Christmas markets are a European tradition whose origins go back into the mist of times. The first such fair took place in 1434 in Dresden, Germany. Although since then, the concept has been exported worldwide, Germany remains the top destination for all those who want to understand what a Christmas fair really means. By the end of November, as soon as the cold weather makes its appearance, the holiday magic settles everywhere in Germany. Illuminated with thousands of lights, city squares and streets come alive. Merchants offer treats and mulled wine to passers-by in search of the perfect gift for their loved ones. The atmosphere is unique and worth traveling for.
When you say Christmas markets, you say Germany, and when you say German Christmas fairs, you first think of Dresden. The ancestor of all Christmas markets, strizelmarkt in Dresden is famous for the original handcrafted products you can find here, as well as for the traditional yeast cake called Stollen. A huge such cake is prepared on December 8th and all visitors of this market can have a bite. In the center of the market, you will notice a resplendent 14 meters high Christmas pyramid - the Erzgebirge – around which a singing competition is held for young and old participants alike.
In the same area of the country, you can visit Meissen Christmas market – reputed worldwide for its china products, also known as Dresden porcelain.
In East Germany should not miss to the numerous Christmas markets (more than 60) held in Berlin. The one in Spandau is the largest, gathering 250 stands on a daily basis and the number goes up to 400 during the weekend. The Christmas fair organized in Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and the one you can find in front of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf palace are equally impressive.
If you are into Christmas fairs, you should also head to Nuremberg. This German city hosts one of the largest and most famous European markets. Dating from the mid 16th century, the market now attracts over two million visitors each year with its famous Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookie) and its traditional Zwetschgenmännle (figurines made of plums). These are also great ideas of gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones.
Another attraction worth visiting in the region of Bavaria is the Christmas market on the Marienplatz in Munich. When night falls and the snow glistens on the roofs of the stands, this market presents itself at its most beautiful appearance. A lot smaller, but equally beautiful is the winter fair of Garmisch-Partenkirchen – a famous resort in the Bavarian Alps.
Other charming discoveries – the markets set up in Germany's historic towns will provide you with a more comprehensive perspective on the way Christmas is celebrated in Germany. A charming little town in the center of an important wine region, Freiburg im Breisgau is home to a traditional Christmas market, where you can buy lots of toys and make your own Christmas candles.
In Schwäbisch Hall market you can indulge yourself with local culinary delights and a lot of chocolate delicacies. Remaining in Bavaria, you can visit Bad Wimpfen for Christmas market with a medieval touch, while in Nördlingen im Ries – a beautiful city with very well preserved medieval walls – you will apreciate the romantic spirit of the local winter fair.