Ask anyone who’s going to Germany for a pre-Christmas visit what they plan to do, they’re bound to tell you that they’ll visit a Christmas market. With over 150 Christmas markets in Germany they’ll be spoilt for choice, but there are many other unique and fun things to enjoy in Germany at Christmas time.
If you’re planning a pre-Christmas visit to Germany, I know you’ll visit at least one Christmas market but why not try some of these other fun experiences, too?
Here are 7 fun things to do at Christmas time in Germany.
Visit the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village and the German Christmas Museum
Christmas-lovers will be blown away by a visit to any of the seven Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shops in Germany. What started with the gift of a wooden music box to an American friend over 50 years ago has now become a thriving business that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Specialising in traditional German Christmas items, the stores are chock-full of gorgeous decorations to suit every taste and budget. Christmas baubles, nativity scenes, music boxes and Santa Claus figures are just some of the many Christmas items on display - and everything is for sale.
Adjoining the Kathe Wohlfahrt store, known as the Christmas Village, in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, is the German Christmas Museum which traces the history of Germany’s Christmas traditions. It provides a fascinating look into how Christmas in Germany was celebrated in years gone by.
All Kathe Wohlfahrt shops (and the Museum) are open year round and you can also find the company’s wares at many of Germany’s Christmas markets.
If you are in the vicinity of one of the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shops, I highly recommend a visit.
Location: You'll find Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas stores in the following German towns - Berlin, Heidelberg, Rüdesheim, Nürnberg, Bamberg, Oberammergau and Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber.
Attend the Kugelmarkt in Lauscha
The town of Lauscha is well known for its glass blowing, particularly Christmas baubles which are thought to have originated here, and every year the glass balls are on show at the Lauscha Kugelmarkt (ball market), held in December.
Lauscha’s first glass Christmas baubles – in the shape of fruits and nuts – were produced by one of the town’s glassblowers in 1847. Shortly after, the American company Woolworth began exporting the glass balls and a Christmas tradition began.
During the market, the town is transformed into a large pedestrian zone with stallholders offering a large selection of glass baubles for sale directly from the maker. You can even watch the glassblowers at work.
Today’s Christmas ornaments come in an assortment of shapes and colours and many feature intricate filigree hand decoration, paying homage to the traditional craftsmanship of years gone by.
Location: Lauscha is situated in the German state of Thuringia, in the centre of the country. It is 148 kilometres north of Nuremberg and 174 kilometres south west of Leipzig.
Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride from Oberammergau
Thoughts of Christmas in Germany usually involve plenty of snow and a really unique experience, especially for those of us from the southern hemisphere, is a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow.
In the Bavarian village of Oberammergau, there are plenty of options to enjoy either a horse-drawn sleigh or carriage ride, with winter routes chosen depending on the amount of snow.
Wrapped in thick blankets, you can enjoy idyllic scenery as your sleigh glides across the snowy landscape of the area, such as Graswang and Linderhof, where King Ludwig II built his castle.
Nowhere else can the peace and beauty of a German winter be enjoyed so perfectly.
Location: Oberammergau is in the southern German region of Bavaria, 91 kilometres from Munich. Driving time is around one hour. Train and bus services are also available.
See the Stuttgart Town Hall Advent calendar
Stuttgart boasts one of the oldest German Christmas markets (it was officially mentioned for the first time in 1692) and it’s also home to another Christmas delight.
Each year during Advent, the Stuttgart Town Hall is transformed into a giant Advent calendar. From December 1, one of the windows is opened each day to reveal the coat of arms of one of the 23 Stuttgart districts.
At 6pm each evening, a free concert is held on the steps of the town hall where visitors can enjoy live Christmassy music.
More info is available on the official website.
Location: Stuttgart is the capital and largest city of the German state of Baden-Württemberg. It is just over 200 kilometres from both Frankfurt and Munich (around 2 hours driving time). Regular train and bus services operate on both routes.
Traditional German Christmas foods
You won’t visit a Christmas market in Germany without smelling the aroma of roasting chestnuts or seeing a stall selling glühwein, a warm, spiced wine.
These are just two of the traditional specialties enjoyed in Germany at Christmas but the country also hosts a number of festivals in December in honour of some other Christmas delights, as you'll see below.
Taste lebkuchen at Nuremburg
Ginger and spice biscuits, known as Lebkuchen, are a favourite amongst Germans at Christmas time and the finest examples are made by Lebkuchen Schmidt in Nuremberg. The company employs over 800 people, and during the production season makes 3 million biscuits a day!
Whilst the Schmidt brand of lebkuchen are for sale in many German cities throughout the festive season, the best place to sample them is at the Nuremberg Christmas market. The company has two stalls, one in the main market building and the other known as the Witch House.
Location: 170 kilometres north of Munich, Nuremberg is in the southern German state of Bavaria and is serviced by frequent bus and train services.
Take part in the Dresden Stollenfest
Another festive food worth trying is the Stollen, the German version of a Christmas cake. Believed to have originated in Dresden over 500 years ago, the shape of the Stollen is said to symbolise the baby Jesus.
On the Saturday before the second Sunday of Advent, Dresden hosts an annual fair to celebrate this popular Christmas delicacy.
The fair features a colourful parade of over 500 people winding their way through the city’s Old Town, with the festive Stollen, weighing several tonnes, taking pride of place.
The cake is then cut into thousands of pieces and sold to festival goers, with most of the proceeds going to charity.
More info on the official website.
Location: Dresden is in the far east of Germany in the state of Saxony. It is situated 190 kilometres south of Berlin and 150 kilometres north west of Prague (Czech Republic). It is serviced by regular bus and train services.
Indulge at chocolART in Tubingen
Each year the town of Tubingen stages chocolART, Germany’s biggest chocolate festival, during December.
The festival is a must for chocolate lovers with a range of activities on offer including tastings, cooking courses, chocolate art, chocolate exhibitions and much more.
A ‘shopping night’ on the Saturday evening is a great opportunity to purchase some last-minute Christmas gifts, or perhaps treat yourself.
Location: Tubingen is a university town in central Baden-Wurttemberg, just 50 kilometres south of Stuttgart.
Have you heard of, or taken part in, any other fun Christmas festivals or activities in Germany? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.
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