Many people are now taking the opportunity of enjoying a weekend break in the month leading up to Christmas by going across to Germany and enjoying the unmistakable atmosphere of their traditional Christmas Markets. To be found in not only the biggest cities but also in small market towns and tiny hamlets, the German Christmas Market provides a wonderful antidote to the doses of over-commercialistion of so much of the modern Christmas. In essence, these long-established parts of German culture touch into a part of all of us because of the sense of enchantment and joy they transmit.
For many centuries, winter markets were held in German towns but, little by little, they have developed in size and importance into the great celebrations they now provide – without losing their special festive atmosphere. At typical Christmas Markets you will be able to buy presents for people back home that you can be absolutely sure will be very special indeed – craftwork of genuine quality. Figures for cribs, toys, carvings, candles, jewellery, clothing, Gingerbread Men – gifts that can be practical, whimsical or romantic. And, as you wander amongst the many stalls lining the streets, you’ll be seduced by the smells of mulled wine, grilled sausages, baked apples and hot chestnuts, beguiling your taste buds.
Most Christmas markets in Germany begin a week or so before the end of November and run all the way through to Christmas Eve. Quite a few actually stay until the end of the year. They’ll usually be open from about 10 o’clock in the morning until 9 or 10 at night.
The comprehensive Germany Christmas markets website has details of more than 60 places in Germany which have traditional markets every Christmas, and the dates each one will be open. However, here are a few of the cities which might be of particular interest and what they have to offer at this excting time of the year.
Berlin, for example, hosts an incredible number of individual markets – about 60 or so most years. These range from small, quiet markets on little side streets right the way up to the gigantic celebrations in Gendarmenmarkt and Potsdamer Platz. You’ll find not only the traditional Christmas Market attractions but also thousands of sparkling Christmas lights, ice skating rinks and, in Potsdamer Plaz, a fantastic toboggan run. There are even markets around the Brandenburg Gate.
Cologne is always a popular place to visit and, with four large Christmas Markets, around two million people flock to the heart of the Rhineland each December. The markets here all have spectacular settings. For example, the market on Rudolfplatz is against the eye-catching backdrop of the medieval Hahnentorburg; the Alter Market is in front of the Town Hall in the old part of town and there is also a wonderful site at the cathedral where artificial Christmas trees have pride of place. Children will find Cologne especially appealling with many fairy tale characters in the streets, wonderful illuminations, puppet theatres and much, much more. The city is also host to numerous concerts and nativity displays at this time – as well as having an enormous temporary ice rink at Heumarkt.
Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Stuttgart are German cities which attract many overseas visitors and all have thriving traditional markets during late November and throughout December. Dusseldorf, although the Old Town is often known as the world’s longest bar, is especially attractive for families. The Christmas Market in Frankfurt, over 600 years old, is one of Germany’s most popular whilst Stuttgart’s is one of the most beautiful – especially round the New Palace with its stunning open air skating rink.
The German Christmas Markets can provide you with a perfect excuse to visit some of Europe’s most interesting cities when they are at their liveliest, most traditional and perhaps most beautiful. You can buy unusual gifts, eat delicious food – and revel in a wonderful festive atmosphere.