Feeling like Scrooge and yearning for the warm glow of yuletide cheer? Why not head out to Germany for their age-old, über-traditional Christkindlmarkt or Christmas Market? Strolling through snowy streets, buying whimsical gifts and snacking on gingerbread cookies while sipping glühwein (hot mulled wine) would put you back into a holly, jolly mood in no time! With every city, town and village hosting its own market, here are my top 4 picks to help you on your merry way:
Best Backdrop – Cologne
Cologne, the city where hot mulled wine originated, has six markets. The most famous and impressive one is right outside the town’s Gothic cathedral, Kölner Dom, that hosts free nightly Christmas concerts. Located in the cathedral square close to the bustling central train station, the market has charmed visitors each year with its 150 timber stalls towered over by the biggest Christmas tree in all of Rhineland. While it is a great place to sample mulled wine, make sure that you bring an empty stomach. The traditional treats from pork knuckles to sausages to schnitzels to potato pancakes will definitely hit the spot!
Best Atmosphere – Munich
Munich’s Christmas Market dates back from the 14th century and is held in Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square) in the heart of the medieval city center. It boasts of Germany’s biggest manger market where one can buy authentic, wood-carved nativity scenes from Bavaria. One can also try Bavarian specialties like fried apples and honey cake. In the nearby Town Hall overlooking the square, advent music is performed live from the balcony every evening and children can bake gingerbread cookies and try on shimmery gowns with gossamer wings to make them look like angels at the free Heavenly Workshop.
Off the Beaten Path – Dachau
Dachau is notorious for having the very first concentration camp in Germany. It is only a short train ride from Munich and is a good day trip to experience a small town feel of a Christmas Market. Although cozy with just a few stalls, it has Bavaria’s largest Advent Calendar and a nostalgic toy-train invites children on rides along the entrance of the Town Hall Square. One can also buy traditional Bavarian crafts like chimney sweeps, beeswax candles and nutcrackers at cheaper price than Munich.
Most Diverse – Berlin
Berlin is not only the capital of the country, but also of Christmas Markets with over 60 catering to every taste, from traditional to hip to eclectic to funky. In keeping with the city’s cosmopolitan vibe, its markets feature original works of art, cutting-edge fashion and contemporary design. Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, ice rinks, toboggan rides and petting zoos are also some of the attractions. With so many markets to see, sampling currywurst in the city where it was invented should keep hunger at bay.
Photo Credit: Patrick Evia
Written by Faith Azul-Evia. Faith is an avid flashpacker (a slightly older version of a backpacker with a bigger budget but still wants to avoid a packaged version of a destination) and believes that her travels start as soon as she steps out of her NY apartment building. She is in constant search of new places to explore, eat, drink, sleep, spa, run, hike and yoga. She has been to more than 40 countries on 6 continents and dreams of going to Antarctica someday. Follow her @faithflashpacks on Instagram.