Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) have always had a long tradition in Germany and date back to the 14th century when the first Christmas market opened for business in Munich. This was followed by a second in Dresden about a hundred years later. These street markets, which open about four weeks before Christmas, were invented to celebrate the festive season and give people the opportunity to sell their handcrafted products, Christmas decorations, food and drink. They are usually located in the heart of the town adjacent to the town square and most stay open for around four weeks. Some markets are open until New Year’s Eve.
However, some cities organise their Christmas markets for a particular weekend. Generally speaking, you should expect markets to be open for business between the hours of 11am and 9pm. Bear in mind that some markets are completely closed or open only in the evening on Evangelical Remembrance Day, which is a bank holiday in Germany. They also have different opening times on Christmas Eve and are usually closed on Christmas Day.
Eat, drink and be merry
There’s a huge social aspect to the Christmas market and for Germans, it’s the perfect excuse to get together with friends, family or work colleagues for a mulled wine (Glühwein). The festive atmosphere at the markets gets everyone in the mood for Christmas and visitors can try out a huge array of traditional food. For example, in Leipzig, you can find Pulsnitzer gingerbread (Lebkuchen) and Thüringer Bratwurst; Dresden is famous for its fruit cake (Stollen). Nuremberg has one of the largest markets in Germany and is also famous for its gingerbread as well as the typical Nuremberg sausage (Rostbratwurst) and the biggest punch bowl in the world, measuring 2.5m by 3.4m. Aachen is very popular for its oblong-shaped gingerbread specialities and potato pancakes. Frankfurt’s traditional alcoholic beverage is an apple wine (Apfelwein), which can be sampled at many of the Christmas stalls in the Hessian region. In Munich, there are many stalls selling original products that include handmade Christmas decorations as well as other individual gifts.
There’s so much to discover on your next visit to a Christmas market. Enjoy the magic of Christmas – hopefully on a cold, crisp winter’s day as mulled wine is definitely not suited to warm days!