Make the best of your Christmas market experience

by Dr. Krystal White, Contributing writer

How to make the most of your market visit 

German Christmas markets have inspired a sense of community cheer and holiday merriment for over 400 years. Amidst the dark days and cold nights, it is easy to be dreary and avoid venturing out. Historically, days near or on Dec. 25 have always been celebrated in multiple cultures as a crucial day of the year: Egyptians paid homage to their key gods; Romans celebrated the sun god Saturn during this season; and every year Germanic ancestors started multiple midwinter festivals near the winter solstice.

These historical celebrations influence the Christmas markets we experience and cherish today.

Christmas pyramids, nativity scenes and signs of Christian rituals such as mistletoe, continue to dominate market decoration and cheer. The original sentiment of the market, to gather people together, can still be felt. We huddle together in the twinkle of soft light with the sounds of laughter and merry music, knowing that the most precious gift we possess is togetherness.

Navigating to a German Christmas market can be challenging, whether or not you’re new to the market atmosphere or you are a yearly market visitor. Here are some tips to help you maximize your merriness:

Good cheer needs a crowd

Sometimes more cheer is spread at Christmas markets when you have a group of people spending time together. Some can take the kids and go for a stroll, ride on the ferris wheel or visit the petting zoo while others shop around for ornaments and stocking stuffers. It’s always fun to plan a local train trip to the markets to reduce the stress of navigating, the irritation of parking and the need for a designated driver. Weekend group train tickets for up to five people is always the most affordable way to travel to a Christmas market. Plus, you can play cards or enjoy snacks during your commute a whole day of excitement and good cheer.

Stick to a budget 

It is easy to be so full of the holiday spirit that the cash just keeps flowing. We are less of a stickler when it comes to our sense of self control during this time of year, and we tend to spend more money in the company of others. Plus, research shows that we are more likely to spend more money when we are cold. In general, without accounting for presents or actual objects purchased, most Christmas market-goers spend 10 to 15 euro per hour on consumable products. The best way to combat forking over 100 euro for every market you visit is to plan on only spending a predetermined amount of cash. This tactic may assist you in budgeting your alcoholic intake as well.

Make new friends 

The atmosphere of each individual market is completely different, but most emit a social energy. This is the perfect opportunity to chat with the locals and make new friends. It can feel awkward at first to approach others you do not know, but most people welcome smiling strangers to share their table. It can be extremely rewarding to meet people you would not come to know under normal, non-festive circumstances. Be situationally aware, but be friendly and try asking others for local recommendations or advice.

Bundle up

Need advice for staying warm rather than layering on piles of extra winter clothing? Research the area near your market beforehand and make reservations at a local cafe for coffee and cake. A cozy inside break from the cold always feels super inviting. Also, it’s a smart move to bring a large thermos filled with hot tea. You can enjoy it in between your mugs of Gluhwein and continue to be warm, and sober!

(Dr. White is a pediatric psychologist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the developmental health consultant for Europe Regional Medical Command. She specializes in healthy habits across the lifespan and evaluating developmental disorders.)

Now that you have some tips, here are three German markets you should experience this season:

Sankt Wendel

This small, local village packs in a lot of charm and visitors. After revelling in more than a 100 wooden stalls spread throughout only a few winding streets, if you arrive around the perfect time, you can be delighted as the Three Wise Men stroll through the town with live camels. Every evening at 7 p.m., the night watchman closes the market. Enjoy the market from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 5 to Dec.13.


Easily accessed by train, this spectacular town boasts some of the best wine and food you’ll savor this holiday season. Do not miss out on sampling the best “Dampfnudeln,” or traditional German dumplings, of the area. Plus, the market’s unique Gluehwein is made from local, superior red wine by nearby producers. There are also plenty of warm barns and inviting cafes to relax and warm up in. The market goes every weekend beginning today through Dec. 20. Opening times: 5 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. Sundays.

Bad Wimpfen

Traveling a few hours from home on “Burgenstrasse,” or Castle Road, this market is one of the best in Germany. It’s old medieval walls and cobblestone streets convey a fairy tale-like glow that will be sure to get you into the Christmas spirit. The market offers amazingly unique and often handmade items in its booths. Think handmade chocolates, cookies, scarves, hats, mittens and ornaments. You can always plan an overnight trip and sleep in a castle close by. Experience the market’s charming weekends today through Dec. 13. Opening times: 2 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. Saturdays and 11:30 a.m. Sundays.