One of the most (if not the most) exciting things about the Christmas season in Germany are the Christmas markets! It’s kind of fun watching stalls slowly being set up throughout the month of November in the city centre, and they usually officially open near the end of November, until sometime in January. Known in German as the “Weihnachtsmarkt,” it’s basically a street market that every city and town has, which is lined with stalls selling drinks, food, souvenirs, and handmade crafts like ornaments, paintings, and jewellery!
While I’m not sure how many people are lining up excitedly to buy ornaments, it’s really common to find long line-ups in front of stalls selling food like bratwurst, and drinks like glühwein (hot mulled wine)…and for good reason too!
This year being my first year going to these Christmas markets, I decided that I must go all out. Why just go to ONE when I can go to FIVE?! (six if you count the one in Speyer I’m going to on Monday!) Clearly an addiction is forming, so good thing Christmas markets are a seasonal thing!
Here’s where I’ve been so far…
The Heidelberg Christmas market was one of the earliest to open, and was the first Christmas market I went to. While I loved it since I went with my German boyfriend who studies there, I was also a bit disappointed that it wasn’t as big as I was expecting. The stalls were also scattered around the city, rather than all in one area, which breaks off that “Christmas Winter Wonderland” image I had.
Verdict: See, but beware of how overly packed it is. Then again, Heidelberg’s a gorgeous city, so going there any time of the year is always fun!
I went to the Bonn Christmas market with three friends for a weekend, and was surprised by how big it is! You can easily get lost in the rows and rows of stalls they have, selling almost anything you can imagine. It’s not as busy during the day, but at night, it’s just completely packed with people. It’s a pretty lively crowd though, and it’s easy to get lost in the glowing lights. The star shaped lights that line the streets are also exceptionally pretty.
Verdict: A must see. It’s one of the larger markets in Germany, so if you’re looking for a complete “Christmas market experience,” this is it!
Ok I’m not sure if I can count actually “experiencing” the Ludwigshafen Christmas market, since I mostly just walked through it on the way home from work one day out of curiosity. It’s located conveniently in Berliner Platz, where I have to switch trams to go home. It’s nice as all Christmas markets tend to be, but there wasn’t anything special about it. Like most things related to Ludwigshafen, people tend to talk about it without much enthusiasm.
Verdict: Pass, unless you’re a local.
Mannheim actually has two different Christmas markets, and I didn’t end up checking it out until it’s been open for a few weeks despite living here! They have one by the Wasserturm (water tower), and one which most people nickname “the Engelhorn one”, since it’s right across from the Engelhorn department store. The Wasserturm one is a lot bigger, but it’s also very touristy, and most of the stalls sell mainly souvenirs.
Locals prefer the Engelhorn one a lot more, since it’s a lot smaller, and all the drink and food stalls means that it’s a nice place to hang out with friends. The Engelhorn one is also where a friend introduced me to a drink called “feuerzangenbowle,” which most people describe as “that drink that gets you drunk really fast.” And they’re right.
Verdict: The Engelhorn Christmas market is a see, especially if you’re with a group of friends!
The Strasbourg Christmas market is the only non-German one I’ve been to, although when in Strasbourg, it’s pretty cool to hear a mix of French, English and German being spoken where ever you go. I actually think the Strasbourg one is my favourite (ironically enough!), since it was just so lively there. Unlike the Germans, the French stall workers are very entertaining, and with everyone running around, shouting, laughing loudly and engaging in many acts of merriment, it definitely felt the most festive.
The Canadian friend I went with also commented on how the French seem so much “warmer,” which makes you “just want to buy everything,” which is totally true as well! Sorry wallet!
While I’ve never bought more than some drinks or bratwurst at a Christmas market, everything in Strasbourg just seemed so tempting…
“Chocolate covered bananas!!!”
Me and my friend also tried a drink called the “hot orange,” and while it’s non-alcoholic, it was heavenly. Definitely worth a try if you happen to be at a Christmas market!
Verdict: A must see! And try the hot orange!
And so, now I definitely understand why everyone’s so excited for the Christmas markets every year. While the weather is getting pretty cold these days, there’s nothing like a cup of glühwein (or hot orange!) to warm you up!
Which Christmas markets have you been to? Which ones are your favourites?