Unthinkable for Germans would be Christmas without Christmas Markets starting in the Advent season. Over 130 towns host such a festive market, each one emphasizing regional specialties and flair. Mark those dates in your calendar and join in the most romantic, not to be missed festivities.
Be it in the old Hanseatic Cities of Rostock, Lübeck, Hamburg, Lüneburg or Bremen or further inland, all Christmas Markets hold their own charm and characteristics, staged in the most beautiful historical setting of each city. Ever growing in popularity, national and international guests are amongst their many visitors, each and everyone enjoying the smells, tastes, sights and sounds to remember.
26.11. – 22.12.2009, Mon-Thu 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-8pm
Rostock, the almost 800 year old Hanseatic Town, has retained much of its original charm and is home to a diverse cultural scene. This cosmopolitan university- and port-town has a Historical Center with typical northern-style German brick architecture and a maritime atmosphere. Once a year, the twinkling glitter of the Christmas lights glow along the River Warnow and the Baltic Sea and transform the Historic City Center of Rostock into the largest, and one of the most gorgeous Christmas Markets in the North of Germany. Here, Father Christmas traditionally arrives in the town harbor by boat to open the Christmas Market. Northern specialties include candied apples, deep-fried bananas, candy floss, baby doughnuts, burnt almonds, Glögg, a sort of Swedish mulled wine and biscuits from Sweden; smoked sausages from Rostock, smoked fish from Warnemünde and north German fried fish in batter.
23.11. – 30.12.2009, Mon-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11.30am-9pm
The entire oval old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lübeck is nowadays a modern trading port and, via the coastal resort of Travemünde, a terminal for ferries to and from Scandinavia and the Baltic. A stroll around the Christmas-Fair area, which was first mentioned in 1648, is an absolute Must-Do for all Lübeck visitors. The market and its some 400 merchants offer toys and Christmas decoration, gingerbread, hot spiced wine and plenty of other things.
For 30 years Lübeck’s Fairy-tale Forest has been a festive attraction. 500 illuminated fir-trees and 21 stalls recreate beautifully the tales of the Brothers Grimm. (Open till 23rd Dec.)
The Historic Christmas Fair at the foot of St. Mary’s Church makes visitors travel through time; medieval flair unfolds amidst modern Lübeck. (Open 26.11-23.12). The Crafts Fair at St. Peter’s offers with over 50 craftsmen and -women from Northern Germany a wide variety of traditional and contemporary gift ideas. (Open 27.11-14.12). The arts and crafts market inside the festively decorated church-hall and in the small cabins of the long hall of the medieval Hospital of the Holy Spirit is unique! The exhibitors come from all over Germany and Northern Europe. (Open 28.11-08.12). Of course, Christmas in Lübeck would not be complete without a visit to the Christmas Bazaar at Niederegger’s, where you can taste famous marzipan cake, a delicious gateau with a rich nut brittle cream and a thin coat of marzipan.
23.11. – 23.12.2009, 10am-9pm daily
The Free Hanseatic City of Hamburg is Germany’s second largest metropolis and is home to one of Europe’s largest ports. There is a taste of far-away places throughout the city, even in the little canals and waterways of the old warehouse district. During Advent, Hamburg’s Town Hall provides the grand setting for the city’s most charming Christmas Market. One hundred merchants will set up their shops on Hamburg’s largest Urban Square. Roast apples, hand-crafted items and the quaint cottages designed by Bernhard Paul, director of the famed nostalgic Circus Roncalli, set this Christmas Market apart from seasonal activities elsewhere. Here you will find hand-crafted Christmas decorations from the Erzgebirge region, wood carvers from Tyrol, bakers from Aachen producing their famous Printen-Cookies on the scene, Gingerbread makers from Nuremberg and pottery from the Lausitz region. Silversmiths and many other artisans and craftsmen invite you to marvel, join in, taste and enjoy. New is the Nordic Lane, a tribute to Hamburg’s traditionally close ties to the countries of Scandinavia and the Baltic region. Santa Claus is riding up to the sky above the roofs of the market cottages in his reindeer sleigh.
22.11 – 22.12.2009, 10am-7pm daily, Historic Christmas Market, 05.12 – 06.12.2009
Lüneburg is located on the edge of the Lüneburger Heath between Hamburg and Hannover. In the middle ages salt, the so called white gold, made Lüneburg a very prosperous town; this is still evident today as most of its magnificent and historic buildings are intact and in their former glory. This ancient salt-trading and Hanseatic Town has a romantic Christmas Market atmosphere, with Christmas lights showing its gabled houses and medieval churches in the most beautiful light. Booths decorated on Brothers Grimm Fairy-tale themes transform Lüneburg’s pedestrian streets into a magical fairy-tale world. A daily special and changing Christmas program starts from 4pm daily.
26.11. – 23.12.2009, Mo-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 11am-8pm
Bremen, 37 miles from the mouth of the River Weser and Germany’s oldest Maritime City, has held markets since 965, joined the Hanseatic League in 1358 and began to trade with America in 1783. Cotton and coffee gave its citizens a rich living. Bremen’s atmospheric Christmas Market is considered to be one of the most attractive in Germany. With the Town Hall and the Roland Statue as its backdrop and over 170 festively decorated stalls, it is perfect for browsing. Bremen also has another Christmas attraction, the Schlachte-Magic on the popular River Weser embankment. Each day on the maritime promenade another little door is opened to reveal a special surprise, like a walk-through Advent Calendar. There are many experiences to choose from, Christmas brunch on the Weser, a Christmas tree expedition, some seriously strong hot punch and a real Dutch Sinter Klaas on board a pirate ship. The aroma of steaming mulled wine, baked apples and cinnamon stars lies heavy in the air, while softly the most beautiful Christmas carols ring out in the background.
27.11. – 22.12.2009, 11am-9pm daily
The lively City Center with its impressive shopping boulevard and the charming Old Town with its narrow streets and secluded corners on the banks of the River Leine invite you to shop and enjoy yourself. Hannover’s Christmas Market takes place in the historical Old Quarter around the Market Church and on the Ballhofplatz. Visitors looking for a souvenir are spoilt for choice, with no fewer than 150 attractive stalls selling Christmas tree decorations, carved items, wooden toys and craft work. The children’s program features a puppeteer and a storyteller.
25.11. – 29.12.2009, Mo-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-9pm, closed 24th and 25th Dec.
The city of Henry the Lion combines tradition and modernity. Alongside the former medieval market-place and Romanesque buildings, you will nowadays also find the glass-roofed pedestrianized passages of the shopping area. Braunschweig’s Christmas Market has a splendid backdrop, the cathedral of Henry the Lion, the Dankwarderode-Castle and the Vieweg-House. This Christmas Market’s history goes back 300 years and surrounded by fine half-timbered buildings, it is full of traditional charm and Christmas delights. There is a daily festive Christmas program with entertainment for children.
25.11. – 27.12.2009, 11am-8pm daily, Christmas Day/Box Day 2pm-8pm, 24.12. closed
Only 30 kilometers south of Hannover, Hildesheim has been a cultural center between the Harz and Heath for over a 1,000 years. The historic Market Square is one of the most beautiful old market-places in Germany. Its special highlight is the reconstructed Knochenhauer-Amtshaus, former butchers’ guild hall, where city history and hospitality are combined under one roof. Hildesheim’s Christmas Market comes to life on the historical Market Square and around the town hall. The impressive facade of the Knochenhaueramtshaus is believed to be the most beautiful half-timbered house in the world! One of the highlights of the Christmas events program are the Hildesheim Cathedral Musicians.
25.11. – 23.12.2009, Mo-Wed 10am-8pm, Thu-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun11am-8pm
Hamelin is a beautiful and enchanting little town in the very heart of the Weser Mountains Nature Park, the mountains being called after the same river which flows through the town of Hamelin. Attractions worth a visit in the area are the Hämelschenburg-Castle, the Hamelin Glassworks or take a relaxing riverboat excursion along the Weser valley, one of the loveliest and best ways to see its fairy tale landscape. Due to the historic background, the Hamelin Christmas Market can truly be described as a genuine Fairy-Tale Market. The Hamelin Christmas Market features over 70 festively decorated wooden huts; all clustered around the Wedding House, the Market Church and around the picturesque Old Quarter with it’s lovingly restored timber-framed houses and grand Weser Renaissance buildings. Highlights of Hamelin’s Christmas Market are the Nativity Scene, which has real animals to stroke, and a Christmas Pyramid at only a mere 11 meters tall.
25.11. – 22.12.2009, daily 12am-9pm
Surrounded by narrow medieval streets, the historical Town Hall with its Friedenssaal, Peace Hall, lies in Osnabrück’s old town. The marketplace in front of the Rathaus is one of the most beautiful records of urban medieval architecture. The only Tower Railway Station in Germany was build in Osnabrück more than 100 years ago, and the railway tracks still cross on two separate levels. The world’s biggest Christmas musical box turns to the sound of Christmas carols and the half-timbered buildings in the historical Old Quarter are adorned with festive illuminations. Osnabrück’s historical Christmas Market has twice been ranked as one of the prettiest in the region and a fully functional Nutcracker, six meters tall, adds to the local flair.
23.11. – 23.12.2009, Sun-Thu 11am-8pm, Fri-Sat 11am-9pm
Münster’s historic Old Quarter is packed with cultural history at the beautiful Prinzipalmarkt-Square, with the St. Paul’s Cathedral and its astronomical clock dating back to 1543, and the Salzstrasse, or salt-street, reminding of Hanseatic tradition and buildings by Baroque architect Johann Conrad Schlaun. Münster’s Christmas Market becomes more festive and more fairy-tale like every year. Set against the charming backdrop of the illuminated Old Quarter, its six Christmas Markets are within a stone’s throw of each other. There are 250 stalls in all, offering a huge range of toys, decorations and crafts, as well as sweet treats, snacks and hot drinks. Definitely a place to be!
This is an example of what you can do while traveling in Germany. If you want learn more about the cities in Northern Germany we compiled comprehensive travel guides in collaboration with local residents that provides unique travel insider tips which you can use during you Germany vacation.