Update: Market dates for the 2016 season have been added!
Christmas market season in Germany is upon us. It's one of my favorite German traditions and one that I am so so glad I get to experience for a second time. I love the smells of the German street food, the warmth of the Glühwein as it seeps through the small ceramic mug it's served in, warming you from the inside out, the sounds of people shopping at the stalls for ornaments, gifts, or smoking men, and the refreshing, crisp, winter air, even better if it's dotted with snow! Last year, I made a list of markets I wanted to visit, and fell woefully short of seeing them all. This year, being older and wiser, I have made a revised list of Christmas markets that I would like to visit.
While a quick google search of the best Christmas markets in Germany will give you a good list, the places that are often listed - Munich, Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf - all tend to be really big and packed with people, both locals and tourists. Personally, I find the crush of people, and the extra effort to actually get to the stalls to shop, tiring. As a result, I much prefer the smaller, more intimate Christmas markets. And this is where this list comes in - most of them are in small towns in Germany only a few hours away from Mannheim, making them perfect for a quick day or overnight trip. Hopefully this year, we get closer to completing our list!
This one isn't technically in Germany, it's in France, but, it's close enough. And while I have never been to Strasbourg before, the half timbered houses are very Germanic in their appearance, so my guess is that if you squint hard enough, and don't pay attention to the French being spoken, then you could almost think you're in Germany. Regardless, it's at the top of my list of markets to visit this year.
There are actually 13 different markets and exhibitions areas set up in Strasbourg. The main markets - the Christkindelsmärik and the Cathedral Christmas Market - are open from 27 November - 31 December 2015. Hours vary, but are generally 10AM - 8PM, with slightly longer hours on the weekend, and reduced hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas. Check out their official website.
2016 Dates: 25 November - 24 December
2. Bad Wimpfen
After discovering this little German town from a fellow blogger, I knew I had to visit. An added bonus is that it's only 45 minutes away from Mannheim, and has all the charm of the more famous Rothenburg ob der Tauber, but none of the tourists. Ok, maybe not none, but significantly fewer for sure. I can only imagine how cute their Christmas market must be!
Open weekends only (Friday - Sunday) from 27 November - 14 December 2015 from around 11AM - 9PM. Check their website for times.
2016 Dates: weekends only from 25 November - 11 December
Nestled at the base of the Black Forest, Baden-Baden is best known for it's impressive collection of spas and thermal baths. We actually make the hour drive occasionally to visit Friedrichsbad there. I think this December, I would like to go visit the Christmas markets and then warm up in the therme. I honestly can't imagine a better way to spend a Sunday in December.
The Baden-Badener Christkindlmarkt is open daily from 11AM - 9PM, 23 November - 30 December 2015. Visit their official website for more information.
2016 Dates: 21 November - 30 December
4. Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt
This is one of Germany's oldest Christmas markets and was first held in the 16th century. It's held in a bigger town, so it's bound to be packed with people from the day it opens until Christmas Eve. Nonetheless, I still think it would make a great weekend trip and we could also squeeze in some other sight seeing in the area since we've haven't made it to Nuremberg yet.
Open daily from 10AM- 9PM, 27 November - 24 December. Check out their official website for more information.
2016 Dates: 25 November - 24 December
Last February, we visited the Rammelsberg Mine near Goslar, but it was long after the Christmas markets had closed up. However, Goslar is a cute medieval city nestled in the heart of the Harz mountains in north central Germany and their Christmas market looks absolutely adorable. It also boasts a Christmas Forest in which 50 fir trees are decorated in thousands of lights, and the mine is even decorated for the holiday. It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it?
The market is open daily from 10AM - 8PM, and the forest is open daily from 10AM - 10PM, from 25 November - 30 December 2015. Check out their official website.
2016 Dates: 23 November- 30 December
Home of the Brother's Grimm (the famous fairy tale brothers), and the start of the Märchenstrasse (Fairy Tale Road), I can only imagine how cute this Christmas market must be. In fact, it's even called the Fairy Tale Christmas market! It's close to Frankfurt, too, making it an easy day trip, and the many other nearby markets mean that you really can make an entire day out of it.
Open daily from 11AM - 9PM, 27 November - 22 December 2015. Click here to visit their official website (unfortunately, only available in German).
2016 Dates: 25 November - 22 December
Only 20 minutes south from Mannheim is Speyer, most famous for it's 1000 year old cathedral. Aaron and I took one afternoon and headed down there last fall, but this year, I think we will try to take an evening after work and head there to see their Christmas market. It's a cute town and I bet with the Christmas market and lights, it'll be even cuter. Maybe we will try to make it on one of the two evenings that they do fireworks at the old city gate!
Open daily from 11AM - 9PM, 23 November 2015 - 6 January 2016 (except on Christmas day and the day after Christmas). Fireworks are held on 9 December and 17 December at 7:30PM. Visit their official website (only in German) for more information.
2016 Dates: 21 November - 8 January
And 20 minutes north of Mannheim is the small town of Worms, one of the oldest cities in Germany (really, this region is chock full of old towns!). I think this would be another great after-work Christmas market to visit. It also has a living nativity scene, and each Sunday afternoon, you can partake in a guided Christmas tour of the city.
Open daily from 10:30AM - 8PM, 23 November - 22 December 2015. Check out this website for more information.
2016 Dates: 21 November - 23 December
9. Neustadt an der Weinstrasse
Another small town in the German Palatinate region, and located directly on the German Wine Road (Deutsche Weinstrasse), I bet their Glühwein is fantastic. This one showcases food from the region, so make sure you go hungry! I suspect a pregnant woman could put away quite a bit in an afternoon :)
The market is open only on the weekends (Friday - Sunday) starting November 27 and ending on 20 December. Opening times vary based on the day, so check out this website (only in German) for the correct opening time.
2016 Dates: Weekends from 25 November - 24 December
This small town is located not far from either Mannheim or Frankfurt, and seems to host a great market with few foreign tourists against a back drop of half timbered buildings. In other words, it sounds perfect! Looking at pictures from the market, I can't even believe how perfect idyllic it appears.
The Michelstadt Christmas market is open from Wednesday - Sundays from 27 November through 20 December. Opening times vary based on day, but it is generally open until 8PM. Check their official website for more information.
2016 Dates: 25 November - 18 December
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Looks like we have quite a few weekends busy in front of us this Christmas season! Now, we only need to hope the weather cooperates and gives us cool, crisp air tinged with snow instead of damp, but unseasonably warm weather with the chance of rain that we have been having lately. I can't wait for Chirstmas! Anyone planning a trip to Germany to visit the Christmas markets?