It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are upon us and approaching quickly. The good thing is, when it comes to Christmas and the holidays, Germany has got you covered. Christmas is one of its biggest holiday seasons. It’s so big and special, they actually start celebrating anywhere from four to five weeks ahead of the actual day. Because Germans celebrate Advent, most of the “Weihnachtmarkts,” or “Christmas markets,” start around the end of November.
It can be overwhelming to try and decide which ones you should visit, so to simplify the process, we’ve come up with a list of plenty of options that provide times, dates and particular highlights that might catch your fancy. Most of these are within and hour or two of the KMC area, so they are close enough for a day trip.
Nov. 19 to Dec. 21
Although this festival begins in November, one of the more exciting highlights for visitors is the swimmers plunge on Dec. 5. Locals and visitors alike can test their courage by jumping into the freezing cold waters of the Mosel River. The following day, patrons can watch the arrival of Saint Nicholas while he hands out chocolates and gifts to children.
Nov. 24 to Dec. 23
A stroll through the center of town will find you near the more than 1,000-year-old St. Martin’s Cathedral. Here you will discover homemade gifts from showmen and craftsmen such as Advent garlands, tree decorations, wooden toys and carvings, ceramics and candles. In front of Gotthard Chapel is a representation of the Christmas story that includes a hand-carved crib. In the center of Hoefchen square you will find a wood-carved 11-meter-high Christmas pyramid from the Ore Mountains in eastern Germany.
Nov. 21 to Dec. 23
Saarbruecken’s Christmas market is located in the historical St. Johanner Market Square. With more than 200 vendors to peruse, visitors will find themselves immersed in attractions that include a traditional alpine hut, a huge Advent wreath, a bell tower and life-sized Christmas characters. Similar to Mainz, there is a large 9-meter hand-crafted Christmas pyramid. Every Saturday and Sunday between 2 and 4 p.m. there is a traditional puppet theater performance. Be sure not to miss the daily visit from Father Christmas at 7 p.m. when his reindeer sleigh hovers over the market on a high wire while telling the story of Rudolph.
Nov. 21 to Dec. 22
As the oldest town in Germany, Trier’s Christmas market should be on your list of definite places to visit. With more than 95 festively decorated wooden huts in front of the mighty cathedral in the Hauptmarkt square, you can hear traditional Christmas carols being played by brass bands and trumpeters.
Dec. 3 to Dec. 11
As one of the more famous Christmas markets in the Rheinland-Pfalz area, Sankt Wendel is known for the medieval atmosphere based around its town hall and cathedral. While this market is only open for about a week, it is well worth the visit. The entire market is decorated for the medieval time period. Tradesmen and craftsmen wear historic clothing to take visitors on a trip through time. Every afternoon, a train of camels ridden by the Three Wise Men, accompanied by musicians and fire eaters, makes its way through town. There is also a large version of Father Christmas’ sleigh pulled by reindeer for children to ride as well as a treasure hunt and a tent to do archery.
Nov. 21 to Dec. 22
Extending over five historical market squares, Heidelberg offers more than 140 stalls yielding crafts, delicious food and unique gifts. There is also a Craft Palace Christmas market that is open for two long weekends in December. Just below Heidelberg Castle lies the popular attraction “Christmas on Ice.” Found on Karlsplatz, visitors and residents can skate on the open-air rink while listening to some of their favorite Christmas songs.
Nov. 24 to Dec. 23
The cobblestone streets provide the perfect setting for the town to transform into a Christmas city. Be sure not to miss the chance for a horse-drawn sleigh ride that will allow you to see all of the wonderful attractions on display. The market resides on Friedrichsplatz. Not far away, at the Schlossplatz near the Grand Duke Karl Friedrich Memorial, is an ice skating rink called “Stadtwerke Eiszeit” where visitors are encouraged to skate or take their chances at the game of curling. Families and kids alike won’t want to miss their chance to see the flying Santa Claus as he soars with his sleigh over the crowd. If that isn’t enough, venture over to the Karlsruhe Palace where visitors are brought back to the Middle Ages while watching jugglers, musicians, sword fights, crossbow shooting and a fantastic fire show.
Nov. 21 to Dec. 30
This market begins with a traditional stage performance of a very special winter’s tale showcasing the Christ Child and numerous little angels in front of the Kurhaus. St. Nicholas makes his appearance on Dec. 6 when he floats through the air in a hot air balloon, landing directly in front of the Kurhaus to hand out presents to the children. Stroll through this 2,000-year-old city and enjoy the festively illuminated town while exploring its unique boutiques and elegant shops.
Nov. 23 to Dec. 23
Set in the heart of the town against the backdrop of the Old Castle, this Christmas market offers more than 280 decorated stalls. As one of the oldest and largest holiday markets in all of Europe, the festive illuminations create a joyful atmosphere for millions of visitors each year. Daily concerts take place in the Renaissance inner courtyard, not far from the wooden huts offering an overwhelming range of gifts.
Nov. 24 to Dec. 23
If you’re looking for a Christmas market with a bit more global appeal, Ruedesheim am Rhein will bring you some satisfaction. On a stroll down the popular Drosselgasse lane, consumers will find more than 120 stalls offering Christmas presents and customs from more than 12 different countries. Some of the more popular items are samplings of food from places like Finland and Mongolia. For a romantic experience, explore the Upper Middle Rhine Valley on a river cruise, where guests learn about German fairytales, legends and Christmas traditions. Ruedesheim is also home to Europe’s largest Nativity scene with life-size figures.
Nov. 23 to Dec. 23
Just a five-minute walk from the central railway station, the Mannheim Christmas market is one of the most easily accessible. More than 200 booths are located at the city’s most famous landmark, the “Wasserturm,” or “water reservoir.” Young and old can experience the holiday spirit while riding one of the two antique merry-go-rounds. While walking amidst thousands of lights, visitors can hear regional choirs performing and see various dance groups on the entertainment stage.
Nov. 23 to Dec. 22
This Christmas market dates back as early at 1393. As one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany, you definitely won’t be disappointed. Traditionally opened by the town mayor, there is always a surprise musical guest as well as some of the most elaborate and creative decorations you’ll find in Europe. With more than 200 different stalls to catch visitors’ attention, you are sure to find that special something for that special someone. Throughout the day you can hear the chiming of the church bells from 10 of the city’s churches. Everyone can meet Santa Claus on Dec. 6 on the Romerberg stage near city hall. There is also a guided walk around the market, offering visitors a stunning view from the tower of the Old St. Nicholas Church.
Nov. 22 to Dec. 23
Taking place on the Schlossplatz, between the Rathaus and Stadtschloss, Wiesbaden’s Christmas market is known as the Twinkling Star Christmas Market. More than 130 stalls offer hundreds of goodies for visitors to discover and taste for four weeks. The 10-meter-high lilly, a symbol of the city’s coat of arms, is brightly lit to point the way into a world full of art, craftsmanship, ceramics and culinary treats. For a unique view, hop on the ferris wheel to see the various holiday shoppers and exciting scenery. The Eswe Eiszeit, an 800-square-meter ice rink that also houses two curling rinks, is a major seasonal attraction that is open through Jan. 8.
Nov. 25 to Dec. 31
Since 1570, Strasbourg, France, has continued its traditions of being called the “Capital of Christmas.” This year, the city welcomes Portugal as its guest country, offering a Portuguese village for visitors. With about 300 stalls spread over 12 locations throughout the city center, holiday guests will find handmade craftwork, traditional Alsatian Christmas decorations and a variety of food and drink. Strasbourg offers a variety of experiences from its Market of Christmas Treats to the Market of the Three Magi and even a market of the Carre d’Or wine producers.