From the northern coast to the Alps in the south, hardly a city in Germany can resist setting up their own Christmas market and stuffing it full of music and handicrafts, tempting scents and delicious flavours. It's hard to decide which to visit, but here we have chosen three of the most popular: the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt, Dresden's Striezelmarkt and the Weihnachtsmarkt of Ulm.
At Christmastide more than ever, Nuremberg is a quintessential German city, and the Christ Child sends his messenger, the Christmas Angel, to open the traditional market held in the old city. The magical atmosphere of the Christkindlesmarkt is flavoured with the rich spicy sweetness of lebkuchen cakes and cookies, tasty bratwurst and many more local and national specialities, and offers lots to do and experience. There are concerts and choirs in the churches, traditional Nativity scenes in the baroque church of St. Egidien, historical market stalls at the Town Hall, and a children's Christmas market on Hans Sachs square. The international market on Rathausplatz features Nurenberg's twin towns, and there are arts and crafts in the Handwerkerhof. The streets are all decked out with Christmas lights, and the beautiful figure of the Angel makes regular appearances.
In the Munsterplatz – the cathedral square of Ulm – the tallest steeple in the world provides the majestic backdrop for the Ulmer Weihnachtsmarkt, the town's Christmas market. The scene is lit by shimmering lights, and and the sounds of trumpets echo through air sweet with the aroma of caramelised roast almonds. Over 120 stalls feature in the festivities, there are life-sized nativity scenes and real sheep feed by the manger. In the magical setting of a traditional yurt, expert story-tellers bring fairytales to life. The town steps back into the past and visitors find themselves witnessing a medieval blacksmith busy at his anvil, candle makers, archers and knife throwers, and a wide range of traditional medieval arts and crafts. Christmas travel deals and guided tours of the city complete Ulm's special festive programme.
The Striezelmarkt on the old market square in Dresden is Germany's oldest Christmas market and dates all the way back to 1434. The market has always been associated with good food: it originated as the place to buy the roast for the Christmas feast, then baked goods were added, and soon the event took the name 'Striezel', another name for stollen, that marvellous festive fruity delight. Every year, the Stollen festival is held in honour of this famous cake: an enormous stollen weighing around four tonnes is paraded through the streets to the Striezelmarkt, where it is ceremoniously cut and handed out. On its way through the streets, the giant cake passes some of the city's most famous monuments: Zwinger Palace, Semper Opera House, Dresden Cathedral and the Church of Our Lady. Today, the market is a treasure trove of local and traditional crafts: carved wooden items from the mountain villages of Erzgebirge, blue printed items and pottery from Lusatia, gingerbread from Pulsnitz, intricate hand-made lace from Plauen and handmade advent stars from Herrnhut. At the heart of the proceedings is the world's largest Christmas pyramid in the Erzgebirge style. Standing over 14 metres high, it provides the setting for the pyramid festival, a singing contest with a seasonal slant.
Tourism in Germany