German Christmas Markets: Holiday Shopping & Delights


Christmas market in Nuremberg
Christmas market in Nuremberg. Copyright: Cowin, Andrew. Photo courtesy of: Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus e.V.

You know those collectible ceramic towns you can get to set up to decorate in your house for the holidays? The oneswith all the twinkling lights and people in charming shops casting a warm glow onto cobblestone streets? Well, when I first saw pictures of Christmas markets in Germany, that’s what I thought I was looking at! I couldn’t believe it was real!Christmas markets are both idyllic and numerous. And each market takes on the particular flavor of the town that hosts it — from hot mulled wine (glühwein) to strudel. Most of the markets are open the four weeks of Advent (usually starting right after Thanksgiving and ending the Sunday before Christmas).

A German Rail Pass – the best gift to give yourself!

The first decision you’ll need to make is how many German Christmas Markets you’d like to visit. If you plan to explore 3 or more cities with Christmas markets, a German Rail Pass is ideal. It allows extensive travel all over Germany for the number of travel days you purchase. And with over 150 German Christmas Markets calling your name, it might very well be the best gift you can give yourself.

But let’s say you land in Frankfurt. You’re already in the home of the oldest German Christmas Markets. Dating from 1393(!), it’s also one of Germany’s largest. Held on Römerberg square, Paulsplatz and Mainkai quay, it hosts over 200 stalls, and live entertainment in the spirit of the season. And it’s just 9 minutes from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof train station! Why not get a Frankfurt Card offering discounts at over 26 historic sights, museums and galleries for 1 or 2 days and really paint the town red and green?


German Christmas market
German Christmas market. Copyright: Kiedrowski, Rainer. Photo courtesy of: Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus e.V.

Train Tickets & City Cards: Shop ’til You Drop

If you’re interested in more limited travel, a train ticket really might be the perfect way to go. How about a train trip from Frankfurt to Cologne? Cologne’s Christmas markets are as varied and unique as the landscapes you’ll ride through to get there. With the imposing Cologne Cathedral in the background, there are over 150 craft pavilions in fairytale surroundings. Some are in walking distance of the train station, while others require a lift by the local tram. One section of town, Christmas Avenue, features a more recent addition: a gay and lesbian market with shows and entertainment.

Nuremberg offers another great stop and scenic train trip. Easily walkable from the train station, this medieval market atmosphere with church concerts and rides on horse-drawn coaches offers a perfect look at Christmas past. Except for the incredible number of locally supplied booths filled with Christmas presents. You might even decide to spend some time enjoying the rest of the town with the Nuremberg Card, offering free travel on all public transportation in Nuremberg and Fuerth, plus free admission to over 45 museums.

Of course, metropolitan Berlin is not to be outdone. It has 60 traditional Christmas markets, as well as a Hanukkah one at the Jewish Museum. It seems the entire city is transformed into a festive wonderland, including the ice rink on Alexanderplatz Square. As always, Rail Europe has a way to get the most out of every stop, offering the Berlin Card providing free public transportation and priority or free access to over 50 attractions and more. If you ever do pull yourself away, by toboggan or otherwise, Stuttgart would be a great next stop.

Last but not least is the Christmas market in Stuttgart. Located right near the train station, its more than 280 stalls filled with seasonal items are a sight second to none. Enjoy the city’s famous Black Forest fruit loaf and take in a concert in the courtyard of the Old Palace.

German Christmas Markets – there’s so much more to know and do, we can’t say it all here. But you can do it with Rail Europe. Whether you choose a German Rail Pass or train tickets or city cards, Rail Europe offers something for everyone. So come on, don’t miss your chance to put a bow on it!


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