Best Christmas Markets in Germany…and Beyond
I really hate cold weather. But despite this, I love Christmas markets. I’m not even much of a holiday person, but the Christmas markets in Germany are so much fun! I’ve made it a point to get to a bunch of them over the years, and while there are still a few gaping holes in my list of German Christmas markets I’ve been to, there are lots of good ones here. Take a look at what I think are the best Christmas markets in Germany, plus a few bonus ones from other countries.
Berlin Christmas Markets
Berlin probably doesn’t spring to mind when you think of traditional German Christmas markets. But since it’s such a big city, there are tons of different markets sprinkled around in different neighborhoods, each with its own unique vibe. You can get the traditional Christmas market feel at some, while experiencing quirky or alternative Christmas markets at others. Nothing compares to Berlin, and that holds true with its Christmas markets.
This is definitely my biggest section since I live in Berlin and have spent many winters going to many different markets. Here’s are my favorite Christmas markets in Berlin and a few that are worth checking out even if they’re not my favorites.
When do Christmas markets start in Berlin?
Most Christmas markets in Berlin start the last week in November. Traditionally, Christmas markets run during Advent, which starts four Sundays before Christmas, and many places still adhere to that. In more touristy areas, you’ll see Christmas markets open even earlier.
There are some Christmas markets in Berlin that only run on one specific day or weekend. Since there are so many Berlin Christmas markets, it’s best to check the dates ahead of time by searching on the Berlin tourism website.
Christmas market hours vary depending on the exact market, but many will start late morning or early afternoon and run until somewhere between 8pm and 10pm. Some of the more specialized ones will have more limited hours.
Lucia Christmas Market at Kulturbrauerei
The Lucia Christmas Market is by far my favorite Christmas market in Berlin. So…maybe I really don’t want to encourage more people to go there…
This one has a Nordic theme, and the location in the courtyard of an old brick former brewery gives it a cozy vibe. There’s always a good variety of Glühwein, both red and white, plus Glüh-cider and Glüh-beer. You’ll find the standard German sausages on offer, but many stands sell Nordic-inspired foods, such as elk.
I also like the stalls selling gifts and other items to purchase. They feel a little less commercial or generic than at some of the more touristy Christmas markets in Berlin.
Rixdorf Christmas Market in Neukölln
The Rixdorf Christmas Market takes place at Richardplatz in the Rixdorf neighborhood of Neukölln. It’s held for one weekend only, the second weekend of Advent, which is normally the first or second weekend in December.
This Christmas market has a nostalgic, historical feel to it, and as far as I know, all the stalls are locally run, nothing overly commercial or mass-produced. It also has a strong charitable element to it, with proceeds going back into the community.
I think this Christmas market is also far enough away from the main touristy sections of Berlin that it ends up being mostly locals who go there. It’s a huge square and gets rather crowded, but I always enjoy the vibe here.
Charlottenburg Palace Christmas Market
The Christmas market in front of the Charlottenburg Palace in western Berlin feels like a traditional Christmas market you’d find in many parts of Germany. But that’s part of the charm. The palace makes for a gorgeous setting, so even though it’s rather far from where we live, Andy and I do enjoy going to this one at least once each year.
It’s also one of the few Christmas markets that’s open on December 25th, so this ends up being our Christmas dinner. So if you’re planning a German Christmas market trip to Berlin, even when most restaurants are closed, you’ll still find something to eat at the Charlottenburg Palace Christmas Market.
Spandau Christmas Market
For a long time, the district of Spandau was its own village, but eventually it got swallowed up into the city limits of Berlin. It still sort of feels like it’s another town, which makes the Spandau Christmas market feel unique.
This Berlin Christmas market has a medieval/renaissance vibe to it, and is very kid friendly. But don’t fear, there’s still plenty of Glühwein for the adults.
Naschmarkt, or sweets market, is a Berlin Christmas market full of sweets. You’ll find chocolates, candies, cookies, cakes, and much more here. It’s located at Markthalle IX in Kreuzberg, normally on the Sunday afternoon before St Nikolas Day (December 6th) but it looks like this year it’s on December 8th. There’s a small entrance fee (currently 3 euros per adult, kids free) but it’s worth it.
Markthalle IX is an indoor market hall that runs throughout the year and specializes in high quality organic food. So it comes as no surprise that the treats for sale at this tasty Christmas market are also held to a high standard. According to berlin.de:
“Vendors must adhere to Slow Food quality criteria and use no genetically modified or synthetic ingredients, additives, preservatives or chemicals. All products are prepared from local ingredients in local kitchens, shops or cafés.”
Rotes Rathaus Christmas Market in Mitte
Rathaus means City Hall or Town Hall in German, so this is the Christmas market near the Red City Hall building in Mitte. It’s not one of the most exciting Christmas markets, but it does have a cute little ice rink, and it gives you a good view of a standard sort of German Christmas Market. It’s located just a couple minutes walking from the Alexanderplatz station, and though it’s a bit generic, it’s still a lot better than the Christmas market at Alexanderplatz.
If you’re only in Berlin for a few days and you don’t have time to venture farther from the main tourist sights, this is a decent enough Christmas market to check out. Head towards the Neptune Fountain near the Berlin TV Tower.
Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt
The Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt is held in a gorgeous square in front of Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom in Mitte. This isn’t one of my favorite Christmas markets in Berlin, but I seem to be in the minority on that. Lots of locals love it, I’m guessing because of the pretty setting. There’s a 1 euro entrance fee, but part of that goes to charity.
I find this Christmas market to be a little too focused on the crafts and gifts being sold, and not as easy to get to the food and Glühwein. The vendors are all set up in tent-style things that are fairly enclosed and it makes it feel more like you’re walking in and out of shops at a mall, rather than walking passed stalls with tables. So it’s a little claustrophobic for me.
But it is a gorgeous location, and not too far from the main tourist attractions, so it might be worth visiting this one one your German Christmas market trip.
Dresden Christmas Market
Dresden is only about 2 hours from Berlin by train, so it was a no-brainer to go down there for a weekend during the Christmas market season. Officially it’s called the Dresden Striezelmarkt, and it’s the oldest Christmas market in Germany.
It turned out to be one of our favorite Christmas markets outside of Berlin. I can’t even put my finger on it, but there was something about the festive atmosphere in the big Dresden Altmarkt square that we both simply loved. If you go, be sure to try a Stollen, a traditional Christmas market pastry from Dresden.
The Dresden Christmas market is a more traditional German Christmas market with lots of different foods and drinks, sweets and trinkets. If you’re looking for a fantastic addition to your German Christmas market trip, definitely consider this one.
Leipzig Christmas Market
The Leipzig Christmas Market is set in the main market square near the Old Town Hall building. Unfortunately Andy and I didn’t get to spend a lot of time at this one, but it felt like a traditional German Christmas market and it was enjoyable. It’s only a little over an hour from Berlin by train, so we really should make a return visit.
Leipzig is a great city, so if you’re in eastern Germany in December, this makes an easy addition to your Christmas market trip. The city has lots of history, and the Christmas market spills out of the market square and into neighboring squares, so there’s lots to enjoy.
Nuremberg Christmas Market
The Nuremberg Christmas Market, located in Hauptplazt square, is one of the most well known Christmas markets in Germany. We finally got the chance to go last year to meet up with a friend of mine, and I can see why this one is so popular.
The square is big but still manageable, so you can wander through the rows of stalls and enjoy all sorts of Christmas goodies on offer. And nearby there are some smaller squares hosting more thematic markets, like one with international booths representing sister cities of Nuremberg and another with children’s rides.
Hamburg Christmas Market
Hamburg is a great city in Germany that I don’t think gets as much attention as it deserves. Sure, it’s a popular destination, but it often gets overshadowed by Munich and Berlin. But it’s only 2 hours from Berlin by train, and it’ll give you another view of Germany that’s much different from both Berlin and Munich.
The Hamburg Christmas Market is pretty traditional, but set in a northern harbor city, it has a unique vibe. We’ve been there a couple times now, and it’s definitely one I’d recommend. It’s located in the main square, Rathausplatz, but if you wander over a few blocks towards the lake, you’ll see a secondary Christmas market set up there as well.
Freiburg Christmas Market
Freiburg is definitely not as popular as most of the cities on this list. I had never even heard of the city until I met Andy, but now it holds a special place in my heart. The Black Forest IS a popular travel destination in Germany, so if you’re planning a winter trip to the Black Forest, save time for the Christmas market in Freiburg. It’s a great place to experience something more cozy than the bigger Christmas markets in Germany.
This is a small one, fit for a small city, but that’s part of its charm. Like many other cities, the Christmas market is held in the Rathausplatz, making it centrally located. You can easily spend the day in the forest, and return to the city late in the day to enjoy the Christmas market in late afternoon/early evening.
Plauen Christmas Market
OK this is the real oddball on my list of the best Christmas markets in Germany. Plauen is a small town in Saxony, just a little ways over the Bavaria state line. I had to write about it years ago when I was doing freelance copywriting for a big travel company, and the town stuck in my head.
If you’re traveling to Germany from overseas for a German Christmas markets trip, I’m not sure you’d want to go out of your way to visit the Plauen Christmas market, but it sure was charming. If you’re traveling between Nuremberg and Leipzig (which is what we did) it’s not a difficult detour, and it makes for a unique experience to see a Christmas market in a smaller German town.
Frankfurt Christmas Market
Frankfurt isn’t usually at the top of any must-see cities on a Germany itinerary, but it’s one of the most popular cities to fly into. If you’re starting your Germany Christmas markets trip in Frankfurt, I highly recommend spending a night there after your flight lands to start recovering from jet lag.
The Frankfurt Christmas market has a lot of the traditional characteristics, like Glühwein and tasty food, but you’ll also find hot apple wine, which is a specialty of Frankfurt and quite delicious. Spend a few hours enjoying this Christmas market after your flight, get a good night’s sleep, and then continue on your Christmas market trip to one of the other cities mentioned in this post.
Other German Christmas Markets to Visit
Sadly I still have not made it to the Munich Christmas market, and I haven’t made it to Cologne at all. Major oversights. But these are two German cities known to have fantastic Christmas markets and worth considering for a German Christmas market itinerary.
If you’re looking for more smaller cities to add to your trip, a few other cities that are worth checking out (though I haven’t been to them either) include Bamberg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and Heidelberg, just to name a few.
But really, just about every town and city in the country has at least one Christmas market. Really small towns might only run theirs on the weekends. But if there’s somewhere specific you want to visit in Germany in December, you can count on there being a Christmas market to experience.
Christmas Markets Beyond Germany
Germany is the best known country for Christmas markets, and I might be biased, but I think they have the best ones in the world. But certainly other cities outside of Germany have great Christmas markets too. Zagreb has been named Best Christmas Market in Europe, but unfortunately I left just as they were setting up last year. I often see various cities in France and Belgium listed. And I have been to a few Christmas markets outside of Germany that I’ve enjoyed, though I hope to get to more.
Wroclaw, Poland Christmas Market
Andy and I love Poland, so last year we went to the Wroclaw Christmas market for a weekend. The set up is similar to Christmas markets in Germany, but with a unique Polish twist. It was set in Wroclaw’s main square, but main squares in Poland have buildings in the center where German squares usually don’t. So the market wound around the edges and circled the center buildings.
The food was similar, with lots of sausages and potatoes. But this was Poland’s version, plus some stands had more traditional Polish food, which I love. This market seemed a little more flexible with the Glühwein as well. You can almost always add a shot of liquor to it at German Christmas markets, but we saw a few stands in Wroclaw that listed out hot wine with several varieties of flavored liquors that could be added. We even saw a restaurant selling some sort of hot alcoholic punch in to-go cups, which we gladly bought and tried.
Poznan, Poland Christmas Market
Poznan is a cute small city less than 3 hours from Berlin by train, so when we want a quick trip away to Poland, it’s an easy choice. One year we ended up there the same weekend as the annual ice sculpture contest, a competition attracting pros from around the world.
Their Christmas market seemed to take up only half of the main square, so there wasn’t as much to see, but it was still fun. We’ve even booked another trip this year to visit the Poznan Christmas market again. If you like the idea of going to a Polish Christmas market not too far from Berlin, this is probably your closest option.
Innsbruck, Austria Christmas Market
Innsbruck is such a gorgeous city! It’s not too far across Germany’s southern border, and the Austrian Alps make for an incredible setting. The Innsbruck Christmas market is spread out over many sections of the city center, making it a bit more of a meander rather than sticking to one square. You can wander though the pedestrian areas and continue over to the area near the famous Golden Roof all within a few minutes.
If you want a snowy Christmas market experience, even if the snow is off in the distance and not actually under your feet, Innsbruck is a great choice. You can easily see snow-capped mountains on the edges of Innsbruck while sipping your hot wine and enjoying the festivities.
Prague, Czech Republic Christmas Market
Prague was the first Christmas market I had ever been to, and it’s also where I met Andy in person for the first time, so it holds a special place in my heart. It also snowed while we were there, which made things even prettier.
The Old Town is gorgeous and makes for a wonderful Christmas market setting. Be sure to go up the clock tower in the main square to get a view of the Christmas market in the square from above. And try some local Czech Christmas market food to see the differences from traditional German Christmas market food.
Christmas market food
Christmas market food varies based on the country and even the city, so it’s always a good idea to do some research on the local specialties so you’ll know what to try on your Christmas market trip.
At Christmas markets in Germany, you will definitely find sausages. The varieties of sausages will change depending on where you are, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll find some type of sausage, probably a few types. They will usually come in some kind of basic bun or roll, though I have even seen them served in sliced bread.
Another popular German Christmas market food is the Kartoffelpuffer. This is sort of like a hashbrown pancake. Often I see them served in a set of three, but you can find them served as singles too. They are fried, greasy, and served with either apple sauce or a garlic or herb sour cream.
Marzipan sweets available at just about any German Christmas market. You’ll find tons of candies, chocolates, and other sweets, but marzipan is pretty universal. Also keep an eye out for chocolate covered fruit. It’ll make you feel like you’re eating something healthy, even though it’s covered in chocolate.
You’ll probably also see lots of stalls selling Lebkuchen, which are gingerbread cookies that usually have frosting or sugar glaze on them. Sometimes they are decorated with designs or phrases and hung on string, presumably to wear as a necklace of sorts. They look better than they taste, in my opinion.
Candied almonds are another popular treat at German Christmas markets. Some stalls will just have the traditional ones, while other stalls will have multiple types. I’ve seen chilli, different liquor flavors, different candy bar flavors, chocolate, and many more weird ones. Some stalls also sell other candied nuts, like cashews, walnuts, peanuts, and more.
You’ll usually find basics like fries and other potato varieties, flammkuchen (which is a thin crust pizza-type food made with cream sauce instead of tomato sauce), cabbage, mushrooms, and maybe even fish if you’re in fish-heavy regions like Hamburg.
If your food is served on a real plate with real flatware (as opposed to paper or plastic disposable stuff) there will be Pfand, which is a deposit. The amount varies based on what it is, but you’ll get that money back when you return the plate.
Christmas Market Glühwein 101
You’re all here for the Glühwein, right? Glühwein is hot mulled wine, usually red but occasionally white, and it’s what keeps us going in December when it’s cold, dark, and depressing.
Glühwein is served in 0.2L mugs (that’s about 6.75 fluid ounces) and it’s usually too hot to drink right away, so have some patience. Typically a mug costs somewhere around 1.50 to 4 euros, plus Pfand, which is a deposit for the mug. Pfand is usually 1 or 2 euros, and you’ll get that money back when you return the mug. Or you can forfeit your deposit and keep the mug as a Christmas market souvenir if you’d like.
If you don’t drink alcohol or you’re visiting a Christmas market with kids, you can order what’s called Kinderpunsch. This is basically a non-alcoholic Glühwein. Often you can find hot chocolate or hot tea, too.
Many Glühwein stalls will also add liquor to your Glühwein or hot chocolate for an extra charge. So if you want an extra kick, ask for your Glühwein with a shot of whiskey or rum. In German, this is “mit Schuss” which means “with shot”.
Feuerzangebowle is another drink commonly found at German Christmas markets. To make it, a cone of sugar is drenched in liquor and lit on fire, which sits above a cauldron of Glühwein and gives the Glühwein an extra kick. There are different versions, but that’s the simplest explanation.
Occasionally you’ll find hot mulled cider and/or hot mulled beer. Sometimes there are flavored Glühweins, which are flavored with fruit. In some regions, like Frankfurt, you’ll find hot mulled apple wine, though we’ve even seen it a couple times in Berlin.
What to buy at a German Christmas Market
Traditionally Christmas markets were where you’d do your Christmas shopping. So even though today people mostly shop in malls and on Amazon, this is still a big part of the Christmas market experience. The items sold at Christmas markets varies greatly depending on the city of region you’re in and even the specific Christmas market.
Berlin has Christmas markets dedicated to shopping, so there’s less emphasis on food and Glühwein. I’m not much of a shopper, so I haven’t been to any, but some focus on designer items while others are more local crafts.
Most Christmas markets will have Christmas-y items like decorations and ornaments. These make good souvenirs, but try to find the interesting local ones, not the mass-produced ones.
Other stalls will have chocolate shaped like tools, or wooden items, or hats and scarves. You’ll even see some stalls selling purses and other bags or blankets. Some will sell jewelry or kids’ toys. I have a purse and two winter hats I’ve bought from local Christmas markets.
At more touristy Christmas markets, you’ll see generic souvenirs from the city you’re in. I generally avoid these since they feel like the complete opposite of what a German Christmas market should be like.
This is just the tip of the iceberg really. The possibilities are endless. And if you’re not much of a shopper, remember that a Glühwein mug makes a great German Christmas market souvenir and only costs a few euros!
When do Christmas markets start in Germany?
In general, German Christmas markets start in late November and run until about Christmas. The standard is that they run during Advent, which starts four Sundays before Christmas. In more traditional areas and areas that are more Catholic, the dates the Christmas markets run will stick with this timeframe pretty closely.
Usually you can count back four Sundays before Christmas and even extend it further to the previous Monday. In some less traditional areas or more touristy areas, they might start a little earlier.
The traditional end is Christmas Eve, but many places will still run their markets for a few extra days. In more touristy areas, some Christmas markets will even run until New Year’s or even a few days after that.
The best starting point is the tourism board website for whatever city you’re visiting. For a city like Berlin that has dozens of Christmas markets, the tourism board lists almost all of them, so you just have to search for the one you’re interested in.
German Christmas market season is 4-5 weeks of fun!
I hope this helps you plan your trip to the best Christmas markets in Germany!
You might also enjoy:
- Best Christmas Markets in Berlin – Plus Ones to Skip
- How Much We Spent Traveling in Dresden and Leipzig, Germany
- Scenes From Bamberg and Nuremberg, Germany
- Best Things to do in Krakow, Poland
November 17, 2019 @ 6:02 PM
Oh man, no one does Christmas like Germany does! I miss living in Europe during the holidays.
November 22, 2019 @ 10:14 AM
It’s the best!