6 best German Christmas markets to eat your way through in 2022
Ready to navigate eating some cheesy Spätzle with a bendy plastic fork without foregoing your cosiest mittens? Just as we’ve all forgotten quite how strong the Glühwein is, Christmas market season is back in Germany for 2022!
There are thought to be no fewer than 2.500 Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) across Germany. So if you’re thinking about which one to meander around, it can be easy to be overwhelmed with choice - even in your local town or city.
Once you’re in the land of the Christmas market, any old Markt can claim authenticity. In this list we break down where to find Germany’s best-loved Christmas treats in their natural habitats, whether you're looking for traditional German dishes or regional specialities.
Celebrate the Christmas season in Germany at these Weihnachtsmärkte
Here are our top picks for German Christmas markets where you can pick up some fabulous food and learn more about regional cuisine.
1. Stollen at the Dresden Striezelmarkt
Aerial pictures of the Dresden Striezelmarkt show a labyrinth of glowing lights and Christmas wonder. The oldest Christmas market in Germany, the Striezelmarkt will take place for the 588th time in 2022.
The city of Dresden has a long and loving relationship with Stollen, Germany’s dried-currant delicacy, which lies somewhere between a cake and a loaf of bread covered in icing sugar. Thanks to the unrivalled international success of German supermarket Lidl, Stollen has lost its air of mystery for many non-Germans across Europe. But if you want to try the real deal, make a trip to Dresden’s Stollen festival, held annually in the Striezelmarkt.
Thousands of Stollen-crazed visitors attend this event every year. Prior to being cut up, the giant Stollen cake is paraded through the city by the Dresdner Stollenmädchen (Dresden Stollen girls), as well as the bakers and pastry makers of the Stollen Association. They are joined by marching bands and actors in historical costumes cheered on by thousands of spectators. A piece of the massive cake-bread will set you back six euros - and perhaps make you sad every time you have to settle for the Lidl version in the years to come.
2. Spätzle at the Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt
The Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt is sprawled across four different squares in the German city and boasts around 300 stalls selling trinkets, treats and tipples. Native to this city in Baden-Württemberg is one of southern Germany’s most-loved savoury snacks - Spätzle. These tiny, wavy noodles are made by being pushed through a Spätzlepresse (Spätzle press) and while they may look like a plate of worms, they are exceptionally delicious.
The beloved 18th-century dish has a long history in the region and Swabian German literature is ripe with references to the “favourite dish of the Swabians”, including the 1838 poem In Praise of Swabian Spätzle. At the Weihnachtsmarkt in Stuttgart you can expect to find Spätzle abound, covered in cheese, crispy onions or even a lentil and vegetable stew. The market is also home to the Spätzle-Schwob hut, winner of the market’s annual award for most beautifully decorated stand!
3. Aachener Printen at Aachen Christmas Market
Aachen Christmas Market has been voted one of the 10 best Christmas markets in Europe. Occupying the cathedral square of Germany's westernmost city, this market often attracts people living in the Netherlands.
Chocolate-covered, jam-filled Lebkuchen are arguably one of Germany's most successful Christmas exports, but the dessert's simpler, half-Belgian sibling, the Aachener Print, is something of a hidden gem. The method of printing biscuits with pictures arrived in Germany in the 15th century as Belgian craftsmen emigrated across the border from the city of Diant. Today, the thin, oblong biscuits are more commonly studded with whole almonds or covered in a thin layer of chocolate.
Since the name Aachener Printen is a protected geographical indication, meaning all of the officially-labelled biscuits must be produced in the region, a trip to the Aachen Christmas Market should definitely be on the cards for this local delicacy. The Lambertz-Gruppe, a frontrunner in the Printen business since 1688, will even have a stall at the market.
4. Snowballs at Rothenburg Christmas Market
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small German town nestled in the north of Bavaria. With winding cobbled streets and timber framed houses it is the perfect, cosy setting for the modest Rothenburg Weihnachtsmarkt. This Christmas market’s forte comes in the form of a crumpled up tennis ball-sized sphere of dough, deep-fried and dusted with white icing sugar - the Schneeball (snowball). The Schneeball comes in a number of different varieties: lemon, cinnamon, chocolate and pistachio.
Unlike their namesake, these trusty treats have a good shelf life. Because Schneebälle have a biscuit-like consistency, they can keep well for up to eight weeks, making them the perfect gift to add to your early Christmas shopping list to bring home to family.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is also home to Germany’s one and only Weihnachtsmuseum (Christmas Museum), which is located in the same square as the market. The museum has a display of Christmas decorations through the centuries and teaches visitors about the history of Christmas. Perhaps combining this with a visit to the market itself is Yuletide overkill but since the museum is open 365 days a year it’s a good way to serve your Christmas withdrawal once the holiday is up.
5. Prune men at Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt
Nurenberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is often cited as the German Christmas market to end all Christmas markets. The Chriskindlesmarkt was first mentioned in the German history books all the way back in 1628. Even before then, it’s thought that the one-and-only Martin Luther did his Christmas shopping at an earlier incarnation of the market.
But this isn’t the only claim to fame made by the market in Bavaria; another comes in the form of the slightly cute, slightly creepy, prune men (Zwetschgenmännle). Legend has it that the prune man figures of Nuremberg were invented by an 18th-century wire drawer. Presumably in a last minute Christmas Eve panic, he is said to have strung together some prunes from the tree outside his house to make the world's-first Zwetschgenmännle for his children.
While the Zwetschgenmännle are sure to awaken a cannibalistic hunger, beware because unlike the original they aren’t actually edible. But given that the shrivelled statuettes are said to bring money and happiness to your house, you can think of them as an investment.
6. Pear Glühwein at the Leipzig Christmas Market
At Leipzig Christmas Market wooden huts with red and white striped roofs fill the city’s main square. The twinkling scenery is accompanied by a daily Christmas performance by a group of trombonists on the Old Town Hall balcony.
Vats of crimson, cinnamon-y Glühwein are native to any Weihnachtsmarkt. The drink is inescapable during the German Christmas celebrations, and while it’s delicious, it can get a bit samey. But not at the Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt! Obstland, a company from Saxony, brings some much needed variety to this local Christmas market experience with some wacky flavoured mulled wines; from apple and pear punch, to cherry, raspberry, plum, and more.
So say Prost to the Christmas season! And when it's all over, that sad, syrupy Glühwein-flavoured taste in your mouth will be a little different this time around.
Try some traditional treats at a German Christmas market this year
Christmas markets are a lovely way to learn more about German traditions and regional food culture, so pick one from our list, put on your warmest socks, and head out!
Thumb image credit: Olga Viva / Body image credit: Corina Haselmayer / Shutterstock.com
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