It’s hard to beat Christmas in Germany. No matter which town you’re in, there will probably be a Christmas market nearby, and often several of them. With a dusting of snow, those storybook towns look especially enchanting. Then, there is all the delicious traditional German fare, mulled wine and everything else that comes with the holidays to enjoy. With so many great destinations to visit this time of year, it’s hard to choose the best, but these spots are truly magical for a Christmas getaway.
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Nuremberg (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Head to Nuremberg and you can enjoy one of the largest Christmas markets on the planet, drawing more than two million visitors each year and some 200 select vendors that set up incredible displays while competing for the Most Beautiful Staff Design award. There are no fake, mass-produced plastic decorations and the like here, the market council is very serious about making sure that only traditional handmade toys and holiday goods are sold. You can also enjoy the tempting aromas and tastes of mulled wine, gingerbread, sausage and sweet roasted almonds, all in an unforgettable holiday atmosphere in the Old Town. The Toy Museum and the grand two-tiered carousel based on old originals – complete with reindeer and Father Christmas sleighs, are particular delights.
Cologne (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Cologne is especially irresistible at Christmas, with its impressive buildings, holiday decor and town center markets. It hosts eight different Christmas markets on both sides of the Rhine including the largest, located on the plaza in front of the city’s iconic cathedral, the Kolner Dam. Enjoy sipping hot gluhwein, a spiced mulled wine that is sure to warm even the deepest chill, stroll the markets to search for that perfect gift, yummy foods and all sorts of decorations for the holidays. Cologne also has 2,000 years of history to explore, a chocolate museum and an outstanding contemporary art scene.
Dresden (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Dresden boasts the most Christmas markets in the eastern region of Germany and it also hosts its oldest seasonal event, the Striezel Christmas Market which dates back to 1434. Situated at Altmarkt Square in the historical city center, it’s surrounded by various themed holiday markets that span all the way to the main railway station and the Albertplatz. Some of the best handcrafted items Germany has to offer can be found here, including pottery from Lusatia, gingerbread from Pulsnitz, blown glass from Lauscha, wooden crafts from the Ore Mountains and much more.
Hamburg (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Hamburg is fabulous at Christmas too, with 15 different Christmas markets, bringing something for just about every taste. Spielzeuggasse, or Toy Street, is jam-packed with fun items from across the world, while traditionalists will especially appreciate the Hamburg Town Hall Christmas Market with its hand-crafted holiday decor from the Erzgebirge region as well as pottery made by artists from the Lausitz region. There are bakers from Aachen and woodcarvers from Tyrol, while silversmiths and a host of other artisans and craftsmen from across Germany that make for an incredibly enticing atmosphere. The holiday parades are a highlight, complete with Santa and his reindeer, and take place on the four Saturdays before Christmas Day.
Freiburg (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Freiburg has a magical atmosphere all year long, located at the edge of the wooded slopes of the alluring Black Forest, but it’s exceptional around the holidays, with the Freiburg Christmas market set right in the heart of the historical old city. Here visitors and locals of all ages can enjoy a wide range of traditional crafts, including glass blowing and colorful wooden toys. There’s lots of mulled wine, grilled sausages, gingerbread and roast chestnuts with the blended scents wafting down picturesque narrow, cobbled streets. Shop for ceramics, candles, puppets, jewelry, Christmas decor and lots more.
Cochem (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Cochem is surely one of the most charming towns in all of Germany,with legend, folklore and a rich history around every corner. Nestled in the scenic Mosel river valley between the Eifel and Hundsruck, it’s surrounded by steep vineyards with Riesling grapes producing some of the country’s finest white wine, but at Christmas, visitors can also take part in Advent Magic on the medieval market square. “Christmas at the castle” is a highlight, when the Christmas story is reenacted at Reichsburg Castle in a nativity play that includes live farm animals. Visitors can also sample unique culinary highlights like Riesling Stollen and waffles with red vineyard peach mousse.
Stuttgart (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Stuttgart is renowned for its traditional, hearty fare with many eateries offering dishes like spatzle, a type of pasta dumpling with a heaping of cheese, but during the holidays, the Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt is what attracts so many here. It’s been hosted for over three centuries, as one of Germany’s most famous and beloved pre-holiday events, a time when it’s transformed into a dazzling Christmas town. In the car-free old heart of the city, you’ll note the smell of spiced wine and boughs of fresh pine in the air. More than 280 stalls line the cobblestone streets, all decked out with colorful ornaments and twinkling lights in a competition for the coveted title of “best decorated.” Enjoy the festive concerts featuring seasonal tunes in the Renaissance courtyard of the Old Palace and “Winterland” on Palace Square that make for an especially enchanting Christmas atmosphere.
Monschau (Hotel Prices & Photos)
This beautiful small town close to the border of Belgium in the Eifel region has an especially impressive historic center with pretty narrow streets lined with well-preserved half-timbered houses. In the winter, it’s transformed into an idyllic Christmas town where the aroma of warm apples and shortbread fill the air, enticing visitors into bakeries, while wooden games and other toys spill out doorways looking as if they were just made by one of Santa’s elves. In its famous Christmas Market, wooden huts are packed like stockings, providing everything from hand-carved nutcrackers and elaborate music boxes to ginger cookies and mulled wine.
Quedlinburg (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Located just north of the Harz Mountains, Quedlinburg still evokes the Middle Ages as it managed to survive World War II unscathed, home to some of the most well-preserved medieval and Renaissance buildings in Europe. Its rambling, cobblestone streets meander around countless red-roofed half-timber houses, ancient buildings and set upon a sandstone cliff is the more than 1,000-year-old Romanesque collegiate church, St. Servatius, which towers over the city. At Christmas, it looks like a dream. Visitors are treated to seasonal music through December in the city hall, theater, churches an open, public spaces while medieval stands sell holiday treats and gifts.