Christmas markets mark beginning of holiday season

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • 52nd Figher Wing Public Affairs
This month Germany will turn into a winter wonderland when many cities begin setting up their traditional Weihnachtsmaerkte, or Christmas markets. Whether it is Nuernberg or Dudeldorf, the atmosphere is the same. Many people joyfully welcome the beginning of the holiday season. Most markets will open around Nov. 23 and stay open until shortly before Christmas.

"I cannot wait for the market to open -- I just love the smell of fresh waffles or baked apples there," said Gerhard Meyer, a Trier resident. "The city will be nicely decorated with Christmas trees and lights in the streets and on buildings throughout the city. It appears that people are always more relaxed and happy during this time, with looking forward to the holidays."

Although every Christmas market has its unique flair and character, they are usually set up in a similar way featuring decorated wooden huts lined up in a popular spot of the town.

Vendors offer a variety of goods, ranging from colorful Christmas ornaments and decorations to advent calendars, candles and wooden toys. One can also find a wide selection of handcrafted items, which can make beautiful Christmas gifts.

Historical carousels are among the highlights for children and fresh cotton candy will tempt old and young alike.

Christmas carols and music performed by local choirs and music bands add to the events, helping put people in the holiday spirit.

According to Winfried Hardt, an Eifel vendor, prices are usually a little higher at Christmas markets; however, the ornaments and decorations offered are traditional and often handmade, the food is always fresh and the experience can create memories that last a lifetime.

The following are opening dates and times for some Christmas markets in Germany and bordering countries:

Nuernberg's Christkindlmarkt, a famous market in Germany, takes place Nov. 27 - Dec. 24, 10:30 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday.

Heidelberg, hosts a large Weihnachtsmarkt with an ice skating rink Nov. 24 - Dec. 22 in the market square and the Universitaetsplatz. Opening times are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily.

Stuttgart has one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe, offering more than 200 booths. The market takes place Nov. 24 - Dec. 23 and is open 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Saturday and 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sunday. The town also has a n ice skating rink.

Munich has several markets. The most popular Christkindlmarkt is open Nov. 26 - Dec. 24 at Maerienplatz, in front of the city hall in the center of town. The market is open 10 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Dec. 24. Other smaller markets can be found in Schwabingen, Heidhausen, Chinesischer Turm, Neuhauser, Ramersdorf and Pasing.

Cologne hosts six markets - four of them around the Dom Cathedral, Alter Market, Neumarkt and Rudolfplatz. A medieval market takes place outside the Chocolate Museum, and there will be a floating Christmas market on board of the MS Wappen von Mainz boat. The markets are open 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Nov. 27 - Dec. 23.

Frankfurt's Christmas market held on the Roemerberg, with about 200 stands and three million visitors in previous years, is known to be one of the largest and most beautiful markets in Germany. The wooden stands are set up around the Fountain of Justice, in the shadow of the Roemer, the city's ancient town hall, Nov. 24 - Dec. 22. The Frankfurt market is open 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily. The Roemerberg is in the center of the town, near the famous Paul's Church.

Rothenberg ob der Tauber hosts its Weihnachtsmarkt Nov. 26 - Dec. 23. The market is open 11 - 7 p.m. Monday - Friday, 10:30 a.m. - 8 p.m., Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. - 7 p.m. Sunday. The medieval town of Rothenburg sells Christmas ornaments year-round and has a Christmas museum.

Hamburg has a several markets set up throughout the center of town Nov. 20 - Dec. 30, on Gerhart-Hauptmann Platz, around the Petri Church, on Sitalstrasse and on Gaensemarkt. Markets are open 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily, but they will be closed Dec. 24-25.

Mainz hosts its Weihnachtsmarkt Nov. 25 - Dec. 23 in the Historic Square. The market is open 11 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thrusday, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday - Saturday. Highlights include a 36 foot-tall wooden Christmas Pyramid and a life-size nativity scene carved out of lime wood.

Leipzig hosts a Christmas markets now through Dec. 22 around the Old City Hall in the center of town. The market is open 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. daily. Highlights include the world's largest free-standing advent calendar.

Dresden hosts the Striezelmarkt Nov. 25 - Dec. 24 on Altmarkt. Opening times are from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday - Sunday. Striezelmarkt is known as the most popular Christmas markets in former Eastern Germany, and it is Germany's oldest Christmas market. Highlights include a giant Christmas tree with beautiful decorations, several life-size Christmas figures to include snowmen and a nutcracker man, beautiful hand-made Christmas decorations, a giant advent calendar, a fairy tale castle and fairy tale forest with more than 100 figures.

Augsburg hosts its Christkindlemarkt Nov. 22 - Dec. 24. The market is open 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily. Highlights include a large Christmas Pyramid surrounded by angel figures and Renaissance buildings. The market is more than 500 years old.

Baden-Baden hosts their traditional Weihnachtsmarkt Nov. 23 - Dec. 26 in the historical market square. The market is open daily from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Highlights include a life-size nativity scene with real sheep and Santa Claus visits frequently.

Zurich hosts its 17th Christkindle market Nov. 25 - Dec. 24 inside the city's ShopVille-Rail City train station. Opening times are from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday. The market closes at 4 p.m. Dec. 24. Highlights include one of the largest European indoor-Christmas markets and a large Christmas tree with about 6,000 ornaments.

Luxembourg City hosts its annual Christmas market Dec. 1-24 at the Place d'Armes in the center of town. The market is open 10:30 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily. About 70 decorated huts will be set up selling Christmas items and ornaments. Several concerts are scheduled each day.

Echternach/Luxembourg hosts its market Dec. 10-12 in the market square. Opening times are 5 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily. This is a nice cozy market offering a variety of Christmas related items to include jewelry and handcrafted items.

Vianden, Luxembourg will host a Christmas market Dec. 11-12, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. The castle will be the location.

Valkenburg, near Maastricht, in the Netherlands, will host a Christmas market Nov. 19 - Dec. 23 in the caves of Valkenburg, the largest and oldest underground Christmas market in Europe.

Durbuy, a community im Beligum will host a very special and scenic Christmas market Dec. 4-5, Dec. 11-12 and Dec. 18-19. Opening times are from noon - 6 p.m. daily. The market stays open later Saturday and Sunday.

Strasbourg, France, offers an attractive Christmas market Nov. 20 - Dec. 24 at the Muensterplatz, Place Broglie and Petite France. Opening times are 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily. This is one of the largest Christmas markets in France, taking place for the 431st time this year. Highlights include a cozy half-timbered building with Christmas shops and a gingerbread bakery.

Metz has its annual Christmas market Nov. 28 - Jan. 3 in the center of the city.

Mannheim will host a beautiful Christmas market Nov. 25 - Dec. 23 with 200 booths. Opening times are 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday. There will be children's rides.

Saarbruecken hosts a Christmas market Nov. 27 - Dec. 31. Opening times are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sunday - Thursday, and 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Highlights include life-sized figures and Father Christmas telling the Christmas story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in the German each night.

Kaiserslautern hosts a market in the center of town with more than 40 wooden booths Nov. 22 - Dec. 30. Opening times are 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily.

Wiesbaden will host a market that is decorated in gold and blue (the color of their Coat of Arms) and takes place Nov. 23 - Dec. 23. Opening times are 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 10:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon - 9 p.m. Sunday. The market has more than 100 booths.

Hanau has a Christmas market with more than 70 vendors and a separate art market Nov. 27 - Dec. 22. For opening times, call the tourist information office at 06181-295950. Highlights include an art market and late shopping night Dec. 19, until midnight.

Deidesheim has a Christmas market Nov. 27 - Dec. 20 with more than 100 booths offering traditional wooden toys and other Christmas items. The market is open on weekends only.

Koblenz hosts the largest Weihnachtsmarkt in Rheinland-Pfalz Nov. 19 - Dec. 22 in the Altstadt, or old city. Opening times are 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday.

Bonn will host a Christmas market Nov. 19 - Dec. 23 on Muensterplatz. Opening times are Monday - Sunday from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. More than 150 vendors will be in place.

Mannheim will host a Christmas market Nov. 24 - Dec. 23 on Friedrichsplatz. Opening times are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily. More than 200 wooden huts will be set up.

Trier hosts its traditional Weihnachtsmarkt Nov. 22 - Dec. 22 in the Hauptmarkt or main market square. This is an excellent market with Christmas music and celebrations featured in the market square throughout the entire season. Opening times are 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Thursday - Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sundays. Highlights include Advent opening singing at the cathedral 4 p.m., Dec. 5, a concert by the Rolls-Royce Chamber Orchester from Luxembourg 6 p.m. Dec. 11 in front of the cathedral. Music and entertainment is scheduled throughout each weekend, and Santa will visit often.

Bitburg's Weihnachtsmarkt takes place Nov. 26 - Dec. 21. The market is open noon - 7 p.m. daily. Stores will be open until 10 p.m. Dec. 16 in the center of Bitburg for late Christmas shopping.

Wittlich has a Christmas market Nov. 26 - Dec. 19 in the center of town. Opening times are 11 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. daily. Highlights include regional, homemade and handcrafted items, a tall Christmas tree, and Christmas carols every Saturday after 5 p.m.

Bernkastel hosts its' annual Mittelalterlicher Weihnachtsmarkt, or medieval Christmas market, featuring more than 50 decorated sales huts Nov. 20 - Dec. 19 near the Baerenbrunnen fountain in the town's market square and throughout the pedestrian area. Opening times are 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Fridays.