German Christmas Markets
Santa comes but once a year and so do Germany’s Christmas markets, a centuries old tradition. Now is when to start planning your December visit as you will want to have plenty of time to start searching for the best deals on flights and accommodations in anticipation of next season’s festivities. And trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Many cities start preparing for eager crowds in late November. Lights get strung across streets, chocolate Santas are lovingly placed in window displays and craftsmen start assembling booths in town squares and along busy walkways.
This was my first visit to the Christmas markets and the historical town of Bremen. This is home to the Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Bremen Town Musicians) and the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a donkey, a cat and a rooster, who all wanted to go to Bremen to become musicians. Bronze sculptures of these animals (one on top of the other) can be found in many parts of the city and are an amusing tourist attraction.
Bremen has more than 160 Christmas stalls and stands offering cinnamon and hot mulled wine, fresh roasted almonds, grilled sausages, ornaments, candles, and just about everything else imaginable. Some of these stalls are placed directly in front of the 600-year old Town Hall that seems to be a focal point of shopping, farmers markets on the weekends and trams that fan out to all parts of the city.
As daytime gives way to evening, the decorative lights appear, giving the entire Christmas village a romantic and festive glow. Crowds grow as people gather to celebrate the season. Families browse the booths or stop to chat with friends and sample hot pretzels, beer or pastries.
As I strolled around the markets taking photos and sampling the local foods, I couldn’t help but notice all of the sausages. They are everywhere and are usually prepared over hot coals or wood. Those who are used to hot dogs with compatibly sized buns will find a variety of king-sized bratwursts with pint-sized rolls. Add a little bit of mustard and your taste buds will come alive— just the thing for a crisp, cold evening.
I saw many families with small children at the markets and carnival rides like merry go rounds are designed just for them. Ferris wheels are also fun and allow great views over the rooftops of Bremen.
Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city and is a shopper’s paradise with hundreds of retails shops. No less than 12 shopping malls are here with many of the streets closed to traffic. Famous-name brands such as Cartier, Bulgari and Armani are located in the Neuer Wall area while the Mediterranean-influenced Alster Arcade with its iron balustrades, old-style street lamps and original buildings houses all sorts of retail shops.
But, I was mainly here for the Christmas markets and about a dozen or so are placed strategically throughout Hamburg. I found that I could not walk far without encountering a new market laden with local crafts, toys, and confections. One particularly notable market, established by Circus Roncalli, was directly across the street from the town hall. All ages will enjoy the crafts, sweets, toys, and carousels as well as the hot punch in take-home souvenir cups served by circus artists.
Even smaller towns go all out for the holidays. Located in Lower Saxony, the town of Celle was founded over 700 years ago and looks like something out of a storybook with half-timbered houses, cozy fireplaces and brick-lined streets. Over 50 wooden houses in the middle of the old town sell all sorts of locally-made gifts while street performers wander about entertaining the crowds.
Celle is one town that has maintained much of its medieval charm. You won’t want to miss exploring the Ducal Palace with its Renaissance-era chapel, once the home of the Duchy of Lüneburg. This is the oldest building in Celle with walls that date from 1292.
Germany is a country rich with historical and cultural treasures and the Christmas markets are something you should see at least once in your life. But, don’t wait until November as many travelers start booking their vacations early and rooms are sold out rather quickly.
For more information visit:
German National Tourist Office: