Photo by foottoo
Photo by foottoo

The Christmas Markets of Munich and Frauenchiemsee

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

You’ll find decked out halls and all the stalls at the Christmas Markets of Munich and Frauenchiemsee. From the traditional market in Munich to the one of a kind market on an island in Frauenchiemsee, there’s something special waiting for everyone at the Bavarian Christmas markets. Surrounded by the Alps, you’ll feel as if you are in a winter wonderland during these holiday celebrations.

Munich Christmas market

Jingling bells, fantastic food smells and all the best gifts are just waiting for you to discover them at the Munich Christmas Market. With over 160 stalls, there is certainly no shortage of things to see spread throughout the Marienplatz and beyond.

The biggest attraction, quite literally, of this market is the Christmas tree that towers in front of the new town hall. The square is decorated with over 2,500 candles that light up the night and create a calming Advent ambiance.

Bavarian culture is on full display during this market, as locals sell a variety of handmade items including hand-painted glass Christmas ornaments, sheepskin jackets and even figurines made from dried fruits and nuts. From the food market, you’ll find fresh chestnuts, fruit cakes and herb liqueurs along with fan favorites like Glühwein and gingerbread cookies.

Don’t miss visiting the Square of Stars in the Rindermarkt for a romantic walk through frosted trees glittering with luminous stars. Here you’ll find Bavarian delicacies like bratwurst, flamed salmon and steaming hot beer.

To add a few special pieces to your nativity scene, visit Neuhauser Strasse for Germany’s largest nativity market. From a stable lantern to gifts from the three wise men, this section of the market has everything you need to create the most stupendous nativity scene.

Know before you go

  • The Munich Christmas market is located in the Marienplatz. It stretches to the tower of the old town hall, its inner courtyard, along Kaufingerstraße and Neuhauserstraße to the Richard-Strauss-Brunnen, and from Weinstraße to the Sternenplatzl at Rindermarkt. It is easily accessible from the subway, U3 and U6. Exit the subway at Marienplatz.
  • The market is open Nov. 27 - Dec. 24.
  • There is an annual Krampus Run around the Munich Christmas Market where participants dressed in elaborate costumes frighten market-goers. This run was recorded as early as the 16th century and is especially popular amongst the younger crowds.

Things to see outside the market

St. Peter’s Church, the oldest in Munich, is located in the Marienplatz and offers a stunning view of the city from the tower. The locals refer to the church as Old Peter. Construction began in the 11th century, but the church has been rebuilt and expanded several times. The church is home to an 18th century gilded high altar, large ceiling frescoes and the jeweled skeleton of St. Mundita.

Nymphenburg Palace is an impressive baroque structure that once housed former rulers of Bavaria. It was commissioned as a summer residence in 1664, though construction and changes took place through the 1800s. Today many rooms are on display, including a Coat of Arms Chamber, the bathroom of King Maximilian II and Karl Theodor’s chamber.

New Town Hall is a neo-Gothic building with a soaring tower and chiming clock with 42 bells and 32 life-size figurines. The 300-foot facade features almost the entire line of the House of Wittelsbach in Bavaria. The Glockenspiel tower figurines dance daily at 11 a.m. and noon. For a great panoramic view of the city, climb the tower to the observation deck.

If you just can’t get enough of the traditional Bavarian Christmas markets, travel an hour south of Munich to Frauenchiemsee, where the magic continues.

Frauenchiemsee Christmas market

The Frauenchiemsee Christmas Market is a one-of-a-kind market located on an island surrounded by the perfectly clear waters of Lake Chiemsee and the magnificent Bavarian Alps. With such a picture-perfect backdrop, an incredibly romantic winter wonderland emerges. In addition to the market, the entire island is strung with lights and holiday decorations, setting the scene to get in the holiday spirit. This Christmas haven will have you merrily humming holiday favorites like “Silent Night” and “Let It Snow” before you leave. 

Though smaller than the Munich market and hosting only 90 stalls, this certainly isn’t a market you want to miss. There’s no shortage of culinary delicacies, handmade items and mulled wine on the island of Frauenchiemsee.

In addition to the stalls, there will be performances by carol singers, Christmas readings from both local and national celebrities and a range of other activities including a children's program. This unique market is truly something special to behold.

Know before you go

  • The Frauenchiemsee Christmas market is from Nov. 29 - Dec. 1 and Dec. 6 - 8. It is open on Friday from 2 p.m. - 7 p.m. and Saturday - Sunday from noon - 7 p.m.
  • Getting to Frauenchiemsee is easy with regular ferries from Prien at Lake Chiemsee. With just one ticket you can go from the train station in Prien to the Prien/Stock harbor and get on a ferry to the market. If you arrive by car, there are parking areas near the train station or at the harbor.


Neuschwanstein Castle | Photo by Bernhard Klar

Things to see outside the market

A two-and-a-half-hour drive west, Neuschwanstein Castle, the famous fairytale castle of King Ludwig II, is easily accessible from Prien. Ludwig lived in a fantasy world to remove himself from reality, and thus surrounded himself with fantastic castles. In 1869, construction for the “new castle” began. Tickets to visit this amazing piece of history can be purchased at the ticket center in Hohenschwangau, the village below the castle.

The neighboring island of Herrenchiemsee is home to New Palace Herrenchiemsee, another massive home built for King Ludwig II, modeled after Versailles. Construction began in 1878 but was never fully completed, as Ludwig II died in 1886.  Visitors are able to view the king’s rooms, the State Staircase and the Great Hall of Mirrors.

The Hohensalzburg Fortress is located just 45 minutes south of Prien in Austria and is the biggest fully preserved castle in central Europe. The fortress, tower of Salzburg on Festungsberg hill, was initially built by Archbishop Gebhard in 1077 to protect the principality and archbishops from attack. In the 20th century the fortress was used to hold prisoners of war during WWI and Nazi activists before Germany’s annexation of Austria in the 1930s.

Without a doubt, the markets in Bavaria shouldn’t be missed. Munich boasts a Christmas tree that is sure to steal your breath away, while Frauenchiemsee offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an island dedicated to Christmas, surrounded by one of the most gorgeous backgrounds the world has to offer. Pack a scarf, maybe even some base layers, and get ready for some of the most fantastic Christmas markets you have ever seen!  

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