They are called “Weihnachtsmarkt” or “Christkindlmarkt,” originally depending on whether the region is Protestant or Catholic. Whatever the name, however, they are great opportunities to get into the spirit of the season. Get ready for Christmas markets of all kinds — from festive to freaky, from traditional to trendy.
The idea that the “Christkind” (Christ child) brings Christmas gifts dates back to the Protestant reformer Martin Luther (1483 to 1546). In his time, it was traditional to give children presents on Dec. 6, St. Nikolaus Day.
To turn away from the Catholic veneration of saints and saint’s days, Luther laid gift-giving in his household on Christmas Eve. He told his children that “Holy Christ” had brought their presents. This tradition quickly took hold in Lutheran families. Through the years, this fictional gift-giver took form. It was most likely the medieval German tradition of Christmas plays, with an angel of the Annunciation as the main character, which gave the Christmas angel its earthly appearance. As angels of all sorts began to be depicted as female, and not only male, the Christkind also took on a feminine appearance. That is why today a young woman is chosen usually to play the part of the Christkind.
Nevertheless, whatever the name, from crib figurines to wood carvings, it can all be found at a Christmas market. Depending on the size of the event, some markets last from the end of November to Christmas Eve, whereas others might just take place on one single weekend. Note that Sunday will be a remembrance day on which all shops in Catholic regions will be closed. Deciding which market to visit can be difficult, since there are so many. So, below is an overview of the biggest, oldest and most famous markets followed by a list of smaller events in the local area.
Famous German Markets
The largest and oldest “Christkindlmarkt,” or Christmas market, takes place on Munich’s Marienplatz in front of the neo-gothic town hall from Monday to Dec. 24.
This market dates back to the 14th century, but it found its home in the heart of the city in 1972. One of the main sights is the 30-meter Christmas tree with its 2,500 lights. Also at this market, take a stroll around the “Kripperlmarkt,” the largest fair for Nativity figures.
For more information on Munich’s Christmas market, go online and visit www.muenchen.de/
Set in the unique, medieval scenery of downtown Nuremberg, the Christkindlmarkt is one of the most famous of its kind in the world.
Starting Nov. 30, it lasts until Dec. 24. More
than 180 stalls will offer typical German food, such as Lebkuchen or Früchtebrot.
You can also find the original “Nürnberger Zwetschgenmännle,” famous little figures made of dried plums. For more information on Nuremberg’s Christmas market, visit www.christkindlesmarkt.de.
For culinary diversity, visit the Christmas market in Essen. From Belgian chocolate to Arabian falafel, from Polish Bigos to Dutch Poffertjes, you can eat international specialities of all kinds. Essen — which coincidently means eating, too — began its Christmas market on Willy-Brandt-Platz on Thursday. It ends Dec. 23.
For details, visit http://weihnachtsmarkt.essen.de/de/startseite_1/startseite_21.jsp.
Another famous Christmas market that claims to be the oldest in Germany is the “Dresden Striezelmarkt.” Set in the capital of Saxony in a city of unique baroque beauty, this market takes place from Wednesday through Dec. 24. Originally, it was a modest one-day market. Nowadays, more than 240 market traders offer their goods. The speciality of this market is the original Dresden Christstollen, a Christmas cake speciality that lent the Striezelmarkt its name.
For more on gingerbread and the Prune Chimney Sweep, Pyramid or Dresden Stollen festivals, visit www.dresden.de/en/05/08-Christmas.php.
Strictly speaking, Berlin does not offer one special Christmas market — it offers more than 60! For a historical market (including ancient arts and crafts), visit the Gendarmenmarkt from Monday through Dec. 31. For an indoor market featuring designers and artists, visit the “TrendMafia Designer Weihnachtsmarkt” at Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 11. The “Weihnachts-Rodeo” at Stadtbad Oderberger Straße is said to be the coolest Christmas market in Berlin with a chill-area, street art and contemporary music. To find a good market for you, visit www.
Visit These Local Markets
The Kaiserslautern Christmas market, followed by its New Year’s market
(Dec. 27 to 30), officially opens Monday and ends Dec. 23 around Schillerplatz.
For the program, visit www.kaiserslautern.de/imperia/md/content/PDF/veranstaltungen/
The Wiesbaden Twinkling Star Christmas market takes place Tuesday through Dec. 23 at the city hall.
Visit www.christmasmarkets.com/Germany/wiesbaden-twinkling-star-christmas-market.html for more information.
One of the most enchanting markets can be found in Trier, where the Christmas market runs from Monday to Dec. 23 in its main medieval square.
For more information on this market, visit www.trierer-weihnachtsmarkt.de/en.
Koblenz, one of Germany’s oldest cities, expects more than 300,000 visitors in the weeks before Christmas, when it holds its Advent market among glittering stands and a blaze of lights. This market takes place from today to Dec. 22.
highlights/christmas-market.html for more information on this market.
During Advent, the old town of Bernkastel-Kues is adorned with more than 40 Christmas stalls and a Moselle-style Nativity scene, a musical clock, and a nutcracker castle. The market takes place from Saturday through Dec. 23.
Visit www.weihnachtsmarkt-bernkastel-kues.de/cms/front_content.php?idcat=57 for details.
Come to Cochem for the castle Christmas market Dec. 15 and 16 where a Christmas story is brought to life in the courtyard of the castle by actors in historical costumes. As there is no parking, use the panorama train from the old Moselle bridge.
For details, visit www.burg-cochem.de/english/events.htm.
Rüdesheim invites visitors to its Christmas market from Thursday through Dec. 23 with 124 stands, choir concerts and a life-size Nativity scene.
For more information on this maret, visit www.weihnachtsmarkt-der-nationen.de/markt.
Worms hosts a very special Christmas market from Monday through Dec. 23. More than 50 stands will offer arts and crafts as well as traditional seasonal goods.
For details, visit www.worms.de/deutsch/kultur/highlights/weihnachten/weihnachtsmarkt.php.
The Christmas market in Speyer takes place from Monday all the way into the new year, Jan. 6. Go onine and visit www.speyer.de/de/tourist/feste/weihnachtsmarkt2011/weihnachten_sp_2012klein.pdf for the program with live music, orchestras and choir performances.
Ahrweiler is considered to have one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the region. This market takes place on the four weekends of Advent: Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, Dec. 7 to 9, Dec. 14 to 16 and Dec. 21 to 23. A special midnight market will be held Dec. 15.
weihnachtsmarkt-ahrweiler.html for details.
Oberstein Castle in Idar-Oberstein opens up for a romantic Christmas market
Dec. 1 and 2 with events for children and seasonal crafts only. Busses run between Hertie shopping center and the castle for free.
idar-oberstein-schloss-weihnachtsmarkt.html for more information.
A brief, but charming, little market will be held in Ramstein. Ramstein’s Cinnamon and Waffles Market will take place from 2 to 8 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9 at the marketplace in Ramstein-Miesenbach.
weihnachtsmarkt-ramstein.html for details.
The St. Andreas Market in Landstuhl takes place Dec. 1 and 2. St. Andreas is the patron of the town. A fanfare marching band will officially open the event at 2 p.m. Visit www.weihnachtsmarkt-deutschland.de/
weihnachtsmarkt-landstuhl.html for details.