The 5 Absolute Best Cities for Christmas Markets in Germany

Christmas Markets in Germany

Few European traditions are more iconic than the famous Christmas Markets in Germany— often imitated, but never duplicated. Created in Dresden in the 15th century as a gathering place and local market, the markets served a practical purpose first and foremost: present-shopping for loved ones and family, all while encouraging artisans and their craft. More than just glühwein and bratwurst, the Christmas markets quickly became a staple of the German identity and extended to all parts of the country, even beyond, each region adapting the concept to its own ways.

This post contains pretty much all of my German Christmas Markets photos EVER. This is a photo heavy post to get your wanderlust sparked up!

Christmas Markets in Germany

Berlin

Christmas Markets in GermanyCharlottenburg Palace

The Christmas market at Charlottenburg Palace is definitely the most magical one in Berlin, perhaps the most photogenic as well and also the largest, with over 150 stalls and vendors. Although quite recent — the market only officially opened in 2007 — it really doesn’t feel like a novelty thanks to the 300-year-old royal palace, all lit up for the occasion. Because of its extremely traditional approach,baroque soundtrack, and exceptional backdrop, this particular market is the perfect introduction to German Christmas markets and a great starting point to any market tour. The Palace also offers special guided visits of its state rooms in December.

christmas market in berlinGendarmenmarkt

Welcome to the most photographed Christmas market in the world! Located in the highly touristy Mitte area of Berlin, this market is easily accessible by public transportation and located within minutes of other famous landmarks like the Berliner Dom, the festive Unter den Linden avenue and Museumsinsel. The square, framed by the illuminated French and German Cathedrals as well as the Concert House, despite being quite spectacular at its bare state, is all decked out for the occasion, with a gigantic Christmas tree, dozens of wooden cabins, and even a stage that welcomes choirs, dancers and acrobats.

Esslingen

Esslingen Christmas market

Esslingen Christmas market

I’ve talked about Esslingen’s Christmas Market quite abundantly, and rightfully so methinks. It it without a doubt my favorite one, because the city looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale or a postcard. Located just a few kilometers outside bustling Stuttgart, Esslingen in a medieval village that was, thankfully, spared in the bombings of World War II. It’s incredibly well-preserved and colorful town center dates back to the 1600s.

Pretty much the entire city of Esslingen is taken over by Christmas markets — it seems as though everywhere you look, there is a different Christmas market. I visited a medieval one, a circus-like one and a more traditional one, all in the space of 24 hours! Esslingen is worth a visit for its sheer beauty and exceptional architecture — it is after all part of the famous German timber-frame road – especially at Christmas time, where the half-timbered houses and medieval atmosphere make for a memorable backdrop.

Dresden

Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany

Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany

Christmas Markets in Germany 3

Dresden’s markets have a very good reputation preceding them, especially the medieval one — it is, supposedly, the oldest one in Germany, dating all the way back from 1434. Traditionally called Striezelmarkt, a name derived from Hefestriezel, a sweet delicacy now known as Dresden Christstollen, or German Christmas Cake. And as if being the oldest Christmas market wasn’t enough to convince visitors, Dresden is also home to the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid, standing at 14 metres tall, as well as the world’s biggest nut cracker.

The iconic ginger cookies found all over the Christmas markets are called Lebkuchen, and they come in all shapes and sizes. The most common ones are heart-shaped and highly ornate icing and sporting different holiday greetings.

Munich

Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany

Christmas markets wouldn’t be the same without glühwein! Each city sports different glühwein mugs, not unlike the ginger cookies. You have to pay a deposit – usually 2 euros — for the mug when you get glühwein, after which you can carry the mug around the market as you browse and explore. You can even keep it as a souvenir!

Although Christmas Markets in Germany are at their best in the evening, they tend to get quite crowded (not to mention freezing, sub-zero temperatures). Most markets will open in the early afternoon, giving tourists ample time to visit and chat with vendors before the flocks of locals and visitors arrive after dark.

Köln

Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany Christmas Markets in Germany

Christmas Markets in Germany are traditionally a place where friends and family would gather to chat and browse for Christmas presents. And centuries later, the tradition is still very much alive and has not changed a lot. Arts and crafts, clothing, regional delicacies and sweets abound.

Disclaimer: I was on assignment for Eurail.com on this trip. All opinions are my own, Christmas markets are cold as hell but awesome.

13 Comments on The 5 Absolute Best Cities for Christmas Markets in Germany

  1. Kirsten
    November 26, 2014 at 5:10 pm (3 years ago)

    Now I want to go on a tour of Christmas markets in Germany!!!!!!! Great post :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres
      November 30, 2014 at 6:27 pm (3 years ago)

      You should! Germany has stunning Christmas markets, I highly recommend touring them.

      Reply
  2. Barb
    December 1, 2014 at 8:59 pm (3 years ago)

    Thanks for this great info and for the lovely photos……this is on my ‘must-do’ list.

    Reply
  3. David
    December 20, 2014 at 3:33 pm (3 years ago)

    No nation does a Christmas market quite like Germany … this is an experience that is definitely on my bucket list!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres
      December 27, 2014 at 12:35 pm (3 years ago)

      As it should be! Christmas markets are an experience in their own right.

      Reply
  4. Suzy
    December 26, 2014 at 6:29 pm (3 years ago)

    Nice post and beautiful pictures. We loved the Christmas markets when we lived in Germany! Thanks for the ‘memories’ would love to go back again!

    Reply
  5. leo
    September 9, 2016 at 1:16 pm (1 year ago)

    great list though im a bit sad you didn’t mentioned the chritsmas market in Bamberg and Hamburg because they are two of the most famous and beautiul of germany c: i’ve been to so many but those two are definitely in my top 5! In Hamburtg, the christkindl (christmas angel) “flies” over the market place while famous children choirs sing german christmas songs. and Bamberg is a very romatoical city and so is the christmas market… anyway, i just descovered your blog and now i can’t stop reading :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      September 10, 2016 at 10:17 pm (1 year ago)

      I haven’t been to either so I can’t recommend, but thanks for letting me know – adding it to my bucket list! And thanks for the kind words ;-)

      Reply
  6. Ana Arten-Meyer
    July 10, 2017 at 11:04 am (3 months ago)

    Hello! Since we live in Germany, we are real fans of the Christmas Markets! I would also highly recommend the one in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is quite small, but since the town is one of the most medieval in Germany, the whole atmosphere is just breath-taking!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 15, 2017 at 2:52 pm (1 month ago)

      Thanks for the suggestions Ana!

      Reply

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  2. […] – Hungary, Slovakia and most of Austria were all new to me. Also, I’m a sucker for Christmas markets so needless to say I didn’t need much […]

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