Glühwein und Bratwurst: German Christmas markets!

by Michelle on December 14, 2012 · 17 comments

One of the most (if not the most) exciting things about the Christmas season in Germany are the Christmas markets! It’s kind of fun watching stalls slowly being set up throughout the month of November in the city centre, and they usually officially open near the end of November, until sometime in January. Known in German as the “Weihnachtsmarkt,” it’s basically a street market that every city and town has, which is lined with stalls selling drinks, food, souvenirs, and handmade crafts like ornaments, paintings, and jewellery!

While I’m not sure how many people are lining up excitedly to buy ornaments, it’s really common to find long line-ups in front of stalls selling food like bratwurst, and drinks like glühwein (hot mulled wine)…and for good reason too!

This year being my first year going to these Christmas markets, I decided that I must go all out. Why just go to ONE when I can go to FIVE?! (six if you count the one in Speyer I’m going to on Monday!) Clearly an addiction is forming, so good thing Christmas markets are a seasonal thing!

Here’s where I’ve been so far…

Heidelberg

The Heidelberg Christmas market was one of the earliest to open, and was the first Christmas market I went to. While I loved it since I went with my German boyfriend who studies there, I was also a bit disappointed that it wasn’t as big as I was expecting. The stalls were also scattered around the city, rather than all in one area, which breaks off that “Christmas Winter Wonderland” image I had.

Verdict: See, but beware of how overly packed it is. Then again, Heidelberg’s a gorgeous city, so going there any time of the year is always fun!

Bonn

I went to the Bonn Christmas market with three friends for a weekend, and was surprised by how big it is! You can easily get lost in the rows and rows of stalls they have, selling almost anything you can imagine. It’s not as busy during the day, but at night, it’s just completely packed with people. It’s a pretty lively crowd though, and it’s easy to get lost in the glowing lights. The star shaped lights that line the streets are also exceptionally pretty.

Verdict: A must see. It’s one of the larger markets in Germany, so if you’re looking for a complete “Christmas market experience,” this is it!

Ludwigshafen

Ok I’m not sure if I can count actually “experiencing” the Ludwigshafen Christmas market, since I mostly just walked through it on the way home from work one day out of curiosity. It’s located conveniently in Berliner Platz, where I have to switch trams to go home. It’s nice as all Christmas markets tend to be, but there wasn’t anything special about it. Like most things related to Ludwigshafen, people tend to talk about it without much enthusiasm.

Verdict: Pass, unless you’re a local.

Mannheim

Mannheim actually has two different Christmas markets, and I didn’t end up checking it out until it’s been open for a few weeks despite living here! They have one by the Wasserturm (water tower), and one which most people nickname “the Engelhorn one”, since it’s right across from the Engelhorn department store. The Wasserturm one is a lot bigger, but it’s also very touristy, and most of the stalls sell mainly souvenirs.

Locals prefer the Engelhorn one a lot more, since it’s a lot smaller, and all the drink and food stalls means that it’s a nice place to hang out with friends. The Engelhorn one is also where a friend introduced me to a drink called “feuerzangenbowle,” which most people describe as “that drink that gets you drunk really fast.” And they’re right.

Verdict: The Engelhorn Christmas market is a see, especially if you’re with a group of friends!

Strasbourg

The Strasbourg Christmas market is the only non-German one I’ve been to, although when in Strasbourg, it’s pretty cool to hear a mix of French, English and German being spoken where ever you go. I actually think the Strasbourg one is my favourite (ironically enough!), since it was just so lively there. Unlike the Germans, the French stall workers are very entertaining, and with everyone running around, shouting, laughing loudly and engaging in many acts of merriment, it definitely felt the most festive.

The Canadian friend I went with also commented on how the French seem so much “warmer,” which makes you “just want to buy everything,” which is totally true as well! Sorry wallet!

While I’ve never bought more than some drinks or bratwurst at a Christmas market, everything in Strasbourg just seemed so tempting…

“Chocolate covered bananas!!!”

“Candy apples!!!”

“Crepes!!!”

“Waffles!!!”

“Ornaments!!!!!!!!!”

Me and my friend also tried a drink called the “hot orange,” and while it’s non-alcoholic, it was heavenly. Definitely worth a try if you happen to be at a Christmas market!

Verdict: A must see! And try the hot orange!

And so, now I definitely understand why everyone’s so excited for the Christmas markets every year. While the weather is getting pretty cold these days, there’s nothing like a cup of glühwein (or hot orange!) to warm you up!

Which Christmas markets have you been to? Which ones are your favourites?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

evgueni December 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I went to German Christmas Market in Vancouver! it was small, but seemed real! there was potato soup and awesome hot cider (i forgot name) and I bought a Das boot as well as a beer mug for Steve with prince Ludovic on it!!! you are lucky to go in Germany!!!!

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Michelle Michelle December 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

Oh that’s cool!! Wait, a Boot? You bought a boat??? And haha, I’m sure Steve will love that!

There’s one in Montreal too! Have you been there yet?

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evgueni December 17, 2012 at 3:53 am

wow you are right there is one! i want to go!!! i meant Das Boot (its a glass boooot that u put a lot of beer in)!

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Daniel McBane - Funny Travel Stories December 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Haha! This is what can happen when you learn German from the movie Beerfest… ‘Boot’ in German means ‘boat’ in English. ‘Stiefel’ means ‘boot’, as in the thing you wear on your foot. And ‘Das Boot’ is a movie about a WWII submarine (starring the same actor who played the bad guy in Beerfest, hence the pun with the glass boot).

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Michelle Michelle December 17, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Eugene – You should go and post pics on FB! :)

Daniel – Good point! Yea lots of German words look like English, so I can totally see why lots of people confuse “Boot” with “boot”. Same with words like Rock, Hell, Bad, etc! I’ve heard of Das Boot (it’s based on a book right?), but haven’t seen that…or Beerfest!

Shaun December 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I LOVE Crepes!!!!! Nice write up too! Made me interested in the Bonn one.

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Michelle Michelle December 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

Thanks!!! Yea crepes are amazing. Good thing for the French in Canada, and giving us all those good crepes restaurants back home too! :)

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Red Nomad OZ December 16, 2012 at 9:23 am

I’ve always found drinks with names you can’t pronounce to be the most deadly!!! And what did you buy – or is that a secret until Xmastime??!?!?

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Michelle Michelle December 16, 2012 at 11:04 am

Haha you’re so right! It took me a few tries before I was actually able to pronounce it! And funny that you ask, because my next blog post is going to be able Christmas presents! :P

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Red Nomad OZ December 16, 2012 at 9:28 am

PS Tried to share, but your share thingy doesn’t seem to be working for Twitter. It worked for LinkedIN tho …

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Michelle Michelle December 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

That’s strange, I just checked the share thing and mine seems to be working! Maybe it was just a glitch and you have to refresh the page or something! :P

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Alex @ ifs ands & butts December 17, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I loved Strasbourg, but not so much the Christmas market there. The lanes/alleys were sooo narrow and crowded and they served up all the awful touristy stuff more than anything. Beautiful city though http://www.ifsandsandbutts.com/2012/12/christmas-time-in-strasbourg-france-and-one-big-brain-fart.html

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Michelle Michelle December 17, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Yea it was pretty crowded!! Well one of them was. There’s another one near the train station that was pretty quiet.

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Caroline December 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm

I’ve been to Christmas markets in Berlin and Prague, and boy to the Germans know how to celebrate! This post made me want to hop on a plane haha. Every year I tell myself I’ll visit the one in the Distillery District in Toronto, but I never do and always regret it.

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Michelle Michelle December 17, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Haha the Distillery District. I remember one summer, I got this “trial” job at this furniture/home ware store there, that I worked for a day. I must’ve been really bad at selling furniture though because they mailed me a cheque for the hours I worked and never called me back!

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Hannah December 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm

i’ve been to quite a few christmas markets in and outside of germany and i believe the most gorgeous one is in Berlin Mitte at the Gendarmenmarkt. However, you have to pay for it to even get inside. Isn’t that just crazy?! haha

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Michelle Michelle December 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Paying to go into a Christmas market?! That is crazy! Hope it’s worth it though! :)

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