Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and most of the Christmas markets are either already closed or will be today or tomorrow. Some will stay open through the new year, but only a very small portion. Last year, Aaron and I spent our weekends in December hitting up some of the bigger, more famous Christmas markets in Germany - Munich, Cologne, and Heidelberg. This year, we switched tactics and tried to visit smaller, more local markets. It was nice to see the big ones last year, but I really think I like the smaller ones better. For one, there are fewer people in general (though not always), and they are usually much less overwhelming than the giant ones found in the bigger cities. But my favorite part, I got to see some new places that I probably would not have visited before, and a couple have been added to our, ''We need to come back here'' list.
Back in November, I made of list of 10 markets that I wanted to visit this year. Sad to say, we only got through about half of them. But the ones we did make it to were totally worth it! Which ones did we visit? Let's see! Warning, LOTS of pictures in this post!
The markets in Strasbourg were at the top of my list this year. It was the biggest city we went to, and many people said that it's one of the best. My honest opinion? A little over rated. Yes, the market food was good, the stalls were beautifully decorated, and there were markets were scattered all over the city center, but there were a lot of people there. Almost too many. Strasbourg its self is a beautiful city, but for the Christmas market, it wasn't my favorite.
Michelstadt is a small town in the Odenwald about an hour away from Mannheim. It has one of the most unique Rathauses I have seen - half timbered, with a large covered alcove. The entire Altstadt is the Christmas market. The winding streets, the half timbered buildings, the cobble stone streets we all accented by twinkling Christmas lights, statues of angels, wise men, Santa and his Reindeer (fun fact, they have different names than in the US!), and other Christmas scenes. One of the smaller squares even had a large, traditional, pyramid set up. The main streets were lined on either side with stalls selling market food, Glühwein, or Christmas presents. This was our favorite market, and one we even went back to for maternity pictures a few weeks later.
A few months ago, a couple we knew from college moved from Salt Lake City to Germany. They had wanted to visit Baden Baden, so we offered to be their tour guide. We spent the morning at Friedrichsbad, and then took a stroll through the Christmas market. It was the middle of the day, so the lights weren't on, and the market was packed (typical for a Sunday), but it was still nice. They had a small petting zoo and a cookie making hut set up for the kids, which was nice. This market had a lot of food to choose from - wurst, crepes, reibkuchen, feuerlachs, and more.
Bad Wimpfen is another impossibly cute, half timbered, medieval town. The market is set up throughout the entire city center and has many of the traditional market offerings - Glühwein, lebkuchen, wurst, and some of the best Käsespatzle (cheese spätzle, basically the German version of mac and cheese) that I have ever had. We didn't spend a ton of time there, but it will definitely be somewhere we go back to when the weather is a little nicer. I can just imagine how amazing it would be to sit outside a cafe eating brunch or enjoying a Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake), in the sunshine.
I had originally planned to go to Speyer on one of the nights that they were holding fireworks. We went, but grabbed dinner first, and ended up missing the fireworks. Sad panda. Alas, the market was still nice to walk around, even if it was a little on the small side. On one end stands the 1000 year old Speyer Cathedral and on the other, the city gate that is hundreds of years old.
That pretty much wraps up our 2015 Christmas Market tour. I think there is one we may try to hit up in Riquewihr, France since it's one of the few ones still open. It never hurts to visit one last market on Christmas Eve to ensure that one is in the Christmas spirit, even if Aaron won't let me watch my annual screening of A Christmas Story.
Did any of you make it to some Christmas markets this year? What did you think? Did you have a favorite?