Before moving to Germany, neither my husband nor I were super enthusiastic about Christmas. I have fond memories of Christmas of course, but it wasn’t necessarily my favorite holiday or something that I decorated for weeks in advance. That all changed when we moved to Germany. Now, I think it is the best time of the year! If I had to choose my single favorite thing about living in Germany, I think it might be Christmas markets. They’re really that loveable.
Starting the last week in November and running until December 24th, Christmas markets (or Weihnachtsmarkt in German) pop up around Germany in nearly every city regardless of the size. Big city or small town, there is likely to be at least one Christmas market. From the decoration and the lights to the atmosphere and cheerful visitors, German Christmas markets are truly magical.
Both my husband and I got kind of obsessed with Christmas markets, wanting to explore other cities and regions to discover our favorites. Obviously in 2020 the Christmas markets around Germany were closed due to the pandemic; however, many of them reopened in 2021 and all of them were open by 2022. We’ve set a goal to visit new markets each year, traveling to other states like Bavaria to explore. Together, Sam and I have compiled this blog post highlighting all the best Christmas markets in Germany that we’ve visited so far. I intend to update this blog post each year, as we add more markets to the list!
What You'll Find in this Article
Our Very Favorite Christmas Markets in Germany
Surrounding the historic Carolingian Cathedral, the Aachen Christmas market was the first market that Sam and I traveled to, outside of our home city of Cologne. I have fond memories from exploring this market, even though it rained during our entire visit. The primary Christmas market sits in Katschhof Platz, between the city hall and the cathedral. I love the backdrop of the cathedral in this market – it is quite picturesque.
Additional stalls spread out around the cathedral on side streets and on the Münsterplatz. While the market is substantial, you can easily visit the Aachen Christmas markets as a day trip from Cologne or Düsseldorf. The Aachen Christmas Market boasts approximately 1.5 million visitors every year, most commonly coming from the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom.
One of the unique things you can buy at the Aachen Christmas market are Printen cookies. These small, thin, chocolate or marzipan covered cookie cakes are made in Aachen and beloved by locals. They are available in decorative tins or in plastic, whether you want to give them as a gift or eat them for yourself. You can also find a great assortment of Christmas gifts, and I especially liked the ornament options at the Aachen Christmas market.
Located about one hour north of Nuremberg, the town of Bamberg sits on seven hills at the confluence of the Regnitz and Main rivers. With preserved structures dating back to the 11th century, the entire old town has a historic and charming feel to it, which is infinitely enhanced during the holiday season. Perhaps the most iconic feature of the town is the muraled and half-timbered town hall, which sits on an island in the Regnitz river.
While the main Christmas market is located in Maximillianplatz, there are plenty of stands running along the streets towards Grünermarkt. I found that the stands at this market were adorable, especially the main lebkuchen stall. The top was carved to look like a Christmas candle installation, complete with nativity characters and intricate details. Other decorated stalls included a winter deer scene on the rooftop and one filled with wood chips in the eating area.
I sampled one of my favorite gluhwein variations at the Bamberg Christmas market– a Zwetschge gluhwein. Zwetschge is a regional plum which is typically harvested at the end of the fall season. I had only ever seen it as a dessert fruit, but it was available here as a gluhwein. Produced by a Zwetschge farmer only for this occasion, it was a naturally sweet flavor but with fruity and earthy undertones.
The Cologne Christmas markets were the first markets that Sam and I ever visited in Germany, and it was love at first sight. We got incredibly spoiled because I think Cologne has some of the most memorable Christmas markets in all of Germany. From the unique themes of each market to the especially festive atmosphere, Cologne’s Christmas markets regularly appear on the must-visit German Christmas market lists. With good reason, I would argue!
I cover all of my favorite Cologne Christmas Markets and where to find them in a separate blog post. A few of the highlights worth noting include the gnome themed winter fairytale market, complete with an ice skating rink and mini ferris wheel. I also really like the neighborhood markets in Cologne, such as the Stadtgarten market or the Chlodwigplatz market, which is actually the closest Christmas market to our house.
Like some of the other larger cities on this list, Düsseldorf has a number of Christmas markets located around the city center. There are seven main ones actually, each with a slightly different theme or feeling. The Christmas market locations aren’t too spread out, so it is fairly easy to visit multiple markets in one day. Plus they are different enough without being redundant. I find the markets in Dusseldorf to have a classy kind of vibe, such as the Christmas market along Königsallee or the Angel market on Heinrich-Heine-Platz. Find all of my favorite Düsseldorf Christmas Markets in a separate blog post all about them!
One thing that you should absolutely drink if you visit the market in front of the city hall is the Feuerzangebowle. It translates directly to ‘fire tongs punch’, but basically this is a boozier Glühwein. Rum or brandy is poured over a sugar cube that is resting on a tong or stick above your Glühwein filled cup. Then it is lit on fire and the whole thing melts into your mug. When the flame goes out, it is ready to drink! I drank my favorite ever one in Düsseldorf.
The Christmas markets in Munich are not only some of the best in Germany, but also some of the oldest, dating back to the 14th century. Like other cities of its size, Munich has several different Christmas Markets around the city. In fact, there are more than 10 markets around Munich. The most famous is definitely the Christkindlemarket on Marienplatz in the center of the city. However clever lighting design and pop up stalls along the side streets will make it hard to distinguish where one market ends and another begins. You’ll just keep wandering, enjoying the Christmas spirit all along the way!
With three days in Munich, I set out to visit as many of the city’s Christmas Markets as I could. I summarize my favorite Christmas markets in Munich in a separate blog post. Overall, I loved the elaborate and decorative stall facades at the Munich markets. I started to notice them while wandering from the Sendlinger Tor market to the Rindermarkt market. From gluhwein to bratwurst stalls, each stall seemed to have a beautiful exterior full of detail. They were larger than the stalls I was used to seeing at city markets.
Considered to be one of the original Christmas markets in Germany, Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is a must-visit for any Christmas lover. It is held each year on Nuremberg’s Main Market Square. The gothic Frauenkirche serves as a backdrop to the market, adding an impressive 14th century charm. Each year, the Christmas market is inaugurated by a Christkind — a young Nuremberg woman dressed as an angel with a golden crown. You’ll see lighted banners all around the city depicting the Christkind.
My favorite thing about this Christmas market is the sheer amount of handcrafts and gifts. Nearly all of them are traditional and local to Germany, including Rauschgold angels, wooden nutcrackers and metal nativity scenes. One of the most unique items you can find here are the zwetschgen figurines, which are assembled using dried plums and nuts.
Compared to other markets on this list, I think the food at Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is a bit lacking. There is little variety aside from Lebkuchen and Nuremberger mini bratwursts. To be fair, both of those things are excellent, but sometimes you’re looking for something else.
Rothenberg ob der Tauber
There isn’t a bad time of the year to go to the picture-perfect medieval walled town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Its half-timbered houses and perfectly preserved gate towers are enjoyable regardless of the season; but if you go around Christmas time, you are guaranteed to be swept up by the holiday fairy tale vibes. So many of the stores and homes in Rothenberg ob der Tauber decorate the exteriors beautifully for the holidays, so the entire town has a charming Christmas feeling.
The Christmas market here is pretty small, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm. Surrounding Marktplatz and Kirchplatz, there are approximately 50 stands to choose from. I found the food and gluhwein at this market to be especially nice. The Käsespätzle (German mac and cheese) is noteworthy with a delicious creamy sauce and served with crispy onions. Plus the mugs are adorable. Don’t leave without sampling schneeballen (snowballs), a local treat made from shortcut pastry formed into a ball, then fried and coated with powdered sugar or chocolate.
Before you go, make sure to pop into the capital of Christmas – the Käthe Wohlfahrt flagship store. This brand is synonymous with Christmas, preserving and perfecting the traditions of German Christmas decor. I grew up with Käthe Wohlfahrt products without even realizing it, so the first time I stepped foot in the store, I was overwhelmed with holiday nostalgia. The shop is always decorated for the holidays, and there is even a Christmas museum inside. With over 16,000 square feet, this year round Christmas village offers an exceptional selection of Christmas decor, such as Pyramids, Nutcrackers, Advent calendars and Ornaments.