Spending a Christmas in Europe is on many people’s bucket lists, and I was fortunate enough to end my semester abroad in December in Germany!
Christmas Markets pop up all around Europe, some of the biggest in countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland & France. There is something so magical about them! Wooden houses that seem to be straight out of a fairytale just pop up in town squares selling hand-crafted ornaments, decorations, and (best of all) gluhwein.
These Christmas Markets have been around since the 1300s! Germany is best-known for them, and since I spent a semester in Germany I knew I couldn’t leave without visiting a few.
Frankfurt, Cologne, Heidelberg, and Dresden are pretty big cities that are known for their Christmas Markets, but you can find them all over the country! Even little Kaiserslautern, where I was living, had a Christmas Market!
There are two beautiful Christmas markets that I think are worth mentioning.
The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is world-famous as being one of Germany’s largest and oldest markets, dating back to the 1500s. You could spend hours here, wandering the stalls, sipping on gluhwein and listening to musicians on the street playing Christmas carols.
Nuremberg’s Christmas Market is dominated by a large church, The Frauenkirche, and all of the stalls fan out around it. The stalls are all filled with ornaments dangling down from the elm-covered roofs, and they have hand-crafted figurines and toys on display on their wooden shelves.
It can get crowded, so you’ll have to be patient getting the attendant’s attention, but just admire where you are while you’re waiting and it’ll be fine.
Don’t forget to eat plenty of treats while you’re here!
Starting with some spiced wine, head over to a stall with just a few euros and then you can warm up with this delicious drink! You have to pay a deposit, usually €2-3, and in return you get a decorated mug. If you return the mug you get your money back, and if you don’t want to turn it in you can keep it as a great souvenir!
There are a few other treats you won’t want to miss at this Christmas Market. If you are looking for something savoury, try a traditional sausage. It’ll come on a thick bun that only covers about half of it, and you can top it with some mustard. It’s the perfect street food to hold while you wander.
If you’re looking for something sweet, you can’t miss German-roasted almonds. These delicious, candied almonds are fantastic! They’re great for carrying around with you and snacking on them while you browse the stalls.
Another common treat that you’ll find all over the market are German gingerbread cookies (Markt Lebkuchenherzen). They are decorated with frosting and hanging from colorful strings. Instead of eating them you hang them around your neck and carry them with you!
Something else special about the Nuremberg Market is that they have a children’s market. If you have a family this is a great market because you can leave the hustle and bustle of the main market and head into the children’s area.
It has all the same charm: tasty treats and cute toys. However, it also has a merry-go-round, a Santa’s workshop and cute figurines on top of the market stalls! I don’t have kids but it was even fun for me!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the most charming German towns I have ever seen. It looks like it comes straight out of a fairytale. It’s a very old German town, from the 1200s! It’s old town is walled and well-preserved which is one of the reasons it’s so easy to fall in love with it. When you step into the city it’s like you’re stepping back in time.
It’s not only it’s charm, but it has a lovely Christmas Market as well. The town center has a giant Christmas tree that lights up at night and will take your breath away! All of the main stalls wrap around the Christmas tree. The rest of the market weaves through the the old town in a unique way.
Unlike Nuremberg, which has a huge open city center, Rothenburg is much smaller, so they’ve cleverly laid out the market stalls throughout the streets and alleys too.
You’ll be amazed once again by the colorful trinkets in the stalls. Rothenburg also has a a Kathe Wohlfahrt shop downtown. This famous store sells Christmas ornaments all year round and has become famous world-wide.
Just like with all Christmas markets, you won’t want to skip the gluhwein! You pay a deposit and get a mug, and you can choose between white or red gluhwein. I like them both, and they’re different! It’s hard to pick between them so you might as well try them both.
What I found here was that they recycle previous years’ mugs. I was actually given a 2015 mug, so I chose not to keep it. If this happens you can always turn it back in, get your deposit and then start again from a different stall and hope to get a current mug. They’re all very similar, they just come in different colors and have slightly different designs.
The last treat I need to mention that you should try at a Christmas Market is called Krapfen. This is a fried dough ball. I found them here at Rothenburg ob der Tauber. These were a bit interesting, and not something I’d necessarily look forward to every year, but they’re worth trying for an authentic foodie experience!
Christmas time is already so magical, but being able to wander through fairytale markets surrounded by gorgeous, hand-crafted ornaments and decorations is unparalleled.
I don’t know how other Christmases after this can ever compare!