The weather outside is frightful, but the mulled wine is so delightful. Turns out, we have a place to go: Christmas markets. They are romantic, cozy, charming and definitely a solid institution throughout Germany. And what makes a real Christmas market special? Mulled wine and punch of course, roasted almonds and other candy, handicrafts, decorations, and toys for children. Or how about vegan cosmetics? Travesty shows? Swedish glögg? Handcut wooden sex toys made from organic hardwood? Sounds grotesque? Even though traditional winter markets have existed in Germany for more than 700 years already, the trend is towards smaller, extraordinary and special Christmas markets. Be it an organic Christmas fair, gay-lesbian winter market, trendy vegan market, or simply an exceptionally beautiful classic Christkindlesmarkt – spread all over Germany you can find the most charming, but also the most unusual markets in the world. Here are the top 8 extraordinary Christmas markets in the country:
Organic, obviously: Öko-Adventsmarkt in Berlin
With Berlin’s Kollwitzplatz in Yuppie borough Prenzlauer Berg the rule of thumb is: love it, or hate it. Many appreciate the almost village-like vibe with cozy street cafés and playgrounds crowded with kids in designer clothes, while others find this to be the epicentre of Yuppie-powered gentrification. One thing that most people can agree upon though: This is one of the most charming plazas in town. And there’s a very special annual winter market here: Öko-Adventsmarkt (“Organic Advent Market”). Local fine foods, artisan craftworks, and healthy snacks await you here, everything organic – obviously. Organic mulled wine or honey mead, stylish textiles from the fashion boutiques in the neighborhood or other creative bits and bobs, you have the choice. Urban lifestyle in the spirit of Black Forest Gemütlichkeit – this is Berlin.
|| Öko-Adventsmarkt on Kollwitzplatz in Berlin. On the Sundays in Advent, 12 – 7pm. ||
Tradition and beauty: Christkindlesmarkt Nuremberg
This is not an insider’s tip, that much is obvious. But traditional Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg is in a way the paragon of romantic winter markets in Germany. Instead of giant amusement rides and fairground attractions this beautiful market has preserved the spirit of times passed. Franconian culinary delights, classic craftworks, and a renaissance setting make for an unforgettable visit on the warmly illuminated square surrounding the Schöner Brunnen fountain. For the opening, the Christkind of Nuremberg delivers the famous prologue from the balcony of the Gothic church, televised live and watched by millions. What makes this winter market extraordinary? That it is so genuinely and wonderfully ordinary, and that it has preserved everything, that makes German Christmas markets so traditional and unique.
|| Christkindlesmarkt on Hauptmarkt in Nürnberg. 1. – 24.12., 10am – 9pm. ||
Santa is gay: Pink Christmas München
Munich, capital of Bavaria and lederhosen headquarter of the world, is mostly known internationally for its very popular (for whatever reason) Oktoberfest. There’s also a surprisingly vast choice of charming Christmas markets tough, with wonderful traditional markets such as the Christmas Village in the imperial residence. And then there’s also a, well, somewhat different kind of Christmas market: Pink Christmas was born in Munich’s LGBTIQ* scene and has evolved to become an inclusive fair for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, but with a very unique and queer spirit. The regular winter market features are there, but there’s also an interesting show schedule with locally famous acts from the queer scene.
|| Pink Christmas on Stephansplatz in München. 27.11. – 23.12., 4 – 10pm. ||
Christmas Shanty: Engelkemarkt Emden
Emden is a historic port town on a North Sea bay that marks the German-Dutch border. For centuries, spices and other goods from all around the world were unloaded here. So obviously this makes a good spot for a charming Christmas market with both regional and exotic delicacies. But there’s something else, that makes this market truly unique: The Engelkemarkt Emden takes place partially on board of historic boats. This means that you can stroll from sailing ship to sailing ship, explore the beautifully illuminated stalls, and enjoy the mulled-wine tipsiness combined with the swinging of the waves. An exceptional institution.
|| Engelkemarkt in Emden. 27.11. – 31.12., 11am – 8pm. ||
Light into the darkness: Lucia Market in Berlin
Prenzlauer Berg, once again: The vast winter landscapes of Sweden are about as far away from this quarter as from every other place in the German captial, but nonetheless this is where a bit of Scandinavian Christmas culture finds its home every year. Lucia Market snuggles up to the picturesque walls of Kulturbrauerei, a former industrial brewery-turned-cultural centre. Traditional Swedish Glögg warms from within, mobile fireplaces, and fiery art installations from without. There’s even a mobile sauna! Just as it is customary in Scandinavia, the eponymous Saint Lucia brings some light into the winterly December darkness.
|| Lucia Market at Kulturbrauerei Berlin. 27.11. – 23.12., 3 – 10pm. ||
Tradition, alive and well: Striezelmarkt in Dresden
Two Christmas Market in Eastern Germany have been fighting over the title of who is the oldest in the country: Wenzelsmarkt in Bautzen and world-famous Striezelmarkt in Dresden. The latter was mentioned in an official document as early as the year 1431, and will take place for the 583rd time this year. Generally speaking, the giant village of market stalls on Altmarkt square in the Saxon capital is a classic Advent market, just like Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, but still it stands out: For one thing, this is the home of famous Dresdner Christstollen, a heavy yeast-raised fruit bread; for another thing the artisan craftworks from nearby Erzgebirge are the paragon of artisanal Christmas decorations. No wonder some call Dresden the “Christmas capital of Germany”.
|| Striezelmarkt on Altmarkt in Dresden. 29.11. – 24.12., 10am – 9pm. ||
Sexy Subculture: Santa Pauli in Hamburg
Hamburg’s Reeperbahn is a street that basically everyone in Germany has heard of: strip clubs, brothels, variety theatres, and an excessive nightlife make the red-light district in trendy borough St. Pauli notorious. Is it a surprise then, that the annual Christmas market on this street is somewhat “special”? Santa Pauli is Germany’s sexiest Christmas market. It might sound a bit dubious at first, but it is actually a very charming thing, managing the balancing act between Hamburg’s traditional port culture and conventional winter charm. On some of the stalls you will find traditional Christmas tree decorations side by side with handcut sex toys made from organic hardwood, yet this is actually a fun place to go with friends and family: yummy snacks, mulled wine or punch, and a lot of activities for children and families. There’s an adults-only section, and that is where you will find Santa-themed strip shows, porno karaoke, and erotic fiction readings. Santa Baby…
|| Santa Pauli in Hamburg St. Pauli, 17.11. – 23.12., 4 – 11pm. ||
Tofu Turkey: The Green Market Berlin
The capital of vegan lifestyles in Germany is, without a doubt: Berlin. Nowhere else you’ll find that many vegans and vegetarians, as well as restaurants, markets, and shops catering to those, who forgo all animal products. And yes, there’s a vegan Christmas market, too. Admittedly, The Green Market Berlin is taking place on a regular basis throughout the year, but the December edition at Funkhaus Berlin is so very charming, winterly, yes, even Christmasy, that we might well call it a Christmas market. Not only vegan foods, drinks, pastry, and other delicacies await you, but also vegan cosmetics, animal-free textiles, and nutritional supplements. It’s a tofu turkey this year!
|| The Green Market at Funkhaus Berlin. 16. & 17.12., 12 – 10pm. ||
Photo: Datei: #97964901 | Urheber: pusteflower9024 – fotolia
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.