Beginning in mid to late November, in cities and villages all over Germany and beyond, decorative open-air stalls begin to emerge. Suddenly, you become overwhelmed with the delicious smell of hot mulled wine, gingerbread, roasted nuts, sugar waffles, bratwurst, and candies. Crowds begin to form in these festively decorated markets, and you see children riding on the carousel and families ice skating merrily together. What is this enchanting event taking place just as the holiday season is beginning? It’s the famous Christmas Markets, or Weihnachtsmarkts, of course!
Long ago, back in the 13th/14th century, Weihnachtsmarkts or Winter Markets began to take place to help villagers prepare for the long, cold winter ahead. The townspeople would sell or trade their supplies, wooden crafts, handcrafted items, non-perishable food, and much more. Over time, this gathering of the townspeople became more prominent with the celebration of Christmas and the start of Advent. Gift giving became more popular as did celebrating the birth of Christ. It eventually developed into what we know as the Christmas Markets we love and cherish today!
Germany is famous for its Christmas Markets, but there are incredible markets all over Europe during the holiday season. Although it’s nearly impossible to pick out just a few markets to talk about because they are all amazing, we will cover some of our favorite markets near our area of Kaiserslautern, Germany.
Heidelberg Christmas Market has six walkable markets throughout the city. The view of the striking Heidelberg Castle alone is enough to make this market memorable. The market has rides, traditional food, and a huge wooden keg with a seating area inside, or you can climb up to get a great perspective of the market and surrounding area. The ice skating right beneath the castle is an exceptional experience in Heidelberg and makes this market truly enchanting.
Voted one of the “best German Christmas market of 2021’, Trier is a special place! Market squares are filled with regional delights and completely covered with Christmas trees. One of the main markets sits at the base of the Roman ruins, Porta Nigra, which provides a remarkable ambience, particularly at night. Be sure to try the Winzerglühwein which is a local specialty. If you are particularly lucky… you might come across Saint Nicholas himself!
Cologne Christmas Market is one of the biggest markets around. With six to seven separate markets, all with a different theme, you need an entire day or more to enjoy every aspect of this magical market. Enjoy a gorgeous ambience of festively decorated stalls, fun rides, delicious food and drink (try their pasta made in a cheese bowl – you won’t be disappointed), ice skating rink, and the best vendors for all kinds of unique gifts. Because of the vast expanse of this huge market throughout the city, there is a little train that runs to each market. The Cologne Cathedral, which is at the center of this grand market, is worth stepping inside as well. The medieval Cathedral is a World Heritage site and holds the shrine of the Three Kings which is traditionally believed to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men.
Aachen Christmas Market makes most all the top 10 lists for Christmas Markets, and it is no wonder why! The unique witch theme is unforgettable so don’t forget to grab yourself some glühwein or kinder punch in their collectable witch mugs. This market is centered around their beautiful Cathedral. While here, be sure to check out the Nobis Printen Candy Store. They’ve been operating since 1858 and sell ornate Christmas treats and freshly made pastries. Their famous novelty is their Aachener Printen which is a special recipe of brown gingerbread that has been baked in Aachen since the early 1800s. This fairytale-like market is truly one of a kind and a not to miss when touring Germany’s many Christmas Markets.
Other markets worth mentioning
Bernkastle Kues, Germany