The trip to Baden-Württemberg was made together with the German Tourist Board, but all opinions and thoughts are, as usual, my own.
No country is so associated with fabulous Christmas markets (Christmas Market) as Germany. In every city and in every village, the city center is dressed in a thick layer of Christmas atmosphere through fir branches, Christmas balls and lights. Rows of decorated market stalls are lined with singing choirs and thick steam from the many food stalls.
Going to a Christmas market in Germany is not primarily for shopping, but here you meet to eat and socialize. Here you meet the neighbors and relatives and talk nonsense over a cup of warm wine. Maybe you buy a new little handmade angel for the collection or take the opportunity to buy some delicacies for the weekend. Because at the Christmas market in Germany, there is everything that gets you in the Christmas spirit - in abundance.
Christmas markets in Germany are a tradition that has existed since the 17th century, but since the 1960s, interest in this cultural phenomenon has only increased. Stuttgart's market alone attracts an incredible 3,5 million visitors every year - and the visitors come from all corners of the world.
Christmas markets in Germany usually start on the weekend of the first Advent. In the bigger cities the market runs every day until Christmas, while in smaller cities the markets are only on weekends or only during a specific weekend. You don't have to go far to find a market, as it is estimated that there are close to 3000 Christmas markets in Germany alone.
Food and drink are an important feature of a Christmas market. Mulled wine is a popular mulled wine seasoned with Christmas spices such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise and orange. All locals have their favorite glühwein vendor that they go to every year and they'll be happy to show you there. It must be sellers where the mulled wine is not too sweet and it is important that it is made from local wine. In some parts of Germany, mostly red wine is produced, which is also reflected in the range of glühwein. In other parts of Germany, white wine or even rosé is just as popular. Regardless of the city, the queues for the popular places are always long. Glühwein is drunk naturally, without almonds or raisins.
Another popular drink is apple punch – warm and child-friendly apple juice with festive spices.
A good thing for the environment is that the hot drinks sold at the Christmas markets are served in real glasses/mugs and you pay a deposit of a few euros when you buy a cup of drink. When you've finished drinking, you can choose to keep the mug or return it and get your deposit back. Sustainable and clearly much nicer than drinking from a cardboard cup.
On the food front, it's easy to indulge in everything good, and sausages are always available in a variety of different varieties. In Baden-Württemberg, the most local is the sausage long rote - a 35 centimeter long sausage that is always served cracked in half in a piece of bread, as it would otherwise be impossible to eat in the crowd.
Other popular dishes are cheese spätzel (German mac'n cheese), hand-wringing (bread with filling) and different types of fried potatoes (eg potato pancakes or apples).
On the candy front, there is also a lot to choose from. Chocolate-dipped fruit on a stick, candied apples, different kinds of nuts and gingerbread (soft gingerbread) is popular to snack on.
On my trip around Baden-Württemberg, I managed to visit three Christmas markets with very different characters - One gigantic (and a bit kitschy), one classic and one that was beautiful like a fairy tale. Join us for Freiburg, Stuttgart and the Ravenna Winery!
Freiburg – Classic Christmas market
Freiburg is a city with a lot of sustainability thinking and with a charming old town center with a large Gothic cathedral, half-timbered houses and cobbled streets. Here, among the streets and squares, you will find a classic and convivial Christmas market with around 130 vendors spread over several different areas of the city.
The market runs daily from the end of November to the 23rd of December and is very popular at weekends.
Watch where you step in the winter darkness! In Freiburg the small water channels run bächle like ditches along almost all major streets and people fall down and injure themselves - especially after dark.
Read more about the Christmas market in Freiburg at Visit Freiburg.
Ravenna Wine - Fairytale Christmas Market
Under a 40 meter high train bridge that looks like a Roman aqueduct, there is an incredibly beautiful Christmas market with about 40 vendors. The Christmas market in Ravenna Wine (Ravenna Gorge) is a happening in the entire region and you will not enter if you have not booked a ticket in advance online. In 2023, tickets sold out well in advance, so a visit here requires some planning!
The Christmas market has a strong focus on environmental thinking and sustainability. Apart from glasses/cups with a deposit, no food is served here with plastic cutlery, but sustainable products such as bamboo and paper have been chosen. There are very few parking spaces and instead there is a free bus that takes you to the Christmas market. All lights are LED and all electricity is produced by hydropower. The products sold are also (mostly) regional.
Read more about the Christmas market in Ravenna wine at Hey Black Forest.
Stuttgart – Gigantic and kitschy Christmas market
In the heart of Baden-Württemberg lies the state capital Stuttgart. For over 300 years there has been a Christmas market here, making Stuttgart's market one of the oldest (and largest) in Europe.
During December, the entire center of Stuttgart is transformed into one big Christmas party with over 300 vendors. Street after street, square after square is filled with the most fantastic little Christmas cottages. What is special about Stuttgart is the extremely decorated roofs of the cottages. This is said to be the most kitschy market in Germany and I can see why. The ceilings are filled with giant Christmas baubles, glittering reindeer, fir trees, elves and lights in an abundance of decorations. Stuttgart's Christmas market is simply a little extra of everything.
On the Schlossplatz, a light festival is taking place and all of Stuttgart's greats are displayed in brilliant Christmas decorations – everything from a shining Porsche to a large wine glass, a TV tower, a galloping horse or a football player. There are also two Ferris wheels (one large and one for children) and a miniature train.
Read more about Stuttgart's Christmas market at Stuttgarter Weinachtsmarkt.
Have you been to one of the three Christmas markets? What is your favorite Christmas market in Germany?
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Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.