These seven tips will make your visit to a German Christmas Market a magical one.
As a self-described Christmas market aficionado, who visits at least 20 Christmas markets each season, and author of Bavaria’s Best Castles and Christmas Markets, I like to think I know my markets. Here are my best tips for getting the most from your visit.
1) Visit a Christmas Market at Night
While Christmas Markets are open during the day, they are most beautiful at dusk and in the evening. The dancing sparkling lights enhance the already festive atmosphere, giving the market a magical feel.
2) Go to a Christmas Market Thirsty and Go Hungry
One of my favourite things about German Christmas markets are the food and mulled wine. It appears I’m not the only one judging by the crowds hanging out by the food and wine stalls. You’ll find speciality food at German Christmas Markets some of which is only available at Christmas time, like the famous Lebkuchen (gingerbread) from Nürnberg or the Stollen cake from Dresden. Each area has its regional specialities as well. One staple that you’ll find at all Christmas markets in Germany is Glühwein (mulled wine). If you don’t drink, there’s also Kinderpunsch, which is like warm Kool-Aid.
3) Visit at Least Three Different Christmas Markets
Each Christmas Market in Germany has a different ambience and usually specialises in something different. You can only reach the Christmas Market on Fraueninsel (Women’s Island) by taking a boat. It’s the only island Christmas market in Germany. In Munich alone, you’ll find 17 different Christmas markets, ranging from the largest and most traditional one to a medieval one, to a handicraft one.
4) Visit a Christmas Market With Friends/Family
German Christmas Markets become a place to hang out with friends and family. People meet here instead of heading to a restaurant or bar. They have an ambience you only find once a year so celebrate it. Note: dress warmly because you may get cold if you’re outside for a couple of hours and wear fingerless gloves.
5)Seek Out Local Christmas Specialities
Some Christmas markets are famous for certain things. For example, the Nürnberg Christmas Market is known for its prune people and gingerbread. Oberammergau is known for its nativity scene wood carvings that are so small they fit inside a chestnut. These local specialities make great souvenirs and celebrate the regional differences.
6) Wear fingerless gloves
Christmas markets can get hold and a great way to warm up is with a mug of Glühwein. I recommend fingerless gloves (with or without a mitten flap cover – the choice is yours) to make the cup easier to hold and to take photos while keeping your hands warm.
7) Check the Schedule in Advance for Special Christmas Events
German Christmas Markets often have entertainment – think choirs, Christmas plays, puppet shows, and German traditions, to name a few of the things you might get lucky enough to see.
For example, in Munich, the Krampus Run is held in December near the oldest and largest Christmas market in Munich. It’s a 500-year old tradition of Saint Nicholas and his mythological companion, Krampus, who resembles a monster, or a character from Fraggle Rock.
What tips do you have for going to a German Christmas Market?
This article was first published in December 2010 but was updated with more tips.