Best Christmas Markets Tips in Germany and France. What to see, buy, and eat! Christmas in Stuttgart, Esslingen, Ludwigsburg, Colmar, and Frankfurt.
I had heard of a Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt) before we moved to Germany, but I didn’t really know a Christmas Market until I went to my first one last year. If you remotely enjoy the holiday season, then you are going to have to add visiting some Christmas Markets to your bucket list.
To be honest with you, I used to be lukewarm about Christmas. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I started to like it more when the kids were about 3. That’s the year that they really get it. They believe in Santa – hook, line, and sinker – and you get to experience the magic of Christmas alongside them. My older kids really love Christmas, not just the gifts, but the feeling of Christmas. Their enthusiasm for the holidays has been contagious and each year I love it a little more than the year before. I’m not one to play Christmas carols in October or put up my tree before we eat our turkey dinner. But now, the 3.5 weeks that I allow myself to really get in there and enjoy Christmas, I do.
I know that the holidays can be crazy. Too many things to do, spending too much money, and more often than not, you are over it before the actual holiday arrives. If you are feeling Grinch-y and want to rekindle your love affair with Christmas, get thee to a Christmas Market STAT.
What is a Christmas Market exactly? Well, the closest thing that I can think of is a Christmas-themed state fair. Lots of European cities have them, some are smaller, some are really big, and most have something that they are known for. Our town of Stuttgart has one of the largest in the area and it is a sight to behold.
There is delicious food, gluhwein (mulled red or white wine) in a collectors mug (you know how I love a mug), amazing decorations, sometimes rides or ice skating, usually live music or a show, and lots and lots of stands to buy treats and decorations. Some are themed. For example, the Esslingen market is a medieval theme. The vendors are dressed in costume and the games are ones you would play in medieval times. There is a chocolate market, a wine market, and most have something they are known for.
(Esslingen Medieval Christmas Market)
Last year, we didn’t go to the Stuttgart one until the 23rd, and when I rode the escalator from the train to street level and saw what I had been missing, I had a lot of regrets. Why hadn’t I gone to the one 10 minutes from my house before then? I bought my first pyramid there and a few other little trinkets that I can’t wait to take out and use this year.
If you are looking for a magical holiday date night, take your love to a market. You will feel like you are walking in Hallmark Christmas movie. You can wear your cutest hat and scarf, sip hot wine, and take it all of the Christmas magic. It’s also a super fun friend date. Grab some girlfriends, bring your favorite Swig, and take the train so no one has to drive. My kids really love Christmas Markets too. The boys are there for the snacks, but Ava is a Christmas lover, so she’s into all of it.
There are lots of things to buy at the markets that are uniquely European or German. I have a deep love for the Christmas Pyramids. I bought my first at a market and have added a few more to my collection this year. There are handmade ornaments, crafts, and food gifts like homemade liqueurs. If you see something you love, get it. The stalls don’t have a lot of space, so they don’t usually have extra and you will go back and it will be gone. Speaking from experience.
This year we did 5 markets in 5 days. My cousin came for a visit and we went to Stuttgart, Colmar, Esslingen, Ludwigsburg, and Frankfurt. (Last year, we went to Edinburgh, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, and Prague.) 4 out of 5 days it was rainy and grey. It did not dampen the experience (no pun intended). It wasn’t super cold, but one day was pretty wet. Dress in layers and check the weather before you leave the house.
I am going to miss the Christmas Markets when we move back to the states this year.
(Ludwigsburg Baroque Christmas Market)
Here are some tips for getting the most out of Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas Market season //
Make a plan. If you are planning on going to a few different markets, check to see when they open. Not all are open every day. Some of the smaller ones are only open on weekends.
Avoid the crowds. I don’t love a crowd, so I go early in the day. I also try to go during the week. You can get closer to the vendors and it’s a more pleasurable experience.
Bring cash. Most vendors only accept cash. (In Germany overall, cash is expected and lots of places do not take cards.) Also, have small bills and lots of coins.
Collect the mugs. Each market has their own gluhwein mug. I like to keep them as souvenirs. If you don’t want to, you can turn them back in and you will get your deposit back.
Sample the local foods. We’ve discovered a lot of delicious things to eat at Christmas Markets. Prague introduced us to Chimney Cake (Baumstriezel or Kürtőskalács), Frankfurt has potato pancakes with applesauce (kartoffelpuffer), Nürnberg rostbratwurst, and Colmar has crepes and roasted chestnuts (marrons). There is so much to eat. Our favorite way to do it is to get one of something, share it, and keep going. That way you can taste more things.
Bring baby wipes. You will for sure get splashed with gluhwein and have to wipe chocolate off of someone’s face.
(Frankfurt Christmas Market)
Best Christmas Markets Tips in Germany and France – If you are planning a trip to Europe, consider going during Advent. It is a magical time in Europe and an opportunity to see lots of towns at their finest.