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Expat in Germany: 5 Tips for Going to a German Christmas Market

Friday, December 3, 2010

5 Tips for Going to a German Christmas Market

Going to a German Christmas Market is high on most tourists lists when they are in Germany in December, and many tourists come to Germany just for the Christmas Markets.  Before you go, read these 5 tips to make the most out of the wonderful experience of a German Christmas Market.
(Photo above of the Bonn Christmas Market courtesy of Stadt Bonn)
Ludwigsburg Christmas Market at Night
 Tip 1 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Go at Night
While German Christmas Markets are open during the day, they really are most beautiful at night with all of the sparkling lights dancing about which really enhances the already festive atmosphere.
You can find Kartoffel Puffer - Fried Mashed Potatos at German Christmas Markets which will keep you full for hours!
Tip 2 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Go Thirsty and Go Hungry
One of my favorite things about German Christmas markets are the food and mulled wine.  It appears I'm not alone in this judging by the crowds hanging out by the food and wine stalls.  German Christmas Markets are where special types of food are offered, many of which aren't offered at any other type of year.  Gingerbread and homemade truffles will tempt you around every corner.  It was at a German Christmas Market that I had my first Kartoffelpuffer, which is basically fried mashed potatos and is quite tasty but rather filling so I would recommend sharing it. And of course the mulled wine, which I've noticed has become quite a debate among my friends as to which German Christmas Market has the best one - as far as I can tell the Ludwigsburg Christmas Market appears to be unofficially in the lead.
Esslingen Christmas Market (Photo courtesy of Weihnactsmarkt-Deustchland)
Tip 3 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Go to More Than One
Each Christmas Market in Germany is different reflecting local traditions.  The Ludwigsburg Christmas Market is celebrated for its ambiance, while the Stuttgart Christmas Market is celebrated for its size (one of the largest in Germany) and is known for its Black Forest Fruit Bread (not really to my liking, but it is popular).  The Esslingen Christmas Market has a middle-aged theme.  I would also recommend going to the smaller Christmas markets in addition to the bigger ones since they also have a different look and feel.  See  Christmas Markets in Germany for a listing of forty German Christmas Markets.  If the city you are in isn't listed, check out the city's local site since they may still have a Christmas Market that hasn't been listed as is the case with the Calw Christmas Market, a small German Christmas Market, but one that has the most delicious cheese I ever tasted.  We bought a huge chunk thinking it would last us two weeks, it only lasted three days and that was with restraint and there are only two of us.
German Christmas Market photo courtesy of:  Himmelstadlter Weihnactserlebnisse
Tip 4 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Go With Friends/Family
The German Christmas Markets become a place to hang out with friends and family and people meet here instead of heading to a restaurant or bar.  The German Christmas Markets have an ambiance you only find once a year so why not enjoy it and take it in with friends?  Note:  dress warm because you may get cold if you're going to be there for a couple of hours.
Puppet Show at Haidhausen Christmas Market (photo courtesty of Wendy)
Tip 5 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Check the Schedule in Advance
German Christmas Markets often have entertainment - think choirs, Christmas plays, puppet shows, and German traditions, to name a few of the things you might get lucky enough to see.  At the Calw Christmas Market we got to see the Traditional Bread Cutting Ceremony, where a very long (at least 5 meters) piece of bread was carried through the Christmas Market and then served to guests.  I don't what tradition this represented and neither did J.P. but it was fun to watch and by checking the programming schedule ahead of time, you can increase your chances of seeing something really interesting.  (See Christmas Markets in Germany for a listing of forty Christmas Markets in Germany with links to each of their programming schedules).  

What tips do you have for going to a German Christmas Market?

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At December 3, 2010 at 7:56 AM , Anonymous Kelly @Travelbugjuice said...

Yum! Fried mashed potatoes.. that sounds awesome!

At December 3, 2010 at 8:18 AM , Blogger Expat in Germany said...

@Kelly - I am now addicted!

At December 3, 2010 at 8:55 AM , Anonymous inka said...

See, I can't get enough of your Christmas market stories. You are the only person whose blog I have read twice in a single day.Thanks for your comments on my posts too.

At December 3, 2010 at 9:01 AM , Blogger Mandi said...

Great tips! I'm officially in love with the Christmas markets and make it a goal to visit a handful of new ones every year. And I *love* Kartoffelpuffer too.

At December 3, 2010 at 9:36 AM , Anonymous The NVR Guys said...

Fried mashed potatoes?! Two tickets to Germany please.

At December 3, 2010 at 3:24 PM , Anonymous Jeremy B said...

Again, one of the things I want to do one day. Seriously, with the recent posts about Christmas Markets in Germany - I'm convinced already! :)

At December 3, 2010 at 11:45 PM , Anonymous zablon said...

great tips, i love shoping at night, there is something to it

At December 4, 2010 at 8:17 AM , Anonymous Ayngelina said...

I had never heard of fried mashed potatoes but I must have them!

At December 4, 2010 at 1:08 PM , Blogger Leslie Koch said...

Great tips! I'd love to go to shopping at a German Christmas market.

At December 5, 2010 at 12:09 AM , Anonymous German Gems said...

Great tips although big city markets at night can be very crowded, making it tough to get around and really enjoy. I recommend the smaller more romantic markets at night, with your significant other.

At December 5, 2010 at 4:46 AM , Anonymous Amy said...

I've only been to Germany once and I stupidly timed it so that I was one week too early for the markets. It was torture to watch all the little market stalls being installed knowing I wouldn't be there when they opened. I did manage to find some mulled wine and bratwurst though, so all was not lost!

At December 7, 2010 at 8:35 AM , Blogger Expat in Germany said...

@Inka - Thanks so much! I really appreciate your kind words!
@Mandi - great idea, I've already got a list of the ones I want to visit next year that I won't get to this year :)
@NVR Guys - if that's all you did in Germany, it would still be worth the trip!
@Jeremy - I really think December is a great time to visit and usually the weather isn't that cold either!
@zablon - I agree, I also like shopping at night
@Ayngelina - it's worth adding to your list!
@Leslie - thanks, I could spend a lot of money at the German Christmas markets, but I keep getting distracted by the mulled wine!
@German Gems - excellent point, if you're looking to do some shopping it's better to go during a weekday when it's not as busy, but at night it is very romantic
@Amy - oh no, you'll just have to come back :)

At December 8, 2010 at 8:36 AM , Blogger Frau Dietz said...

My tip: leave the mulled wine well alone and get involved with the mulled cider! Am dying to try a Kartoffelpuffer... my problem is I just can't seem to stay away from the Schwenkbraten stand :)

At December 14, 2010 at 10:24 AM , Blogger Expat in Germany said...

Mulled cider? What have I been missing? I'll have to check it out! Ah yes, the Schwenkbraten, so many tasty things, it's hard to choose!


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