German Christmas Markets: A Place to Enjoy and Indulge

Spicy mulled wine, fresh gingerbread, roasted almonds and chocolate-dipped fruits…

All these wonderful treats are ready and waiting for you to indulge in when you visit one of the many winter markets in Germany.

German Christmas Markets: A Place to Enjoy and Indulge | Foodal.com

They belong to the pre-Christmas season the same way falling leaves belong to autumn.

There is something to enjoy for every taste, with traditional, historic, popular, extravagant, modern and romantic venues.

The history of Christmas markets

Their origin dates back to late medieval trade fairs and markets. At these fairs, the people were given the opportunity to stock up with foods for the cold winter.

Later on, bakers and craftsmen began selling their products, too.

Shopping for gifts at the Christmas market in Ettal, Germany | Foodal.com
A couple shops for gifts at the market in Ettal, Germany. Photo Credit: Wolfilser / Shutterstock.com

Since these events became a regular aspect of the pre-Christmas season in the first part of the twentieth century, no one in Germany could imagine this time of year without these wonderful, versatile markets. They are often still set in the historical center of the city, or the market square.

A Christmas Market in Frankfurt, Germany
The old district in Frankfurt, Germany.

Most of them are free of charge, however, special events at castles, palaces or cloisters sometimes charge an entry fee to help finance the building’s preservation, or to support charitable projects.

The number of Christmas markets in Germany is almost unimaginable, as even small towns often have their very own events. More than 2000 locations all over the country are waiting to be explored.

Christmas Market at the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin | Foodal.com
Christmas Market at the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin

The oldest one is the Striezelmarkt in Dresden, while one of the most popular markets internationally would be the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg.

The German Christmas Market in Frankfurt | Foodal.com

Most events start at the end of November, so you have lots of time to take part in festivities. These fairs are great places to meet with friends or colleagues and, of course, enjoy some quality time with your family.

Things to buy and things to see

If you haven’t found the perfect gift already, Christmas markets offer a wide range of high-quality items. Some of the typical goods include:

  • Wooden toys
  • Fragrance lamps or oils
  • Candles (especially those made of beeswax)
  • Bags, belts, hats, scarfs and gloves made of wool, leather or other high-quality materials
  • Arts and crafts, jewelry, and products made of glass, clay, tin, porcelain, wood, etc.

Seasonal products like ornaments, tree lights, wooden cribs, Christmas arches, nutcrackers or smoking figurines or räuchermännchen are popular souvenirs, too.

Santa at the Christmas Market in Coburg, Bravaria | Foodal.com
Santa at the Christmas Market in Coburg, Bravaria. Photo Credit: Val Thoermer / Shutterstock.com

The räuchermännchen, from the Ore Mountain region, are used to burn incense, and the smoke comes out of the mouths of the figurines, typically foresters, peddlers, miners or soldiers.

Christmas arches, also from the Ore Mountain region, are decorative archways depicting Christmas or forest scenes, with candles or electric lights to illuminate them.

Christmas market in Bad Toelz, Germany | Foodal.com
Christmas market in Bad Toelz, Germany. Photo Credit: FooTToo / Shutterstock.com

Some markets offer a nice program of holiday entertainment as well, which can artistic or cultural in nature. This might include choirs singing Christmas carols, Christmas plays for children or performed by children, musicians and storytellers.

Theatre groups may perform Christmas plays, choirs sing seasonal songs, and sometimes Santa even stops by and distributes small presents to the young visitors.

But there is much more to do than just buying gifts and strolling around.

Grab a bite to eat

If you ever get the chance to visit a German Christmas market, or if one is organized where you live, be on the lookout for all the wonderful things to eat and drink.

A candy shop at a German Christmas Market | Foodal.com

And believe you me, with all the smells of the delicious and unique foods, you will soon become hungry if you’re not already.

Food vendor at the Christmas fair in Charlottenburg, Berlin | Foodal.com
There’s plenty of food to go around at this holiday fair in Charlottenburg, Berlin. Photo Credit: astudio / Shutterstock.com

Once the aroma of fresh farmhouse bread from the wood-fired oven reaches your nose, there is no resisting it.

Food at the German Christmas Market | Foodal.com

Or, you might choose a classic hearty meal like fried vegetables, bratwurst, batter-fried fish, grilled meat or potato pancakes.

After that savory dish, you’ll need a proper drink.

Have a warm drink

Why not warm up with a mulled wine, mead, or hot chocolate?

Even more fittingly: a cup of chestnut hot chocolate?

Beverage stalls at the Christmas market in Leuneburg, Germany | Foodal.com
There’s plenty of adult beverages flowing at these winter festivities to get your Christmas spirt(s) following…take note of the selections at this particular stall at the market at Leuneberg.

Mulled wine, or Glühwein as it’s called here, is a traditional drink you can get on every market corner. It’s made of red wine, winter spices, and sometimes additional juices or liqueurs.

Alcohol-free options are also available, as well as fancy varieties made with white wine.

Alcohol free beverages at the German Christmas Market | Foodal.com
It’s not all about the adults. There are plenty of alcohol free beverages available.

Another special market drink is burnt punch, or Feuerzangenbowle. To make it, tongs are used to hold a liqueur-soaked sugar loaf that’s set on fire.

Feuerzangenbowle | Foodal.com
Feuerzangenbowle

Drinking it has become a nice tradition, that to an old movie from 1944 that first made it popular, a comedy called Die Feuerzangenbowle.

Don’t forget dessert

After all that eating and drinking, it’s time for something sweet. The list of products on offer is as longer than you could imagine:

Have a crêpe or waffles with lots of heavenly fillings to choose from, baked apples with marzipan, Krapfen (fried dough balls), or a slice of Christmas stollen.

Krapfen German Fried Dough Balls | Foodal.com
“Krapfen” or fired dough balls, German Fried Dough Balls

Or would you rather try a smaller snack for that time “in between”? I have to recommend the chocolate marshmallows or chocolate-dipped fruits like bananas and strawberries, glazed apples and grapes, cotton candy, or roasted chestnuts.

If you’re about to leave the market, don’t forget to take something home with you. You’ll find flavored roasted almonds and other nuts, coconut macaroons, or beautiful decorated gingerbread hearts.

Gingerbread hearts at a German Christmas Market | Foodal.com
Gingerbread hearts.

And if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in one of the cities that feature regional delicacies, you should definitely try some of those, too. Have you heard of:

  • Printen-cookies from the city of Aachen?
  • Nuremberger Lebkuchen?
  • Frankfurter Bethmännchen, made of marzipan?
  • The famous Spekulatius almond biscuits with butter and spices?

Want to create a taste of the Christmas market in your own home? Take a look at the following recipes, and enjoy making some festive moments to share with your loved ones.

Traditional Mulled Wine (Glühwein)

Mulled wine is the most famous hot drink at Christmas markets. So why not prepare this steaming hot and aromatic specialty at home, too?

With some fruity and freshly squeezed orange juice and warming spices like cinnamon or cloves, it makes a perfect fit for any chilly day.

Dry red wine is the best choice, but you can easily turn the treat into a non-alcoholic beverage by replacing the wine with grape juice.

Two glass mugs of mulled red wine, on a red cloth surface with whole cinnamon sticks, citrus fruits, and decorative pine cones, with a brown wood background.
Photo by Meghan Yager.

Classic Mulled Wine – Get the Recipe Now
And in case you like your mulled wine with an added twist, add a dash of nice liqueur to your mug and simply enjoy!

Spicy Apple Punch

If you’re either not a fan of wine or you’re into more fruity drinks, this spicy punch is the perfect choice for you.

Spicy Apple Punch Recipe | Foodal.com

While the apple juice and some honey provide a wonderful sweet base to the drink, spices like cardamom and star anise will give it some fresh and tangy twist. A proper dash of calvados is added, too.

Spicy Apple Punch | Foodal.com

The apple brandy works really great with the fruits and adds that certain something to this delicious wintry punch.

Recipe for spicy apple punch | Foodal.com
German Spicy Apple Punch
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Recipe for spicy apple punch | Foodal.com
German Spicy Apple Punch
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Rating: 0
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Ingredients
  • 2 apples
  • 2 lemons juiced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 cardamom pods lightly crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • star anise whole
  • 5 cups apple juice divided
  • 7 fl oz calvados or fruit juice for an alcohol-free version
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Peel and core the apples. Finely dice and mix with lemon juice immediately to avoid browning.
  2. Place the apples in a saucepan with the honey. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and 1 1/4 cups apple juice. Gently bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Strain the spiced juice into a bowl, and put the content of the strainer back into the saucepan.
  4. Add the remaining apple juice and calvados to the pan, and leave to infuse for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Serve the punch in heat-proof jars, and add some of the cooked apple mixture back to each jar if you like. Enjoy while it's hot!
Recipe Notes

Recipe for spicy apple punch | Foodal.com

 

Sparkling Cinnamon Stars

These sweet stars look great. They have a light crisp surface, with a bright and sweet topping of powdered sugar.

Recipe for Sparkling Cinnamon Stars | Foodal.com

Underneath you’ll find a soft dough made with ground almonds and a dash of cinnamon.

Homemade Sparking Cinnamon Star Cookies | Foodal.com

One of the advantages of these cookies is that they don’t require any flour, so they can be enjoyed by anyone with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

Sparkling Cinnamon Star Cookie Recipe | Foodal.com
Sparkling Cinnamon Star Cookies
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Sparkling Cinnamon Star Cookie Recipe | Foodal.com
Sparkling Cinnamon Star Cookies
Votes: 0
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Print Recipe
Ingredients
Dough
  • 2 egg whites
  • 5 oz Powdered sugar or 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 lemon zest
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 11 oz ground almonds or 1 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
  • pinch of salt
Icing
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 1/2 oz Powdered sugar or a scant 1/2 cup
  • pinch of salt
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Beat 2 egg whites with powdered sugar until stiff. Fold in the lemon zest, cinnamon, salt and almonds. Chill in the fridge for about 1 hour.
  3. Roll out the dough to approximately 1/4-inch thick. Cut out up to 60 stars and place on the prepared baking trays. Be careful– the dough is sticky and really soft. Tip: Dip your cookie cutter in some extra powdered sugar to make cutting easier.
  4. Preheat the oven to 140°C/280°F (convection oven 120°C/250°F).
  5. For the icing, beat the egg white with a pinch of salt and the powdered sugar until stiff, and spread on each star with a pastry brush.
  6. Bake each tray of cookies one at a time for about 20 minutes in the middle of your oven. Tip: You might insert one empty tray above the one with the stars so they stay light, because the icing is not supposed to become brown.
Recipe Notes

Sparkling Cinnamon Star Cookie Recipe | Foodal.com

 

Sweet and Spicy Candied Nuts

Crunchy, nutty and sweet, sugar-roasted almonds with a vanilla flair are an iconic treat at Christmas markets, festive events or fairs.

Sugar and spice candied nuts in a star-shaped white ceramic dish, with more scattered around the base on a burgundy cloth, with brown pine cones in the background.
Photo by Meghan Yager.

Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts – Get the Recipe Now

They often require lots of sugar to make, but this recipe calls for less than what’s usually used. Almonds, walnuts, and pecans all make delicious options. And you can make them with or without the spicy cayenne pepper.

Easy Coconut Macaroons

This recipe is fantastic, because it is so easy and quick to prepare.

Horizontal image of stacked macaroons with dark chocolate.
Photo by Nikki Cervone.

Classic Coconut Macaroons – Get the Recipe Now

Since you’ll only need the egg whites, use the yolks for scrambled eggs or another recipe like homemade omelets. It’d be a pity to waste them.

Would you like your coconut heaps to have a fancier appearance? Use a piping bag for a nice shape, drizzle with chocolate, or dip the bottoms into some chocolate for a more decorative look.

Bring the Christmas Market Home

Which of these delightful treats will you choose to make and enjoy with your loved ones? And where are some of your favorite holiday markets? Share your stories with us in the comments below!

And don’t forget to check out our full archive of Christmas recipes and ideas here.

Photos by Meghan Yager and Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. Originally published on December 19, 2015. Last updated: December 3, 2018 at 15:38 pm.

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About Nina-Kristin Isensee

Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.

13 thoughts on “German Christmas Markets: A Place to Enjoy and Indulge”

  1. Mmmmmmmm! Just reading this post made me salivate. I went to Christmas markets in Germany last year, when I went to visit my mother who lives there. Wow. I have never had a culinary experience quite like it. I like the trinkets and stuff, too, but if I’m being honest I go almost solely for the food. The Regensburg Christmas market (set around and inside the palace courtyard) had a smoked salmon stand. The guy literally had a fire going with a teepee-like structure to which long slabs of salmon were attached, being smoked right then and there. So good! Then, of course, I went for the gluhwein. It warms you right up in that cold air that you only get in a German winter. For desert, this long coil of delicious cinnamon pastry. Thanks for the recipes, I’m definitely going to try that gluhwein at home!

    • Thank you for your comment! Great that you’ve been to Regensburg! They really have a wonderful location there, don’t they? Yummy, salmon right from the smoke 🙂 With some warming glühwein after that, everything’s fine! I hope you’re able to transfer some of that feeling into your home with the recipe! Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

  2. I’ve never heard about this German tradition! It sounds really fun and exciting. I would love to see those christmas markets with my own eyes!
    I’m glad that you provided recipes for people like me, who can’t go there right now 🙂
    The Coconut Makaroons are especially delicious looking!

    • It’s great that you want to try it out, I hope you have fun preparing the macaroons or the drinks and I’m sure they will provide you with the right market-feeling wherever you are 🙂 Happy Holidays to you!

  3. Aw man, I wish I could go to Germany right now and experience that! They remind me of street vendors in New York City that usually line a shopping sheet selling their goods on the table and I sometimes have more fun shopping with them than I do with going inside an actual store. Since I won’t be able to go (no money and no passport), I guess I’ll have to make due with these awesome recipes you put up here instead 🙂

    • It really is a great atmosphere to experience, but no worries, I hope the recipes will bring some of this feeling to your home! Either way, a nice, warming drink and something sweet to nibble will always work 🙂 Have a happy holiday season.

  4. There’s a German Christmas market in my home-town every year in December, and I went for this first time this year. The atmosphere is amazing, the smells and sounds just put you right into the holiday spirit. I loved the warm drinks and food but it’s a bit over-pricey.

  5. My friend is in German for a three week vacation. I wish i read this article before Christmas. I would have told him of the places and i’m sure he would have visited them since he is a guy who loves adventure. I’ll definitely try to visit these places when i get my vacation next year. They seem cool to me.

    • Great, I’m almost sure he has found a market somewhere around when he was here. When you’re in Germany for Christmas season, you should definitely visit one, I’m sure you’d recognize many of the aspects and foods I’ve written about. That’d be fun, I’m telling you 🙂

  6. I have always heard of the German Christmas Market and would love to experience it sometime. You saved the best recipe for last, I absolutely love coconut macaroons.

    • Thank you! Coconut macaroons are gorgeous, aren’t they? I just love the flavor of coconut in baked goodies. And it goes so great with some drips of dark chocolate, delicious!
      I hope you’ll enjoy making them and still experience some wintry atmosphere at home 🙂

  7. Oh, WOW! This post makes me wish I have enough money saved so I can easily fly halfway across the world to visit Europe and Germany in particular just for these markets. I love the atmosphere of markets during the Christmas season. Here in my country, we love our Christmas that even as early as September some stores start to decorate for the Christmas holidays and bazaars/fairs such as those mentioned here come aplenty. The pictures are just pure love. I would totally enjoy checking out one store after another in any of these markets. I won’t even start on the food! This is really something to look forward to in some future Christmas season. Crossing fingers I’ll have that chance to see this in person in my lifetime 🙂

    • I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you 🙂 Glad to hear that you enjoyed reading. It’s indeed a very special atmosphere on those markets. You know what? I believe that soon – it might be September, too – the stores here will also begin putting Christmas sweets into the shelves and stocking decorative articles. I always have the impression that this starts earlier every year 😉 Enjoy the cozy atmosphere that’s coming in the colder months and prepare some nice treats to have your personal Christmas market a home!

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