The 8 best Christmas Markets in Germany you must visit
Christmas markets in Germany offer warmth and good cheer during the holiday season. Dreaming of visiting some of the best Christmas markets in Germany on a winter holiday? Here are a few of the top ones to add to your travel list.
Christmas markets in Germany are renowned the world over. Good cheer, hot drinks, smells of sausage grilling and chestnuts roasting, twinkling lights, and lots of smiles that all brighten the holiday season. With several thousand German Christmas markets to choose from, where do you start to choose the best markets to visit in Germany on a winter holiday?
Over the years, I’ve visited German Christmas markets around the country, first as an exchange student then much later as a traveler and with my husband, Michael. From the south to the north, from small towns to big cities, together we’ve seen a lot of markets – and sipped a lot of hot mulled wine to keep us warm. All in the name of research, of course. Each Christmas market in Germany offers its own mood and charm.
Really, you can’t go wrong with most any Christmas market but if your German holiday is limited, you want to choose a few holiday gems to visit to ensure you experience the very best Christmas markets. Remember, when you go to a German city for a Christmas market, you usually will have the opportunity to visit several. That’s because markets in one city or region are held on different plazas around town or even in different neighborhoods. Even ones that are close to each other may have a different feel or attraction. So do make the rounds since smaller ones can be lovely, too!
HITT Tip: The concept of Advent, a Christian season, is important in Germany. Advent is called the season of preparation for the celebration of Christmas and thus the birth of Christ. The four Sundays prior to Christmas are the fours Sundays of Advent. Make note of these dates since some German Christmas markets may state their opening dates based on an Advent Sunday.
Of course, you’ll want to try out a few special Christmas market drinks while there, and this guide will help you sort through the menus.
Here is our list of some of the best Christmas markets to visit on a winter holiday in Germany.
Berlin — We’ve visited several dozen Christmas markets in the Berlin region. Each has a different feel, and some have themes from historic to traditional to cultural. In the end, we keep going back to the sprawling market near Alexander Square (Alexanderplatz) called “Red City Hall,” because it’s indeed on the plaza in front of the “Rotes Rathaus,” i.e. the charming red brick city hall. Why do we like it so much? It is an entertaining mix of locals and tourists. Plus, it has a huge Ferris wheel, as well as an ice-skating rink, where it is fun to watch skaters of all levels while you sip a hot mulled wine. Santa Claus also makes a visit three times a night, flying overhead in a sleigh (on a high wire, but sssssh). All in all, this market has nostalgia, combined with modern features, but remains low key and inviting to families, tourists, and locals. Having the iconic TV Tower (Fernsehturm) overhead certainly helps lend an historic feel.
Dresden – The main Christmas market there, known as the Striezelmarkt, is held on this Saxony city’s Altmarkt Square. Said to be the oldest in the world – and first mentioned in 1434 — the Striezelmarket is also said to be the largest around. It is indeed charming and all aglow with lights from stands as well as a small Ferris wheel. Particularly nice is the platform at the front you can climb up to get a great view over the top of the market. And the typical wooden carved pyramid from the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) at nearly 48 feet (14.6 meters) is the tallest in the world, with that title bestowed on this rotating, stepped, wood pyramid in 1997. A truly unforgettable experience is climbing the 259 steps to the top of the steeple of the Holy Cross Church (Kreuzkirche) next to the Striezelmarkt for a view of its twinkling lights from 301 feet (92 meters) up.
That’s not to say there aren’t other Christmas markets smattered around the city of Dresden and in the region, including a medieval-themed one in the “Stallhof” we found very entertaining, and another cozy market that lines the road down to the “Blue Wonder” bridge in Blasewitz. You won’t tire of experiencing all the various moods and atmospheres at Dresden’s nine markets.
Seiffen – A charming small town in the Ore Mountains in the southeast near the Czech Republic border, Seiffen is renowned for being the capital of the traditional art of wood carving, from pyramids, to toys, to Christmas tree decorations and window décor. You can of course shop til you drop; however, the true highlight in the town where the streets become one gigantic Christmas market are two Miner’s Parades – one smaller one on the first Advent weekend and a large one on third Advent weekend.
Particularly for the large parade with costumed groups of miner associations, kids pulling wooden toys, families riding in carts and marching bands, you will find that busloads and carloads of visitors will show up, transforming this small town of not more than about 2,100 residents into a packed town of four times that. It is however worth braving the crowds since Seiffen is the epitome of all things Christmas. If you have a vision of rolling hills, a quaint small village, and Christmas cheer, Seiffen is for you. Do however reserve well in advance if you want to stay in town! In 2022, we heard there was a traffic jam for about 3 miles of people trying to get into town just for the afternoon parade … and who never made it. Meaning you also need to allow plenty of time.
Heidelberg – What traveler doesn’t want to visit Heidelberg any time of the year? A tourist magnet with its medieval castle looming over the university town, Heidelberg offers huge charm – this was my introduction to Christmas markets in Germany during my university exchange year there, so of course there is a special place in my heart for the Heidelberg Christmas traditions.
I refer to the market as “it,” but that’s not totally correct. The Christmas market in Heidelberg is indeed one market, but it is actually spread throughout the old town, on all the different plazas and squares, and along the main street. Meaning what you find on Bismarkplatz or University Place may feel different or offer a different atmosphere than what you find on for example on Kornmarkt or Karlsplatz. No limits though! Take them all in! As a student there, I most certainly did. But I’m not telling how many mulled wines I drank.
Hamburg – As a financial hub in the far north of Germany, Hamburg has lots of canals and waterways to add yet another level of charm to its Christmas markets – about 30 or so in all the different areas of town. Many offer special themes with a leaning toward maritime since Hamburg is said to be the third-largest container port in Europe. But Christmas cheer also doesn’t fail. This northerly town is where I studied for part of my master’s degree so I know this city – and can never figure out why more people don’t visit it or come for the Christmas markets.
When it comes to Christmas, try the market on the City Hall Square under the watchful eye of the building that dates back to 1897. Or head to the “Gaensemarket” (“Geese Market,” but no geese will be found there) for a super cozy affair. Or try the Jungfernstieg market that lines the waterfront of Hamburg’s attractive lake called the Alster.
But don’t just go for Christmas markets in Hamburg. Not always on the radar of tourists, this maritime city is a charmer with water and views, as well as the architecturally spectacular Elbe Philharmonic building.
Celle – On your way from Hamburg to the south? Then stop into Celle, situated between Hamburg and Hanover. The town was founded in the mid-1200s with a spectacularly beautiful old town filled with half-timbered buildings. All those quaint half-timbered homes and businesses offer the perfectly Germany backdrop for festive Christmas markets. In fact, Celle was named the best Christmas city in Germany in 2018. Forget sprawling, packed markets. Celle specializes in cozy and refined, with all the tradition you want for your travels to some of the best Christmas markets in Germany. After you’ve been to some of the large city markets, head over to Celle for booths and entertainment that feel a bit neighborly. No busloads here!
Frankfurt (Oder) – This is not the Frankfurt that most non-Germans think of; it is actually a smaller town in the east of Germany. You won’t bang elbows at this German Christmas market with hordes of tourists since it is a bit out of the way (although not really that far from Berlin). This super charming market normally only takes place on the second and third Advent weekends. But here is what sets it apart: The Frankfurt (Oder) Christmas market is held inside St. Mary’s church with its soaring arches in the nave. Yes, there are stands and amusement rides outside on the square, but being inside of the church offers a very special setting, not to mention keeps it protected from cold and weather.
Eberswalde – For those venturing to smaller towns in the east, Eberswalde is another stand-out and only about an hour northeast of Berlin. The Christmas market there is a small, very cozy affair that still offers everything you look for in a traditional German Christmas market (think sausage, mulled wine, chestnuts, and booths of handmade crafts). It usually only runs earlier in the Advent season but check on it to see its dates (for example in 2022, the Eberswalde market ran from Nov. 25 to Dec. 4).
You will find a lot of lists of the “best” Christmas markets in Germany to visit but do remember that “best” is in the eye of the beholder. Take time to explore a little beyond the lists you find that usually include all the big cities to find true charm at some of the best Christmas markets in Germany. The Christmas season in Germany is so cozy and festive that Michael and I have not begun to end our trek to experience Christmas markets around that country.
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