It’s not long until we can pack our suitcases and head off to a German Christmas market – HOORAY! Even if you’ve already been to a Christmas market, I thought it would be a nice idea to offer some top tips for your next visit.
Watch out for pickpockets
Take the right bag
It’s important to bear in mind that the Christmas markets are a magnet for pickpockets. So, watch your handbag and avoid taking a ‘normal’ style rucksack that has easy access. You can now buy lockable backpacks that will make it harder for a thief to help themselves to your belongings. It might be worth investing in one if you enjoy travelling and prefer a backpack. I would also recommend that you avoid putting your phone or wallet in your back pocket. It’s easy to get distracted while you’re wandering around the market, and before you know it, they have gone. I certainly don’t want to scare you, but it’s important to take care of your valuables when travelling.
Germans still like their cash
Take enough cash with you
Another useful tip is to make sure you take enough cash with you as not all stalls at a Christmas market have credit card machines. EC-Karten and Eurocheque-Karten (debit cards) are used more often in Germany. However, there are always plenty of ATMs around if you get caught short, but do check with your bank how much they charge for international withdrawals. Some ATMs ask if you’d like to be charged in your own currency. I’d recommend selecting Euros; otherwise you could be charged an extortionate exchange rate. Try to use an ATM from major German banks like Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Hypovereinsbank or Postbank as they usually don’t charge a fee if you’re using an international bank card. Also, check your daily limit for withdrawals and don’t forget your 4-digit PIN. Let your bank know that you are travelling abroad as some banks will block payments if they think your card is being used suspiciously.
You can pay with your credit card in many cafés and restaurants, etc., but do check before you go in as some places don’t accept credit cards.
Some helpful vocabulary:
ATM/cash machine = Geldautomat
Credit card = Kreditkarte
Debit card = Euroscheck/EC-Karte
Bank = Bank
To pay = bezahlen
How much is it? = Wieviel kostet das?
Cash = Bargeld
Change = Wechselgeld
Coins = Münzen
Notes = Banknote/Geldschein
Getting to the Christmas markets
Parking is often quite difficult during the Christmas market period
Avoid driving into the city centre as car parks are very busy. The best advice is to use public transport. At least you won’t have to worry about having another Glühwein!
Most of the local public transport companies now have an app, which makes it much easier to purchase your tickets. Here are the most popular public transport apps for iphone :
Can I take a dog to a Christmas market?
Dogs are welcome in Germany but…
I’ve written a blog about how dog friendly Germany is and how much we, as a family, enjoy taking our dog Charlie to the many dog-friendly restaurants and cafés in Germany. However, when it comes to a Christmas market, I would avoid taking your dog there. The markets can get really busy, and it wouldn’t be much fun for your dog to walk between the legs of hundreds of thousands of people. If you’re unable to leave your dog behind, visit the markets earlier in the day as they are much quieter before 5pm. Another option is to check out some dog sitting places close by. We did this when it wasn’t ideal to take our dog to an event. If you search for ‘Hundepension’, ‘Hundehotel’ or ‘Tierbetreuung’, plus the area where you are located, you should be able to find a place where you can leave your dog for the day.
Going with children to a Christmas market
Christmas markets are family friendly
If you have small children, I’d recommend going to the markets during the week to avoid the busy weekend periods. However, if you plan to go at the weekend, I would go earlier in the day (around lunchtime) to avoid the crowds. I’d also suggest checking out the schedule as many markets lay on some great activities for children. Examples include: baking Christmas biscuits, puppet shows, Santa’s grotto, school choir performances, etc. It would be a shame if you missed something that your children might have enjoyed. In Hamburg, for example, Father Christmas rides his sleigh above the market at certain times, which children love to see. You don’t want to miss highlights like that!
Research is everything
Get everything prepared in advance to get the most out of your Christmas market trip
I would always recommend doing a bit of research before hitting the markets. This is particularly important in the bigger cities, as there are usually at least five markets. Some are a bit more sheltered than others; some are more historical and some more commercialised. Large cities normally have a map on their website showing all the different Christmas markets. So, have a look at how to get there, and how to travel around the different markets before going. In some places, you’ll find a little train that runs between the main markets, which is a great way to see everything. Sometimes, it’s worth looking at the smaller markets, and in the larger cities, you’ll often find small, romantic markets tucked away. These are often very special and atmospheric too. You can also find some indoor markets – perfect for when the weather isn’t so good.
Book a table in advance
Restaurants can get very busy
As I mentioned earlier, the Christmas market period is one of the busiest times for tourists in Germany. And you can imagine how quickly popular restaurants get booked up. I’ve even booked tables in restaurants and cafés (for breakfast) in September to ensure that I can show my friends some typical places at Christmas time. My philosophy has always been that it’s easy to cancel a table, but it’s not so easy to find somewhere special if you haven’t booked. Look out for my blog about where to go in Cologne and Munich.
Top tips at a glance:
- Do your Christmas market prep.
- Take layers.
- Take a warm coat and winter shoes.
- Take a hat, scarf and gloves.
- Take a lockable backpack or a (zipped) handbag to wear across your chest.
- Take enough cash and check your card features with your bank.
- Don’t put your phone and wallet in your back pocket.
- Don’t take your dog.
- Go with children earlier in the day (ideally during the week) to avoid the crowds.
- Use public transport.
- Book a table in advance (particularly if you’re a larger group).
I hope you find this blog helpful for your upcoming Christmas market trip. Have I missed anything? Please let me know as it’s nice for our community to share tips and information here. Thank you! I’ve got some more Christmas market blogs lined up, so keep an eye out for them or sign up to my newsletter and receive my blog straight to your inbox.