8 enchanting German Christmas markets to visit in 2021
Against all the odds, Germany’s beloved Christmas markets look set to open their stalls this year, bringing locals and visitors alike a dose of much-needed festive cheer. Here we bring you our pick of the most enchanting German Christmas markets to visit in 2021.
The best Christmas markets in Germany in 2021
There are literally thousands of Christmas markets sprinkled across Germany - from the large and traditional to the small and quirky - all offering the standard mixture of sights, sounds and smells: glistening fairy lights, merry German Christmas carols, steaming cups of cheering Glühwein, and the sweet aroma of roasting chestnuts.
With so many markets dishing out tidings of seasonal joy - more than you could probably see in a lifetime! - it can be hard to decide which ones are worth visiting. So we’ve put on our Christmas thinking caps to put together this list of our absolute favourites: the most atmospheric, the most beautiful, and the most traditional Christmas markets in all of Germany.
At the time of writing, all of these markets are scheduled to open their gates within the next couple of days, but bear in mind that, given the dynamic infection situation, things could change at the drop of a hat. It’s best to therefore check with the official organiser for the latest updates and rules surrounding coronavirus, before setting any plans in motion.
1. Striezelmarkt, Dresden, Saxony
We couldn’t possibly write a Christmas market list without nodding to the Striezelmarkt, the oldest Christmas market in Germany and quite possibly one of the most beautiful. Wandering under the blaze of warm lights in the centre of Dresden is the perfect way to get yourself into the spirit ahead of the holidays.
Alongside the familiar sights and smells of decorated wooden stands, handmade trinkets, mulled wine and grilling sausages, this Christmas market in Dresden is also home to the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid, and the world’s largest nutcracker - not the mention the famous fruit loaf that takes the city’s name: the Dresdner Christollen - each of them reason enough alone to make the trip.
2. Medieval & Christmas Market, Esslingen, Baden-Württemberg
With its backdrop of medieval half-timbered houses, beautifully decorated stalls, glittering Christmas decorations, and a dazzling art nouveau-style carousel, the Medieval & Christmas Market in Esslingen certainly looks the part.
Located not far from Stuttgart, this magical market acts as a window back into history, with pewterers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, broom makers and glass blowers showcasing traditional crafts from times gone by, complete with medieval costumes. There are savoury and sweet treats a-plenty to satisfy all appetites, not to mention hot mead (and red berry juice for the kids).
3. WeihnachtsZauber at Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin
One of the whopping 85 winter events and Christmas markets in Berlin, the WeihnachtsZauber Christmas market on the Gendarmenmarkt is our top choice because it ticks so many boxes: great location, great shopping, great food and drink - and the great atmosphere is just the cherry on top of this proverbial yuletide cake.
The glow cast by over a thousand shining baubles lights your path as you stroll between the stalls, browsing the goodies and gifts - with glassblowers, goldsmiths, candlemakers and tailors all peddling their wares. There’s also a wonderful selection of gourmet cuisine, including traditional dishes from Bavaria and Austria, as well as other specialities from Berlin and Bohemia.
4. Aachen Christmas Market, North Rhine-Westphalia
The historic old town of Aachen provides the perfect backdrop to this spectacular Christmas market, which regularly makes it to the top 10 in lists of the best Christmas markets in Europe. It’s not hard to see why!
Always a firm favourite among locals and tourists alike, the Aachen Christmas Market offers all of the beauty and splendour you’d expect from a holiday market, complete with festively decorated stalls, sparkling lights, mulled wine, marzipan, handmade candles and dainty decorations. Make sure you try the Aachener Printen, a local speciality gingerbread - and the market’s mascot.
5. Engelkemarkt, Emden, Lower Saxony
See the seaport city of Emden transformed into a floating Christmas market at this unique spectacle. Swap city streets for the swell of the sea, and experience a Christmas market set across harboured ships at the old inland port, all decked out with thousands of gleaming fairy lights.
Image credit: © Hinrich Wilken
If you haven’t got your sea legs yet, don’t worry, because the rest of the Engelkemarkt is on solid ground, set against the backdrop of the illuminated city hall. Soak up the salty sea air - ripe with the smells of gingerbread and mulled wine - and get some of your Christmas shopping done at the same time.
6. Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia
Of all of the Christmas markets in Cologne, this twinkling tent of starlight on the Roncalliplatz, in the shadow of the city’s iconic cathedral, has to be the most atmospheric. Locals say that gnomes help set up this traditional market, and it's so imbued with fairytale magic we don’t find it hard to believe.
Underneath one of the biggest Christmas trees in the Rhineland, sample regional delicacies, purchase traditional gifts, and watch local craftspeople show off their skills at the 150 plus stalls. You absolutely have to try the Reibekuchen with Apfelmus - potato pancakes with applesauce - a local speciality.
7. Ludwigsburg Baroque Christmas market, Baden-Württemberg
This truly ornate Christmas market is one you’re not likely to forget in a hurry. Every year, the centre of Ludwigsburg is transformed into a shimmering Christmas oasis, as more than 175 timbered stalls are set up, offering mulled wine, chestnuts, gingerbread cookies, and all manner of fine delicacies and gift ideas.
Image: Conchi Martinez / Shutterstock.com
Set across the charming Marktplatz, overseen by two beautiful baroque churches and illuminated by arches and the sparkling wings of glowing angels, Ludwigsburg Baroque Christmas Market is rightfully thought of as one of the most beautiful in the world.
8. Christmas market at Ravennaschlucht, Breitnau, Baden-Württemberg
If you’re after one of the most enchanting backdrops in all of Germany, look no further than the enthralling Christmas market located in Ravenna Gorge, beneath a historic railway viaduct and in the heart of the Bavarian Black Forest. It may look like it’s straight out of a Harry Potter movie, but this market is magically real!
Photo: Courtesy of Hochschwarzwald Tourismus GmbH
There is a shuttle bus in operation, but for a truly unforgettable day out, you can hike to the Ravennaschlucht Christmas Market from Hinterzarten, a neighbouring village three kilometres away, taking in the beautiful winter sights on your way.
Get into the Christmas spirit
And that completes our list! Of course, naming just nine markets out of thousands of possibilities is sure to leave a few gems uncovered. If you think we’ve missed any top Christmas markets, let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, we wish you a happy holiday season!