We all hear about how great they are right? Are they? Here’s a little of what to expect from my first time experience with Christmas Markets in Germany. They are much like your local small town festival, lots of food, crafts, performances and crowds. For the locals, it’s a place to gather, drink a lot of alcohol, and catch up with friends. For visitors, I feel like it’s mostly a place to get great food while you see some of the sites around the market. I will say that Germany does Christmas amazing. You won’t find gaudy decor here, it leans more towards rustic with white lights, real greenery, red and white striped roofs and wood cut ornaments. Here is a run down of the markets we visited.
Heidelberg was the first market we experienced, fresh off our train from our flight in to Frankfurt. Unfortunately Riley came down with a bad cold the day of our flight and I caught it shortly after. Combine that with jet lag and it was not fun. But we trudged along to our hotel right in the heart of the Christmas Market. We had two nights here, thankfully, as most of it was spent sleeping off sickness in our hotel. That gave us the time to make a couple short lived trips to see around our area to find food. Heidelberg did not disappoint. We had amazing pulled pork and steak sandwiches, kinderspunch and the best donuts I’ve ever had in my life from a waffle stand. There are cute little figurines, hats, gloves, handmade goods, but due to limited backpack space I didn’t buy anything but food. They have an ice skating rink that I wish we would have felt good enough to use, but it looked fun. I had also wanted to visit the castle, but decided sleep was more important. This was a beautiful market to visit in the evening with the castle all lit up. I’m giving this one the best food award. Mostly for those donuts that we never found again…
Rothenburg ob der Tauber-
Our second stop. We only had one night here. This town is adorable with all its old wood architecture, Christmas museum and castle walls. The Christmas market is small, but has good food choices. We had our first half meter sausage here, and banana Nutella crepes. I heard more Americans wandering around this market than locals, but it still had a more intimate, small town feeling than the other markets. You couldn’t beat the backdrop as there isn’t a modern structure to be found in the old town area. It definitely won my vote for cute and quaint. If I could have bought anything at these markets, it would have been from a handmade lantern maker who had the prettiest wood lanterns I’ve ever seen.
There are two markets in Regensburg. I would recommend the city market first, but you could skip it as it’s pretty predictable. However, it did have a large assortment of Glühwein/alcohol vendors if you were on a mission to drink your way through Germany. What you can’t miss, and this turned out to be my favorite, is the Romantic Christmas Market at the Thurn and Taxis Castle. This one was like stepping back in time. All of the booths are wood, covered in greenery and white lights. There are several fire pits to stop and warm up with your treats and Glühwein. This market wraps around the palace and spills into the inner courtyard. You’ll also find a wandering St. Nicholas on the weekends passing out gifts to children. The vendors are top notch with quality hand made goods. This market feels magical as the sun goes down with its torch lit paths, skipping angels waiting for their time on the stage, and magical stroll around the pond.
Known for being the oldest and one of the largest, Nuremberg didn’t disappoint. Well… maybe. This one is dominated by Nuremberg sausages and wafer gingerbread cookies. I had my heart set on fresh gingerbread like I had once in a little family run German bakery in Texas years ago. I’ve now determined that bakery lied and Americanized their gingerbread. Gingerbread in Germany is cooked on a thin sugar wafer. It’s maybe less gingery and slightly more fruity with a grainy texture. You can get it glazed, or dark/milk chocolate covered. It is good, but much different than what you might be expecting. Honestly, our favorite part of Nuremberg was leaving the overly crowded Christmas market and visiting the castle. We also happened upon a small pen with camels which made Riley’s day as he’s never gotten to see one up close and pet it.
So do I recommend visiting Germany at Christmas and hitting the markets? Yes! But maybe keep some realistic expectations that they are typically pretty crowded, you won’t likely find much you’ll want to buy, but the food will be fantastic. Take some time to wander and see the architecture around the markets and explore the cities. As for us, we are ready for some countryside, alps, and hiking!