6 Unusual German Christmas Markets

The best of Germany's Weird and Wonderful Christmas Markets

German Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) are pure holiday magic. Crowds of gloved, jolly people "prost!" over steaming mugs of glühwein, tasty bratwurst, and steaming schmalzkuchen.

Everything is for sale from nußknacker (nutcracker) to wooden nativity scenes to the very mug you're drinking from. A visit to a Weihnachtsmarkt is a chance to experience Christmas every day from late November to Silvester (New Years Eve).

But, it can get repetitive. A lot of those little crafts are mass produced and the decorations could be from the same factory. No matter how beautiful the market, it can all start to blend together. To combat this, I tracked down Germany's most unusual Christmas markets that will amaze both newbies and market profis (professionals).

01 of 06

Christmas All Year Round: Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber

Rothenburg Christmas Market

GettyImages / Elizabeth Beard

 

Christmas never really leaves Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber. This unspoiled medieval village looks the same as it did when it was ruled by kings. Today, it is regularly flooded by tourists eager to discover its 500-year-old traditions and attractions like the intact ramparts to the torture museum to the Nightwatchman tour. The enormous Käthe Wohlfahrt store is open year-round and features intricate tree ornaments and German Christmas decor.

At Christmas-time, the Reiterlesmarkt provides one of the most charming markets in the country. Along with the usual sweets, 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 chocolate, marzipan, nuts, or caramel.

02 of 06

Mountain Christmas Market: Annaberg-Buchholz Weihnachtsberg

Annaberger Weihnachtsmarkt
annaberg-buchholz.de

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 features all of the favorite German customs, as well as unique local flavor. Their massive pyramid features the history of Christmas as well as the city's mining industry. Along with Santa Claus' Workshop, there is a Grand Miners’ Parade. 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 gifts sold at many markets, goods here tend to be handmade. Look for Erzgebirge wood figurines and lace from Plauen.

And don't forget to fill your belly with Ore Mountain specialties. Try comfort food like Buttermilchgetzen, Taagplinsen and Kreitersupp. 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.

03 of 06

Sexy Christmas Market: Weihnachtsmarkt Santa Pauli

Hamburg Santa Pauli Christmas Market

GettyImage / PurpleImages

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 but it also has themed strip shows, fortune teller, drag entertainment, adult-themed Christmas decor (think a snow-woman 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 nice.

04 of 06

Underground Christmas Market: Mosel Wein Nachts Markt

Mosel Valley Christmas Markets

www.mosel-wein-nachts-markt.de/keller

 

The Mosel is full of charming Christmas markets along the river and among the vineyards. But beneath the glittering lights is actually one of the most unusual German Christmas markets.

This is one of the few markets where you can even take off your coat and stay a while. Located in the caverns carved into the hills for wine storage, each cellar has a cozy atmosphere. Local crafts, food and - of course - wine are all for sale.

If your children aren't interested in all that wine, they can be entertained with the Playmobile World and ice skating rink.

Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06

Floating Christmas Market: Emder Engelkemarkt

Emder Engelkemarkt

www.engelkemarkt.info

 

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 and Rathaus (city hall) onto beautifully decorated Christmas boats. The smell of roasted almonds mingles with that of the sea, creating a truly unique German Christmas Market experience. 

06 of 06

World's Largest Advent Calendar House: Gengenbach

Gengenbach advent calendar
www.gengenbach.info

What is behind the doors of your advent calendar? Chocolate? A toy?

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.

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