Destination Germany: traditional Christmas markets

In Germany, Christmas markets are everywhere! Every city has them, most towns have them, and you can even find them in some villages.

It's one of my favorite things about Germany is the Christmas season. As someone coming from the United States, these markets give me the feeling of what Christmas was like when I was a child. It was thrilling all month. It was full of activities. Everyone was excited! It was special and magical!

They celebrate the four weeks of advent and usually open in late November, so you get a taste of Christmas even before December starts. They originated right here in central Europe from countries like Germany, Austria, Northern Italy and Eastern France was back during the middle ages.

If you want to visit the biggest Christmas markets, then I would suggest somewhere like Cologne, Munich, Frankfurt or Nuremberg. These cities are known for massive seasonal festivals with a lot to see and do. Alternatively, you could go to the oldest market of its kind in Dresden, which started back in in the early 1400s.

Berlin is also a great city for Christmas Markets but it's a little different than other cities. Instead of having a single massive market. Berlin has something like 60 Christmas markets scattered around that all have something different to offer.

A traditional mulled wine

A traditional mulled wine

At the center of most markets is a Weihnachtspyramide or Christmas Pyramid. There are multiple spinning levels, on which models of Christmas characters stand - three wise men, Santa Claus, nutcrackers, reindeer... and all the way at the top is a propeller! That’s because in the toy version, the heat from candles hits the propeller and turns the different levels. But it is a bit weird to see a giant propeller in a Christmas market.

This centerpiece is often life size - the one here is about 3 stories tall. At its base, there’s a bar selling hot Christmassy drinks, of which Glühwein is a particular favorite.

You usually receive your Glühwein in a small mug, which is often branded with the name and year of that particular Christmas market. You pay a deposit for the mug - so you can return it and get your cash back or simply keep it as a souvenir!

If you want to make it at home, heat up some red wine and spice it with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus and sugar. It may sound like drinking potpourri but it’s really tasty. When you visit your local Christmas market, order it ‘mit Schuss’, with a shot of rum.

There’s nothing quite like drinking some hot wine with friends out in the cold air. Plus, if you have kids - they can join in too! Not drinking the wine, but a non-alcoholic fruit punch.

The smells of Christmas markets, wafting over from the food and drink stalls, are amazing! You get a mixture of all sorts of sweet desserts like Baumstriezel and Kräppelchen to hearty foods like grilled meats, roasted chestnuts, cheese breads, or even a french fry place with like 30 different sauce flavors to choose.

Apart from the food, plenty of markets sell hand-crafted products. Wooden toys, jewellery from the local smith, anything you can imagine. They often demonstrate how they make their products at the booth. So you can see the hard work that goes into making these unique products.

We’ve tried our best to bring you the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a German Christmas Market. But, of course, there are limits to podcasting... If you don’t have any of these kinds of markets where you live in the world, they’re really worth taking into consideration when planning a trip to Germany in the winter.

And if you’re reading this from Germany - go to your local Christmas market now! There’s not much time left! They only come once a year and are well worth a visit.