Christmas markets. Magical places where everything is warm and fuzzy, no matter how cold it actually is. I LOVE Christmas markets, and living in Germany means the Weihnachtsmarkt is a fixture of the festive season. If you are planning to visit a German Christmas market in the next few weeks , I hope a few tips from me will help you get the most out of the experience.
Do Some Research.
There are, literally, hundreds of Christmas Markets in Germany. Some are more commercialised than others. Some are spread over multiple sights across the city as in Hannover. Some have a specific theme, usually derived from the history of the location as in the fairy tale city of Kassel . Depending on your time constraints, budget, mobility and a range of other factors, one market might be a better fit than another. And check the dates. Some Markets go on until after Christmas and even into New Year, but many German Markets are a celebration of Advent rather than Christmas and close on the 24th.
Look For ( and in) the Dom.
Christmas Markets are steeped in history and tradition, and that is a big part of the attraction and charm. Historically, the markets would spring up around the cathedrals or main church, and this practice still holds. As a general rule,to find the hub of the market, find the Dom. And when you find it, take a look inside. Whatever your religious or spiritual leanings, these buildings are things of beauty and full of ornate decorations and interesting touches, like this Pied Piper stained glass window in Hameln
Get Your Gluhwein.
Or the non alcoholic version, Kinderpunsch. Or hot chocolate. But whatever you get, you’ll get it in a charming Christmas Markets mug. You almost always pay a deposit or pfand on these so don’t dump it when your done. Either take the mug back and get the refund, or take it home as a reasonably priced keep sake.
Browse the stalls, but shop wisely.
Markets can vary in quality when it comes to shopping. You will find some beautiful pieces to take home, but a lot of stalls selling over priced tat, aswell. Or things you can buy cheaper, or a better quality version of in local shops. And with shops like Aldi and Lidl selling German goods at competitive prices back in Blighty, even the food stuff isn’t always the novelty or the bargain it used to be. The best buys tend to be traditional goods, things that you’d need to celebrate Advent and cosy up for a harsh winter. Think animal hide or wool products, candles, traditional Christmas decorations, honey and bees-wax products.
If you are in Germany and need, say, an umbrella or new pair of gloves or something along those lines don’t pick them up at the markets and pay the premium. Seek out shops like Tedi, Kik or Ernsting Family. You’ll find them in even fairly small towns and they’ll generally have what you need, in good quality and at a fair price. Just a little FYI.
See the Animals.
Lots of German Christmas Markets have animals of some description, be it a few donkeys in a pen or a full on live nativity scene . It’s a bit of a novelty and a nice diversion, particularly if you are travelling with children.
Not everyone is there for Christmas Spirit.
Sad but true , markets mean crowds and distracted shoppers and this attracts the opportunist criminal. Pick pockets in particular can be a bit of a nuisance. Stay aware, take a bag that seals, don’t leave your phone on the table. Don’t be put off, but do take sensible precautions. Should you have an issue the German police are generally helpful and will speak at least a little English.
Spending a penny, costs a penny.
On a practical note, don’t be caught short. Most markets will have portaloo style toilets generally kept in good order. This is because they have a toilet attendant. However, the service doesn’t come for free and you can expect to pay 50c for using the loo. Public toilets will be much the same, and the loos in nicer cafe and restaurants will likely also charge. Bakeries and fast food places, you are more likely to pee for free. An odd note to end a blog post on. But, hey, real life! We’ve all gotta go at some point, best be prepared.
If you’ve been to any Christmas markets, wherever they maybe , I’d love to take a look at what you’ve been up to. Please do leave me a comment and maybe a link? Half the fun of blogging is reading about, and getting inspired by, what other people’s adventures!
Until Next Time,