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Favorite Christmas Markets

Hello - we're planning a trip in early December to see some of the Christmas markets.

Would like to know what some of your favorites are.

Thanks for your help

Posted by
12040 posts

The majority of Christmas markets sell mostly the same exact stuff, so to me, it's much more about the atmosphere than anything else. So along those lines, my favorites are probably Lindau, Mannheim and Lorsch (small town north of Mannheim). Lindau because the location is one of the most stunningly beautiful imaginable (on the Bodensee with a view of the Alps), and because they offer some regional foods that I have not encountered elsewhere. Mannheim, because it has a very lively but not too rowdy atmosphere for consuming Glühwein. Lorsch, because they hold their market in the picture-perfect historical area of town and because I usually know at least a few people there.

Posted by
1800 posts

I liked Stuttgart the best. There re also two other markets in the suburbs that are highly recommended (but I didn't visit them)

Posted by
1369 posts

Mostly I see markets the same way as Tom. I go for the atmosphere.

For specialty markets we liked both the Romantic Market at the Thurn and Taxis palace in Regensburg and the medieval market in Esslingen.

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/Advent-2010/Thurn-and-Taxis-Palace-Market/15030947_4WtqMc

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/Other-1/Esslingen-2013/35504333_SfNrdp

A lot of people do not like Rothenburg for its tourism but it is both beautiful and not very crowded in Advent season;

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/Advent-2010/Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber/15010043_Ck957T

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/Germany-2008/Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber-2008/6787052_jw7Xdk

The best shopping market for us was Stuttgart.

Posted by
3696 posts

I have gone two years and same as Tom I go for the atmosphere and food. Favorites of mine were Salzburg (walkable, beautiful city, lots of nice shops as well as the markets) Rothenberg (lots of fun, plenty of great food, and of course, the Romantic road) Dinkelsbuhl (tiny local market... I think we were the only tourists...it was 'quaint' but we really enjoyed hanging with the locals)
Heidelberg( nice variety of 'stuff' as well as the backdrop of a beautiful town and a walk to the castle) Brugge (not overly crowded, horse and carriage rides, frites and of course lots of Belgian food in restaurants and stalls...my grandson bought a beautiful chess set there from a young vendor who was there from Poland) Frankfurt (I do not remember the exact area we visited, but I hope Jo will chime in and give you the details...all I remember is we walked a lot, visited a very old church, and had great food and a delightful day) Paris(unlike the German/Austrian markets the Parisian Xmas market had its unique French flair... someone said they had sausage, but I missed it... but there were wonderful vendors, food and the backdrop of... well...Paris. Who can beat that???

Posted by
868 posts

A good Christmas market should be cozy and romantic, that's why I prefer the smaller ones. The Christmas markets in the big cities are way too big, packed with tourists, and the setting usually isn't that nice, since most big cities were destroyed in WW2. They are often so crowded that you can't move anymore, let alone eat or drink something. And the ones that mostly cater to bus tours and foreign tourists often sell cheap crap from China.

The only big Christmas market (200+ stalls) I like is Erfurt, simply because Erfurt wasn't destroyed in WW2 and still offers a cozy old town, unlike Nuremberg, Cologne, Munich or Frankfurt for example. The Christmas market is moreover not yet discovered by international mass tourism, which is a big plus too. Have a look here (click on the third panorama):
http://3d-top-event.info/weihnachten_48_Weihnachtsmarkt_Erfurt.html

BTW: close to Erfurt is Lauscha in the Thuringian Forest, where the glass baubles were invented in the 19th century.

The region I like the most are the Ore mountains, which are the border mountains between Saxony and Bohemia. This is Germanys Christmas country. No other region celebrates Christmas as homey and heartwarming as the people up there in the mountains. Many of Germanys Christmas traditions come from this area (Saxony), like all the handmade wooden Chrismas toys (Schwibbogen, Christmas pyramids, nutcrackers etc.), the Moravian stars or the Stollen. The Christmas markets are mostly visited by locals and they sell local, handmade products.
Here is a nice article about the Ore mountains:
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/110826984.html?page=all&prepage=1&c=y#continue

Posted by
989 posts

Nothing to add, just wanted to say thanks for all the ideas and especially pictures! I am hoping a Germany Christmas Market trip in 2015 is on my travel itinerary!!
Kim

Posted by
2297 posts

I'm also with Tom on this one. The stalls at Christmas markets are pretty much the same all over the country. So pick the places according to the atmosphere and what else there is to see in town.

My suggestion would be to go to Rüdesheim on the Rhine. Any other time of the year I'd avoid this tourist trap like the plague but the Advent season is much quieter and very picturesque.

Posted by
989 posts

While we are on this topic... So if we had about 5-6 days to visit markets, what's the strategy? Do you just go to a new place every day, or every other day, sleeping there? Or is it better to base somewhere and day trip out to the little cities and markets - what's the best spot to do that from?

Thanks!

Posted by
3696 posts

I do a road trip while visiting markets and stay in lots of different places... rooms are not a problem in the winter so you really don't even have to make much of a plan if you don't want to. I prefer to see a few areas that are further apart rather than just do a bunch of day trips. I like only traveling one way to a new place, not round trip every day.... but having a car makes that easy.

Posted by
201 posts

Last Christmas we put together a road trip and visited many Christmas markets within the area we chose. We decided on several major towns we wanted to visit and then researched smaller towns between each of the larger towns. Most of our focus was on Germany and I found this website http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.uk/ really helpful. It provides information about the market in each town along with when they are open but after that provides an overview of the town itself and attractions. We would visit the towns in the morning and early afternoon or do our travel to the next area and later afternoon and evening visit the markets. Although there were similarities in the products being offered, we found the most enjoyment in the different variety of foods and drinks in each town and how they differed from town to town. We also found markets in the smaller towns more enjoyable than the major cities. Two of our favourite markets were Regensburg's Romantic Christmas market and Lindau.

Posted by
2725 posts

Hi Sue,

We prefer to have a couple of bases instead of moving to a new place every other day. Last Dec. we based in Schonau am Konigsee by Berchtesgaden and visited the markets in Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, Bad Reichenhall, St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang. We then based in Hall in Tirol and visited the markets in Hall in Tirol, Innsbruck, Rattenberg and then Sterzing/Vipiteno and Brixen/Bressanone an hour into Italy from Hall in Tirol.

Paul

Posted by
1369 posts

Day trips vs fairly frequent moves are a personal preference thing. We like to move every couple of days. We like strolling through the markets at night and would not like to catch a late train back to a base. The disadvantage of frequent moves is packing up and checking into a new hotel every couple of nights. We do not unpack. Sometimes I think those late night strolls through a town and a Christmas Market are the best times of a trip. Luckily, it is something upon which my wife and I agree.

Posted by
12040 posts

"So if we had about 5-6 days to visit markets, what's the strategy?" I would base the trip around cities or towns that you want to visit anyway. Consider the presence of a Weihnachtsmarkt an added bonus. If you're only visiting for the markets, it will start to feel like more of the same by day 3. Also, whereas the cities usually open their markets for a few weeks, many of the smaller towns usually only have a market for a weekend, or a week at most, usually at staggered intervals.

Posted by
868 posts

"Consider the presence of a Weihnachtsmarkt an added bonus."<<<

Exactly. Don't spend all your time on Christmas markets. They are not that different*. Do your normal touristy things during the day and visit the markets after 4pm, when it gets dark. Just an example: you could stay in a big city, see a museum or two in the morning, take a train to the next small, preserved town in the afternoon to see the old town and the Christmas market after it gets dark, and return to the big city.

*for more variety you have to travel to other parts of the country.