love the food? Ask for the recipe! And while there will be plenty of sweets to choose from, you can't leave without trying the Ore Mountain version of Christmas classic Stollen and buying a loaf to take home.
- Address: Buchholzer Straße 2, 09456 Annaberg-Buchholz
- Dates: November 25 - December 23rd
02 of 06
Traben-Trarbach are twin towns that sit on either side of the river. Like so much of the Mosel, they produce an enormous amount of the famed Riesling which is shipped out along the river, but they needed somewhere to store the barrels before they set sail. Over 30 wine cellars were created to fill this need and in the winter they transform into the Underground Christmas Market.
This is one of the only markets where you don't need to worry about losing your fingertips to the cold and can even take off your coat and stay a while. Each cellar has its own unique atmosphere and the smells of Christmas are amplified. Local crafts, food and - of course - wine are all for sale.
If your children aren't so pleased with all that wine, they can be entertained with the Playmobile World and ice skating rink.
- Address: Map of cellars
- Dates: November 25 - January 3
03 of 06
If the whole idea of Christmas Markets is just too wholesome, Hamburg's infamous Reeperbahn has a cheeky take on Weihnachtsmärkte that might be for you.
Like its more traditional counterparts in the city, Santa Pauli has hot Wurst and mugs of booze, but it also has themed strip shows, fortune teller, drag entertainment, adult-themed Christmas decor (think a snowwoman with boobs) and a historical prostitution tour. And that drink in your mug? You can choose between the usual options of Glühwein and Eierlikör, or the Santa Pauli specialty of Gluhfick which translates...to something not nice in German. This isn't your Oma's Christmas market. But you might still take the kids. On Sundays, there is a children's program for those ready for the PG-13 environment.
This Christmas, be naughty and not nice.
- Address: Spielbudenplatz, 20359 Hamburg
- Dates: November 17 - December 23
04 of 06
On your advent calendar, what is behind door number 1? Chocolate? A small gift?
That pales in comparison to the Christmas Market in Gengenbach where windows of the Rathaus (town hall) are opened each day as part of the largest advent calendar house in the world (or Das weltgrößte Adventskalenderhaus auf Deutsch). The 24 windows (two rows of 11 plus 2 in the roof) are each decorated with a festive Christmas scene and the nightly reveals are met with a cheering crowd.
For more of Germany's most impressive Christmas sites, refer to our guide to "The Biggest" at German Christmas Markets.
Continue to 5 of 6 below.
- Dates: November 30 - December 23
05 of 06
Christmas never really leaves Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber. This unspoiled medieval village looks the same as it did when it was ruled by Kings and is regularly flooded by tourists today. Over 500-years of tradition are on display, from the ramparts to the torture museum to the Nightwatchman tour. The surprisingly large Käthe Wohlfahrt store is open year-round and features intricate ornaments and German Christmas decor.
In season, the Reiterlesmarkt provides one of the most charming Christmas market atmospheres in the country. Along with the usual sweets, be sure to buy one of the irresistible Schneeball (snowball). This giant pastry is the size of a fist, or a very good-sized snowball, and can be adorned with everything from simple powdered sugar to rolled in chocolate, then marzipan, then nuts.
- Address: Marktplatz 1, 91541 Rothenburg (Tauber)
- Dates: November 25 - December 23
06 of 06
Instead of exploring lovely lit squares and cobblestone streets, the floating market in Emden takes advantage of its waterfront location. The Weihnachtsmarkt extends from the small square onto beautifully decorated Christmas boats. The smells of roasted almonds mingle with that of the sea, creating a truly unique German Christmas Market experience.
- Address: Bahnhofsplatz 11, 26721 Emden
- Dates: November 21 - December 23; December 27 - 31