Tips, tricks for visiting Christmas markets in Germany

German Christmas market at the Römer square in Frankfurt am Main. Background photo by mapman/

The Christmas Markets of Germany are one of the best parts of being stationed abroad. If you are stationed in Europe during the holidays, this is a something you can’t miss out on! No matter the size of city or town you find yourself in, there is a small town market feel that is infectious, with lines of pretty, decorated stalls selling food, christmas crafts, and drinks!

Even if you plan to travel or head home for Christmas, the markets kick off at the end of November and many end before Christmas day, so you’ll have plenty of time to get your share of Glühwein (mulled wine) and Nutella smothered crepes or waffles!

Here are a few tips for you to get the most out of your Christmas Market experience, so stay warm and have fun!

Top Christmas market tips:

Dress for the weather!  Better to remove a few layers because you’re warm then to have to leave early because you’re chilly.  Warm shoes are a definite must-have, as the markets take place outside (unless you sneak into an open restaurant for a bite) and you will be standing or walking around for most of your visit.

Most Christmas markets are standing room only. You get some Gluhwein and wander around the market or stand at a table and chat with friends, so wear comfy shoes and do some people-watching with a warm beverage in hand.

Bring cash. There will be ATMs around the city center, but most of the stalls are cash only and there is plenty to see and buy!

German Christmas markets are very kid-friendly, with hot chocolate, waffles, and Children’s Gluhwein (Kinderpunsch), a warm, non-alcoholic mulled juice to keep everyone warm and happy!

Most hot drinks are poured into ceramic mugs, which you will pay a reimbursable fee for (Pfand), similar to the glasses at wine and beer festivals. If you want to keep the mugs to remember your visit to the market (they change each year and have the year and city name on them), just take it home with you!  If not, drink up and then return your mug to the vendor you purchased it from to get your fee returned (normally from .50 euro to 2 euro)

Bigger is not always better. Although the sizes of the larger cities’ Christmas markets are impressive and the lights and decorations are beautiful, the smaller Christmas markets have a wonderful ‘small town’ feel that gives you a sense of what this tradition was built on. Grab some friends or join a tour to take in the event with a larger crowd. If you go with just you and your spouse or your family, you’ll still feel a part of something bigger. Plus, these markets are the perfect way to meet new people and expand your social circle!

Due to regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, bookings and trips may be cancelled or postponed, and travel to neighboring countries may not be allowed. Please verify the status before making plans to attend. For U.S. government employees, including service members, remember to always follow command regulations, which may be different than host nation policies.