Today Adi shares her Top 5 German Christmas Markets, near Stuttgart, filled with holiday cheer.
Every time Christmas comes around, people who live in Europe try to decide which Christmas markets are the best to visit. Of course, it all depends on where you live. In Germany, the selection of markets, big and small, is huge. Choosing between them all is not easy. However if I had to pick, these five markets are the ones I would visit again and again.
1. Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt
Stuttgart’s Weihnachtsmarkt, the oldest (first mentioned in 1692) and one of the biggest Christmas markets in Germany, can be enjoyed for an entire month, from November 25th to December 23rd. Visit it for the lovingly designed chalet roofs and for the lights adorning the entire city center. Enjoy the delicious hot glühwein, while browsing for handmade treasures.
The Stuttgart Christmas Market stretches from the Schlossplatz down to Karlsplatz and Schillerplatz. It’s fairly crowded, so moving fast is not really an option. On the upside, moving slowly gives you the chance to stop and taste the food on offer along the way. To me, this market is special because it’s the very first market we visited when we arrived in Germany. I hadn’t seen one before and the lights and goodies mesmerized me. Now that we are back in the area, I could not wait to see it again.
2. Düsseldorf Weihnachtsmarkt
Düsseldorf Weihnachtsmarkt begins on November 19th and ends December 23rd and takes place in several places. Part of the Christmas Market in Düsseldorf’s Old Town is the Angel Market, on the Heinrich-Heine-Platz, in front Carsch house. The other part of the Christmas Market takes place on the Flingerstraße, in the marketplace, and on Stadtbrückchen.
Known as the longest bar in the world, here you can find numerous restaurants, cafes, and pubs, where Christmas market visitors can warm up before considering where to explore next.
With many boutiques, shops, museums, and the Rhine promenade, the Old Town offers a colorful mix of options besides the Christmas festivities. My favorite part of this market is its large size and the constant flow of people moves smoothly, rather than people being stuck in one place. I also love the food diversity. There are plenty of yummy options, like wild game stews, soups in bread bowls, and traditional German dishes and sweets. The kids were happy to sample the sweet Dutch poffertjes and churros.
3. Altensteig Weihnachtsmarkt
Altensteig Weihnachtsmarkt is small if you compare it to the previous two, but it is still worth visiting. It’s only held on the first weekend in December and hosts about 60 chalets selling mostly handmade merchandise.
Part of Altensteig is built on a hill and the Christmas market is located at the top, around the church area. There is no parking available so you leave your car at the bottom and walk up. Don’t worry. The walk is short and the incline is not steep.
The reason I love this market is the location (the town is just gorgeous), and the food. For such a small market, the food choices surprised me. Apart from the traditional German food, you could sample Turkish cuisine (if you ask them to make it spicy they will), dishes from the Philippines, and something completely unexpected, food from Cameroon.
4. Esslingen Weihnachtsmarkt
Esslingen Weihnachtsmarkt will enchant your senses for a whole month, from November 24th to December 22nd when the center of town transforms to resemble the Middle Ages. Merchants in historical garments offer their goods for sale, just as they did hundreds of years ago. Craftsmen like pewter makers, felt makers, tinder makers, blacksmiths, rope makers, basket makers, broom makers, and glass blowers demonstrate their craftsmanship. In addition, more than five hundred programs await you on stage or in the streets. When it gets dark, fire artists swirl their torches in the air to the delight of the visitors. Our kids loved this market the most. It’s hard not to impress a kid when knights roam around and lit torches fly in the air at every corner.
The special highlights this year are falconry in the castle, a medieval dance evening, and the traditional torchlight procession at the winter solstice.
5. Ludwigsburg Barock Weihnachtsmarkt
The Ludwigsburg Barock Weihnachtsmarkt takes place in the Marktplatz from November 24th to December 22nd.
This year was the first time I visited this market and I fell in love with it right away. The air is filled with the smells of mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, and gingerbread. Visitors can stroll past more than one hundred and seventy-five lovingly decorated chalets. The range is extensive, from glass balls, nativity scenes, and figurines, to candles, incense from the Erzgebirge as well as traditional smokers, warm clothing and much more.
The smell of food will also draw you close. I still remember the taste of the superb pork sandwich I enjoyed there. The pork crackling alone would be a reason to return.
Younger visitors can look forward to puppet and magic shows and a colorful merry-go-round.
Top Tips for Enjoying a German Christmas Market:
- Go early, so you can avoid the big crowds. During the day, you will have a fair amount of people but the evenings are the worst. Visiting on a weekday is best, but if you can only visit during the weekend choose Sundays. From personal experience, they are typically more relaxed, even in the evening.
- Carry cash as few merchants accept cards. We experienced some credit card activity at the Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg markets but very little.
- Order one portion from the food you want to try and share. The portions are always big enough for sharing and you save money to try more food.
- Mind your pockets/bags/backpacks. This time of year, there are folks out there looking to take advantage of the crowds.
- Go hungry and sample as much food as you can.
- Return your glühwein glasses and food plates after you are done, so you can have your deposit reimbursed. It can be a lot of money. At the Esslingen market, vendors charge 5 euro/cup/bowl/plate of food and drinks, all paid ahead.
- Dress warmly if you are planning on staying out in the evening. While the temperatures have been warm for this time of year, the evenings get cold.
- If traveling with infants, consider baby wearing. It’s so much easier to get around if you do not have a stroller. If you have toddlers and you need one, avoid small umbrella strollers. Most markets take place in the old centers which are usually paved with rough cobblestones.
Whether you are looking to buy handmade gifts for loved ones, delight your eyes with the millions of Christmas lights, or taste some delicious food and drinks, these Christmas markets will most certainly not disappoint.