State by state: A guide to visiting German Christmas markets in 2021
Germany’s famous Christmas markets are a much-anticipated attraction each year. After last year’s markets were mostly cancelled due to COVID-19, many are making a comeback in 2021. Here’s an overview of which markets are definitely returning, and what rules and restrictions will be in place.
German Christmas markets reopen in 2021
If there’s one thing you need for a traditional German Christmas, it’s a good old Christmas market (Weihnachtsmarkt), complete with twinkling lights, handcrafted goodies, and a steaming mug of Glühwein.
After 2020 proved to be a major disappointment for Christmas market operators and attendees alike, the good news is that many of Germany’s iconic markets are returning this year - some have already started, and others will open their huts over the next two weeks!
However, it won’t be quite “back to normal”. Would-be visitors will have to contend with a patchwork of different rules and COVID restrictions from state to state and even market to market, making some forward-planning essential. Here’s an overview of what restrictions have been announced in each federal state so far, and which major markets are confirmed in 2021.
The state government in Baden-Württemberg has agreed that Christmas markets can reopen this year, with certain restrictions in place. In principle, visitors will not need a 3G certificate (showing they are vaccinated, recovered, or tested) to browse the stands, but it will be required in areas where food or drink is served, or if there are rides or performances. If food and drink stands are interspersed with the other stalls, the 3G rule will apply across the whole market.
Visitors who have their proof checked will be given a stamp or wristband, and there will be random spot checks. A mask requirement will also apply. Should the infection rate rise rapidly, the markets may switch to a 2G rule, meaning only vaccinated and recovered people will be admitted.
The following Christmas markets have all confirmed that plans are underway to open in 2021:
- Stuttgart Christmas market
- Heidelberg Christmas market
Things are a little more relaxed in Bavaria, where a general 3G rule will not apply at outdoor markets. It will, however, be enforced in indoor catering establishments - for instance, if food or drinks are served inside. Organisers of individual markets are allowed to apply stricter rules at their own discretion. Masks are not required at open-air markets, but if minimum distances cannot be maintained, they are recommended. Should infections rise further, 3G rules or (according to the market’s preference) 2G rules will apply in indoor areas.
These markets are planning to open without entry restrictions:
In Berlin, the Senate has left it up to individual organisers to decide whether to use 3G or 2G rules. Many of the largest Christmas markets in Berlin have so far opted for the more restrictive entry policy - admitting only vaccinated or recovered people - as it allows them to take place largely without COVID measures. Some will only have 3G rules, but visitors will be required to wear masks and socially distance.
The following markets are opening under 2G rules:
- Rotes Rathaus
- Spandau Citadel
- Advent Market at Domäne Dahlem
These markets will have 3G rules:
- Prenzlauer Berg
- “Winter World” at Potsdamer Platz
- Lucia-Weihnachtsmarkt at the Kulturbrauerei
Like Berlin, Brandenburg will also allow larger markets to decide between a 3G entry policy or a 2G one, while smaller markets with fewer than 1.000 visitors can open without any entry restrictions. Organisers will, however, be asked to collect the contact data of visitors, and recommend that they socially distance, or wear a mask where this isn’t possible. At indoor markets, masks will be mandatory.
These markets will return to Brandenburg in 2021:
- Frankfurt (Oder)
- Brandenburg an der Havel
- Spreewaldweihnacht (3G rule)
In the smallest federal state in Germany, Bremen, plans are underway to hold the traditional Christmas market in the city centre, but other details have not yet been released. The market in Bremerhaven should also open “almost like in normal years”. There will be a larger distance than usual between the stalls at both markets, and no mask requirement is planned so far.
These markets are opening in Bremen this year:
So far, these markets have confirmed that they will return in 2021:
- Roncalli Christmas market on Rathausmarkt (with 2G rules for eating and drinking areas)
- Christmas market at Gerhart-Hauptmann-Platz (2G rule)
- Hanseatische Weihnachten on Spitalerstraße (2G rule at Glühwein stands)
- Winter Pride in St. Georg (2G rule)
- Santa Pauli (2G rule likely)
Hesse has not yet finalised its plans for COVID rules at Christmas markets, but it seems likely that some measures will be in place, such as compulsory mask-wearing, but not general entry requirements like 3G or 2G rules.
Among others, these Christmas markets in Hesse are planning to reopen this year:
- Frankfurt Christmas market
Lower Saxony will impose 3G rules on visitors who want to eat, drink or use the rides at Christmas markets in the state this year, with exceptions made for children and young people under the age of 18. Some markets may be cordoned off so that visitors’ status can be checked upon entry, while others will require individual stallholders to check. Should the infection rate rise, individual markets may switch to the 2G model.
Plans are underway for the following Christmas markets in Lower Saxony:
In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the 3G rule will apply to indoor areas of Christmas markets, but there will be no entry restrictions for outdoor areas, so long as social distancing can take place.
The following markets are making plans to open in November:
The 3G rule applies to all Christmas markets in North Rhine-Westphalia, meaning that visitors must prove they are vaccinated, recovered, or have tested negative for coronavirus. There will be random checks in place. Individual markets will also be allowed to opt for 2G rules. Masks and social distancing are recommended, but not compulsory.
These markets have confirmed that they are returning in 2021, but not all have confirmed whether they are using a 2G or 3G entry policy:
- Aachen Christmas market
- Cologne Christmas markets (3G rule)
- Dortmund Christmas City
- Düsseldorf Christmas market
- Duisberg (2G rule)
Rhineland-Palatinate has relaxed its restrictions in the lead-up to Christmas market season, allowing stalls to go ahead with no mask requirements, no 3G rule, and no capacity restrictions.
These markets will go ahead this year:
After many COVID restrictions were dropped in Saarland on October 29, it’s possible that Christmas markets in the state will be allowed to go ahead without any measures in place. According to RND, contact tracing, mask-wearing and 3G entry rules will not be a feature of markets in Saarland.
The following markets are confirmed for 2021 in Saarland:
- Saarbrücken Christkindlmarkt
It’s not yet confirmed, but it seems likely that Saxony will make an exception to its COVID regulations for Christmas markets this year, meaning that certain measures like 3G rules, contact tracing and maximum visitor limits can be dispensed with, so long as infection rates remain below a preset limit.
If infection rates rise above the “warning level”, markets will be divided into “walking” and “standing” areas. Under certain conditions, visitors will not be required to wear masks in the standing areas, where food and drinks can be served.
These markets have already posted their dates for 2021:
In Saxony-Anhalt, similarly, it seems that Christmas markets will be allowed to go ahead relatively freely. In some places, stalls are being broken up to allow for more social distancing, but there are unlikely to be any entrance controls for visitors. Guests will be advised to wear masks.
These markets in Saxony-Anhalt are planning to go ahead:
Schleswig-Holstein is also taking a relaxed approach to Christmas markets and is likely to allow them to go ahead without any measures in place. Some individual markets may opt for limited visitor numbers to avoid crowding.
Plans are underway for the following markets to open in 2021:
In Thuringia, things are a bit more patchy, with some markets opting for 2G rules, while others dispense with restrictions altogether.
These markets are making plans to open:
- Erfurt (2G rule)
Our best advice: Plan your trip
Due to the dynamic infection situation, it’s possible that rules and restrictions will change last-minute, or markets be cancelled altogether. If you’re planning a trip to a market, it’s therefore a good idea to check for any last-minute updates and make sure everything is still running.
All being well, the markets should remain open for the whole of the advent season for all to safely enjoy. We’ll see you there. Fröhliche Weihnachten!