I have spent the last four Christmases on four different Continents so I feel secure in saying that nowhere does Christmas better than Europe. The festive spirit on this side of the world is on another level and a big part of the Christmas tradition is attending some of the thousands of Christmas Markets that are scattered across the continent.
Christmas Markets are thought to have started in the German speaking regions of Europe back in Medieval times so they are commonly known as German Markets, no matter which country they are in. Christmas Markets, also known as Christkindlmarkt, Weihnachtsmarkt and Marché de Noël tend to be on for the four weeks of Advent and are usually held in the Town Square. In these markets you will find open-air stalls selling food, mulled wine, beer, toys and Christmas ornaments.
I decided that as I was in Europe for Christmas this year I would head over to Germany, the origin of Christmas Markets, and see for myself what these markets were like and how they compared to those in England, which I had already visited. Here are my favourites:
Whilst there are multiple Christmas Markets in the city of Hamburg the most popular is the Roncalli Christmas Markets held at Rauthausplatz, the public square in front of the Gothic style Town Hall. It has four main aisles and each aisle sells a different good, like toys, jewellery or food. It is beautiful both night and day but busiest during the evening, just after work has finished for the day.
If you are interested in visiting the most bizarre christmas market in Hamburg visit the Santa Pauli Market, an over 18 only market held beside the red light district. Among stalls selling odd and theme inspired ‘goods’ is also a tent with the likes of Burlesque and porn karaoke etc. This place wasn’t my thing (I entered the market unknowingly in fact) but it was interesting to see, quickly, nonetheless.
BE SURE TO TRY: Bratwurst. The best one we ate was at the Santa Pauli (I guess Sausages are there thing haha)
According to the signage at the market, the Dortmund Christmas market boasts the tallest Christmas tree in the world. It is 45 metres tall, is made up of 1700 real fir trees and is covered in 40,000 Led lights. A four metre tall Angel crowns the top. With around 300 stalls the Dortmund Christmas Market is among the largest in Germany.
BE SURE TO TRY: PizzaBrötchen (which we didn’t find elsewhere) a delish pizza type bread roll. All flavours were tasty but we favoured the Salami ones the best.
Cologne is host to many Christmas Markets but the most popular and most spectacular is the Am Dom Market held in the shadow of the Cologne Cathedral, the largest in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage site. With 160 stalls you could easily spend a few hours wandering around, sampling food and enjoying the festive spirit.
BE SURE TO TRY: Mulled Wine (aka Glüwhein) and Currywurst.
Münster is a relatively small city between Dortmund and Hamburg but one that should not be missed. A city most popular with University students and known as the bicycle capital of Germany with over 500,000 registered bikes and only a population of 280,000 residents, it is an interesting place to visit.
The markets here felt much more local than the others above which gave it extra appeal. Wander the streets of the small city and visit the stalls scattered throughout.
BE SURE TO TRY: Reibekuchen, a deep fried potato (similar to Potato scallop) covered in Apple Sauce.
There you have it. These were my four favourite Christmas Markets in Germany (Note that I was only visiting the North-West regions of Germany). I found that the Birmingham Christmas Markets in England were very authentic compared to the German ones but that Winter Wonderland, Londons equivalent, was not.
They were all beautiful but if I had to choose a favourite I would say Dortmund, it was the largest but also had the most festive vibe to it.
I truly love the festive season in Europe and the markets really intensify that.
Over to you. What Christmas Markets are your favourites? Let us know in the comments section below!