The list of the top ten best Christmas markets (Weihnachstsmärkte / Christkindlesmarkt) to visit in Germany include Nuremberg, Dresden, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Lübeck, Leipzig, Rothenburg, Cologne, and Dortmund.
A selection of the top ten best Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) to visit in Germany is not easy. Every town in Germany seems to have a Christmas market in the run-up to Xmas and every market display some regional differences. It is often more sensible to select a city to visit that has other attractions of interest for the time not spend at the Christmas market. In smaller towns, the Christmas markets are often held only one or two weekends while in the larger cities markets operate from around 25 November to a few days before Christmas. In Berlin, and to a lesser degree in other cities, Christmas markets are now sometimes extended to New Year’s Day but are rarely open on December 24.
My list of the top ten best Christmas markets in Germany, not necessarily in a fixed order, include:
Nuremberg / Nürnberg – Tradition-Rich Chirstkindles Markt
Nuremberg (Nürnberg) has one of the most famous and tradition-rich Christmas markets in Germany. Apart from the Christkindlesmarkt, the city has much to offer visitors. Top sights to see in Nuremberg include the largest collection of German cultural objects in the German National Museum, the historic Kaiserburg Imperial Castle, well-preserved town walls, sites associated with the Nazi Party Rallies, and interesting churches.
- Transportation to Nuremberg in Bavaria
Dresden’s Strieselmarkt – the Oldest Christmas Market in Germany
Dresden claims that its Strieselmarkt is the oldest Christmas market in Germany. It has been held since 1434. Furthermore, with a Christmas market spread from the station into Neustadt across the Elbe, Dresden claims to have the longest Christmas market in Germany too.
Dresden has some excellent museums, including the German Military History Museum (often referred to as the War Museum) in addition to its Baroque skyline and the recently restored Frauenkirche.
Berlin – the Largest Number of Christmas Markets in Germany
Berlin claims the largest number of Christmas markets in Germany – the city has around 50 official Christmas markets, although not all operate continuously during advent. Large markets are conveniently set up at the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche near the Berlin Zoologischer Garten station in the commercial heart of West Berlin while in the former East Berlin the Christmas market on the Gendarmenplatz is particularly picturesque. Many visitors consider the Christmas market in old town Spandau to the west of Berlin to be the best one in the city.
Berlin has endless museums and entertainment options for visitors who tire of Christmas markets. In Berlin, in contrast to most other cities, Christmas markets are often open after Christmas as well and even on Christmas Day itself.
- See also the Best Christmas Markets in Berlin
Frankfurt am Main – the Largest Christmas Market in Germany
Frankfurt am Main is a mostly modern city but its old town hosts the largest single Christmas market in Germany sporting the largest Christmas tree in Germany too. (Some dispute both claims.) Frankfurt am Main has excellent transportation infrastructure but for travelers unable to make it to the market in the old town, smaller Christmas markets are set up in the Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station) and Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) both by far the busiest transportation hubs in Germany.
Munich – Christmas Markets and Beer Halls
The main Chirstkindlmarkt in old town Munich (München) has a lovely location on the Marienplatz with the Neo-Gothic Munich Rathaus as the backdrop. The Bavarian capital is worth visiting in any season and the famous beer halls are open during advent as they are throughout the year.
Lübeck – Christmas Market with Brick Gothic Backgrounds
Lübeck, the Queen of the Hanse, has a beautiful historic old town on an island in the Trave River. The brick Gothic Rathaus and magnificent Marienkirche form the backdrop for the most beautiful Christmas market in Northern Germany.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber – The Most Romantic Christmas Market in Germany
The Reiterlesmarkt in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is not the largest Christmas market in Germany by far but the location is impossibly romantic, as befits this little town at the center of Germany’s popular Romantic Road (Romantische Straße). Wall-enclosed Rothenburg ob der Tauber maintains its medieval look and atmosphere and is never more romantic than during the Christmas season. Famous Christmas decoration manufacturer Käthe Wohlfahrt has several shops in town where it is Christmas every day of the year.
Cologne Christmas Markets – the Most Popular in Germany
Cologne (Köln) has six official large Christmas markets and claims to be the most popular Christmas market city in Germany with around 5 million visitors. Cologne’s success is a combination of lovely locations – including the square in front of the Kölner Dom, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world – and its proximity to Belgium and the Netherlands. Cologne’s Christmas market is also hugely popular with British visitors who arrive by air, coach, or train.
Leipzig Christmas Market with Huge Advent Calendar
Leipzig has a great Christmas market in the city of Bach, Faust, and great cultural offerings. The free-standing advent calendar may be the largest of its kind in the world. The Haus der Geschichte (free admission) is one of the greatest and most interesting museums on modern German history.
Dortmund – The Largest Christmas Market & Christmas Tree in Germany
Dortmund claims to host the largest Christmas market in Germany and having the largest Christmas tree in the world. Frankfurt claims the same but then Frankfurt has been known to be imaginative with statistics and marketing.
Christmas markets in Germany are very much the same irrespective of the city where they are held. Specialists will easily spot the difference but to the average visitors these matter little. When selecting a German city to visit for a Christmas market, major considerations should be the ease and cost of travel to the city as well as further entertainment options offered by the specific town – the average traveler can only spend so many hours at a Christmas market and these hours are best in the late afternoon / early evening when darkness and lights make for a magic combination.
See also Travel to German Advent Christmas Markets for more on when the markets are held and what is on offer.