CONTRIBUTED BY MERIL CHICKINI
Note: This article was originally published in 2013, but we thought you’d still appreciate it for the 2015 Christmas Market season! Enjoy! Usually end of the year can be dark and maybe even somewhat stressful with all the preparations for Christmas. But no worries, Germans have found a wonderful way to keep their cities decorated and in Christmas lights from the middle of November ’till the end of the year with Christmas markets. Christmas markets go back to Late Middle Ages and first one was held in Dresden 1434. Most cities followed and now almost every city celebrates. Bigger cities usually have their markets run for weeks, while smaller places might have it only for a day or two. It seems to be in smaller cities it’s usually celebrated on a Sunday. Although the name may vary depending from the area you live from Weihnachtsmarkt to Christkindlmarket but it all stands for the same thing: good food, warm drinks, nativity scene and just relaxing with family and friends before the holidays. Christmas is my favorite holiday so going to different Christmas markets is a must in our family. It has everything for everybody: last minute decorations for the home or maybe small gifts to send back to your family, warm drinks that vary from alcohol (Glühwein: hot mulled wine and Eierpunsch: similar to eggnog) to non-alcohol (kinderpunsch and hot chocolate even). The food may be kuchen (soft gingerbreads that might have a filling), the usual bratwurst, roasted almonds and chestnuts, or other Christmas foods. Of course there’s a nativity scene, small petting zoo and sometimes even Santa Claus or der Weihnachtsmann. We have found that the best time, when it’s not too crowded and busy, is to go during the week and in the morning (great for a four day weekend) or even on Sundays when everything else is closed. Usually the bigger the city the more busy it gets after work hours. Bringing a stroller is fine but make sure you have the covers up because most people have warm drinks in their hands. Usually there’s no parking set up for the market so you have to find it on your own. If there’s a shopping center nearby it’s good to park there. Christmas markets that are held in the town square are free.
Castle Guteneck holds a rather special Christmas market. It’s similar to the medieval markets where everybody selling or working there is wearing costumes and the stalls are decorated too. They offer games and horserides for the kids and big number of stalls selling german delicacies. I would definitely recommend this one just because of the different feel to it. Unfortunately when we went it was rainy and rather gloomy but it would beautiful to see in the snow. This place gets many visitors and gets crowded very fast. Always dress warm when you go to any Christmas Markets because they are all outdoor and usually rather big. You need to buy a ticket for this one. Parking is provided and organized.
Regensburg has 2 markets as well: one in the town square by the Cathedral that is free and then another one in the courtyard of Thurn and Taxis Palace (with ticket) that will have more of romantic fairy tale setting. Both are definitely worth seeing and you can park in the big parking garage in the city center and just walk from there. Regensburg also offers Christmas concerts that are free in the Cathedral and boat rides along the Danube river.
Another beautiful city that looks like straight out of Grimm fairy tale is Rothenburg and although it’s a smaller city their Christmas market is wonderful and well known around the world. Biggest and most famous markets are held in Nurnberg, Dresden, Berlin, and Köln. If you plan to go there make sure you are ready for crowds and higher prices on food and drinks. I think no matter which Christmas Market you plan to visit you’ll have great time!