Christmas markets close to home
There is no need to travel far to experience magical Christmas markets. We have highlighted several near U.S. military installations you’re sure to enjoy.
Heidelberg – This beautiful, historic city’s riverfront, palace and market are worth the short drive from the Stuttgart and Kaiserslautern areas. Spanning five city squares, the market includes an ice rink, petting zoo and live nativity.
Stuttgart & Ludwigsburg – First mentioned in 1692, Stuttgart’s market is one of the country’s largest, oldest and most beautiful, set in front of the Altes Schloss and offering 280+ booths, daily concerts, Children’s Fairytale Land and Finnish Christmas market. Then, only 10 minutes away is the enchanting Ludwigsburg market (see photo at right); 170 booths are beautifully illuminated and nestled in the Baroque square.
Tübingen – Master chocolatiers from five continents present, sell and compete for top honors at ChocolART, Europe’s largest chocolate festival. Then, less than a week later, the entire town comes alive for its annual weekend Christmas market; 450 stalls are spread over several locations, providing handmade gifts, treats and children’s programs.
Ulm – The Münsterplatz market faces the majestic Ulm Minster and the world’s tallest church tower at just over 160 meters tall. Ulm is also home to the world-famous Steiff teddy bear, a great holiday gift for your little ones.
In Bayern (Bavaria)
Augsburg – Active for more than 500 years, the "Christkindlmarkt" in the city founded by Roman Emperor Augustus is one of Germany’s oldest and most popular markets. A highlight is the daily performance of the Augsburg Angels at the 16th century city hall’s giant Advent calendar.
Füssen – Outdoor enthusiasts will delight at this market set at the St. Mang monastery near Neuschwanstein; nearby you can cross-country ski or hike to mountain chalets providing Allgäu regional meals and toboggan rides back down.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen – Individually decorated booths, Alpine music and smells of regional treats set the holiday mood as guests wander the market set along the hand-painted Lüftlmalereien of Richard-Strauss-Square.
Regensburg – Well-preserved Roman, German Gothic and Bavarian architecture create distinct backdrops for Christmas markets from Neupfarrplatz to the Spitalgarten and Thurn and Taxis Palace.
Prien am Chiemsee & Island of Frauenchiemsee – The markets of Prien am Chiemsee and the Island of Frauenchiemsee, overlooking Ludwig II’s famous Herrenchiemsee Palace (based on Versailles), provide an exceptionally romantic setting. You’ll also find a functioning cloister that’s home to artists, skilled craftsmen and fishermen who share their abundance at the markets.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber – The 15th-century medieval Rothenburger Reiterlesmarkt reflects the historic charm of this perfectly preserved medieval town. Stop in to witness the much awaited performance of the “Rothenburg Riders.”
Frankfurt & Wiesbaden – Of course you’ll want to visit Wiesbaden’s market held in the town square with its fantastic light display, but be sure to include Frankfurt’s; it’s considered one of the most important in Germany. From the beautifully creative market booths, to the historic Römerberg and Paulsplatz squares and the giant Christmas tree, it just may make it onto your list of favorite markets.
Rüdesheim am Rhein – Set in the town’s old quarter, the 120 stalls represent 12 different countries and their holiday foods and traditions. You’ll find anything from locally distilled Ansbach Uralt brandy and Mongolian woolen goods to reindeer antler wine stoppers from Finland.
Kaiserslautern – Centered on Stiftskirche and Schillerplatz, this is one of the few smaller German cities with markets (Weihnachtsmarkt, Kulturmarkt and Silvestermarkt) that span from Advent into the new year.
Koblenz, Cochem & Bernkastel-Kues – In the heart of the Mosel and Rhine river wine country, these three romantic and beautiful markets not only offer festive stalls with regional wines, handcrafted goods and seasonal treats, but also have distinctive charm. Some of the oldest towns in Germany, their cobblestone roads and half-timbered homes add to the old-world Christmas feel. Glühwein at these markets is made from the finest quality local and regional wines.
Mainz – Just 15 minutes from Wiesbaden, in Rheinland-Pfalz, is the romantic market of Mainz set with the imposing backdrop of the 1,000-year-old Cathedral of St. Martin. Enjoy the traditional food and drink, but stop by to see the hand-carved, life-sized manger scene and 11-meter-tall pyramid.
Speyer – Another smaller but very romantic market is Speyer’s, nestled between the Speyer Cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage site), the Holy Trinity Church, City Hall and Alte Münze. Try to plan your visit around the annual “Altpörtel in Flames” light, music and firework shows.
Trier – Founded in 16 B.C. by the Roman Empire during Augustus Caesar’s rule, Trier is arguably Germany’s oldest city and one of significant architectural and historical importance. The market and its 120 delightfully animated roof displays are set on the Hauptmarkt, the city’s main square just beyond the 2,000-year-old Porta Nigra, with the Cathedral of St. Peter, Germany’s oldest cathedral, looming as its backdrop. You’ll be hard-pressed to eat only one freshly fried cinnamon churro, and the Grand Marnier-laced hot chocolate is the perfect complement.
Enjoy Glühwein during these short but fun holiday road trips with peace of mind ... either designate a driver or take the train.
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