A Little German Christmas Market Competition

Although I didn’t leave the borders of Germany in December, I traveled a lot. In Germany. My objective: Finding my favorite German Christmas market. So I explored the Christmas markets in five different cities and four different states. I didn’t go for the markets in the big touristic cities (there is a lot of coverage on the markets of Munich, Berlin, or Nuremberg out there). I just tried to find my personal favorite German city in the Christmas season – the most festive atmosphere, the best food, the most authentic Christmas feeling, and of course the prettiest Christmas market…

Bayreuth, Bavaria

Bayreuth is a storybook Bavarian city: Houses with picturesque facades, cobblestone streets, beautiful squares. Famous Richard Wagner chose Bayreuth to stage his monumental operas there, because he considered it to be perfect for his fantastic and medieval plays. Perfect setting for a romantic Christmas market!

Christmas market I visited: Bayreuther Christkindlesmarkt in the beautiful old city center.

What I ate: Dampfnudel – a huge sweet dumpling with cherry-stuffing and vanilla sauce. A heavenly combination – impossible to eat all by yourself though!

My highlights: The cozy train ride through snow-covered Bavaria – and my very first gingerbread heart! Steffen bought me this one as a true Christmas market souvenir. It says “my little one”. So sweet – literally!

Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia

Cologne is famous for its gorgeous Gothic cathedral, art, literature, museums, publishing houses and musicals – basically everything I truly love! I was so excited to see Cologne in the Christmas season again – and in the snow! I really was incredibly lucky to see all this Christmas beauty during the very first real snow this year!

Christmas markets I visited: Weihnachtsmarket am Kölner Dom, the Christmas market by the cathedral; Weihnachtsmarkt Kölner Altstadt, the Christmas market in the old town.

What I ate: Bratapfel mit Vanillesoße – a granola-filled baked apple with vanilla sauce. A deliciously perfect combination of Christmas flavors!

My highlight: Climbing the tower of the cathedral with adorable Ashley of Ashley Abroad, and seeing one of the Christmas markets from above! With snow on top of the roofs of the little booths… a true winter wonderland!

Frankfurt, Hesse

Frankfurt is THE metropolis in central Germany. Nicknamed “Mainhatten”, after the river Main, Frankfurt has the highest skyscrapers in Germany, and the third largest airport in Europe. But besides being all cosmopolitan, Frankfurt also has an exciting history since ancient times, and several art great museums.

Christmas market I visited: Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt am Römerberg, the Christmas market in the central medieval square – surrounded by half-timbered houses underneath the huge Christmas tree.

What I ate: Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus – fried mashed potatoes (or potato pancakes, or latkes) with apple sauce. Hot, greasy, delicious – and ideal to warm your hands and soak up the alcohol in the Glühwein.

My highlights: The Römerberg location and the most special Glühwein cups: Since Frankfurt’s local drink is apple wine, which is traditionally served in a Bembel, the cups were designed like this typical apple wine carafe.

Kassel, Hesse

Kassel was the hometown of the famous Brothers Grimm, so it’s also known as the “Grimm-city”. Accordingly, Kassel holds a fairy tale Christmas market each year. All the booths, the little street in-between them, and most of the dishes served are named after fairy tale characters.

Christmas market I visited: Märchenweihnachtsmarkt Kassel, the fairy tale Christmas market.

What I ate: Schwedischer Feuerlachs mit Kartoffelsalat – Swedish “Fire-Salmon” with potato salad. The salmon is grilled on open fire, and thus has an amazing smoked flavor. For desert I had Kaiserschmarrn – an Austrian dish, comparable to little pancakes.

My highlights: Fairy tale omnipresence, of course! And the Swedish mulled wine called Glögg, which had almonds and raisins in it – so good!

Leipzig, Saxony

Leipzig is a gorgeous historical city in former Eastern Germany, and I liked it right away. I had the best time exploring the pretty city center – especially knowing the Christmas market in Leipzig was founded in 1458, and therefore is the second oldest in Germany.

Christmas market I visited: Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt including the medieval market, the Finnish market, and the famous market in front of the city hall.

What I ate: Fresh baked dark bread filled with cheese, topped with sour cream, herbs, and radish. I bought it on one of the medieval booths, never having seen anything similar at another market before. Tasted nice, but I think I loved the thought of it being a “authentically medieval” dish the most.

My highlights: The medieval market section right next to Auerbachs Keller, a location in Goethe’s “Faust” (middle ages + literature = my heaven). The gorgeous old carousel; and the Finnish market, where you could drink your mulled wine in a huge tent next to a fire – incredibly cozy and Christmassy!

All in all

Every Christmas market I went to was special in its own way, and I would recommend a trip to all of the cities above in the Christmas season. My personal favorite German Christmas market was the one in Leipzig, because it surprised me the most and had some special eats and attractions I didn’t see at any other market.

My additional Christmas market tips

1. Wear as many pairs of socks as you can possibly squeeze into your shoes.

2. Eat something before you have your first Glühwein! Empty stomach + hot alcoholic beverage + slippery grounds… just won’t end well.

3. Share your food! Christmas markets just have too many amazing food options – if you want try as much as possible, only get one serving and share it with a friend.

Did you visit any German Christmas markets this season?
Which one was your favorite?
Did you find any amazing food or drink that I didn’t try?

  • “middle ages + literature = my heaven” – you are so adorable 🙂 you’re right in that Berlin’s Christmas markets are well covered, but usually the ones downtown. There is a gorgeous one in Rixdorf in Neukölln, just one weekend, and I found Glühwein-flavored gummibears there! Awesome, no?

    • JulikaSarah

      Aww, thanks Mariella! That Christmas market in Berlin sounds great! I’ll definitely visit it next year! 🙂

  • Love your christmas market overview. I visited this year for the first time the christmas market in Freiburg and liked it (especially the mulled wine :-))

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks, Anita! I saw the Freiburg pictures on your blog, and it did look beautiful! Maybe I’ll make it there next season 🙂 Mulled wine is the best! 🙂

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    Ah I wish I could’ve seen all of these markets too, they look amazing! I especially love the shot of the market in Cologne. Again it was so nice to meet you, I hope we can hang out again soon!

    • JulikaSarah

      We were so lucky to see Cologne on such a beautiful winter day! It was lovely to meet you too! Let me know if you happen to be traveling in Germany again 🙂

  • Wow you truly had a Christmas market overload!! Love that you scoured out the less coveted Christmas markets and found some highly appetising treats! I have to admit, I could really go for some greasy, deep-fried mash potatoes with apple sauce right now! Mmmm yummy!

    • JulikaSarah

      I had the best time, but I totally have to go on a diet now! Believe me, those Kartoffelpuffer were amazing – absolutely worth the pricks of conscience 🙂

  • Great advice. I remember I was freezing when I was exploring the Christmas market in Berlin so I had to buy an extra pair of socks :):) Gluhwein rocks, I simply fell in love with this sweet wine, although I am not a wine drinker. Unfortunately, I have been only to Berlin so I am kinda jealous of you being able to explore German Christmas markets in 5 different cities. The food looks amazing. I had some sausages and cinanom cookies 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks Agness! I heard great things about the Christmas markets in Berlin though – and it sounds like you found some great food yourself! Cinnamon cookies – yum! Berlin is definitely on the list for next year’s Christmas market competition 🙂

  • Visiting Christmas markets is really great idea …. love it so much :))))

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks, Anna! I had such a great time eating my way through Christmassy Germany 🙂

  • I love that picture from Cologne, great composition! I lived in Berlin for 3 months in 2007 and loved going to all the markets around the city. I even rented a car one weekend with some friends at went to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Garmish, both of which were very nice.

    I hope to get back to some Christmas markets soon, but I still have my Räuchermann to bring me back a little.

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you Chris! I’ve never been to Rothenburg, but I hear it is exceptionally beautiful – especially in the Christmas season! There are just so many Christmas markets to explore… I can’t wait for next year 🙂 Hope you manage to come back to Germany someday!

    • me too, there’s a small chance I’ll be able to revisit Berlin for a couple days next Summer. I’ve heard so much has changed in the past 5 years

    • JulikaSarah

      I haven’t been to Berlin in ages, but I’m sure it changed a lot throughout the last years! The art and culture scene is growing like crazy there! Hope you’ll make it back to Berlin (and Germany!) soon!

  • Oh wow, all the Christmas markets you went to look gorgeous! And the food!! 😀 The Dampfnudel looks amazing! I’ll have to try to find that here in Mannheim before they close!

    • JulikaSarah

      Absolutely, I loved all of them! The Dampfnudel was sooo good! I saw it on a lot of other Christmas markets, though it is not necessarily Christmas market food. You could also find it on the menus of some German restaurants, sometimes also called Germknödel 🙂