The Christmas Markets of Stuttgart and Esslingen

Stuttgart Christmas Market | Photo by Andreas Metz
Stuttgart Christmas Market | Photo by Andreas Metz

The Christmas Markets of Stuttgart and Esslingen

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

Glistening lights, stalls lovingly styled with their finest Christmas decor, a children’s wonderland and so much more await you at the Christmas and Medieval Markets in Stuttgart and Esslingen this year. Bust out your warmest footwear and load up the family for these fantastic markets in Germany!

Stuttgart Christmas Market

The annual Stuttgart Christmas Market, Weihnachts Markt, draws over 3.5 million visitors each year. Not only is it one of the biggest markets, but it is also one of the oldest, officially dating back to 1692. With the town hall facade posing as an advent calendar, this market is bustling with Christmas magic.

The Stuttgart Christmas Market hosts 290 stalls, each featuring something unique. The wide range of wares includes wooden toys, nativity figurines, sweet treats, international culinary delights and the famous Glühwein. In addition to the stalls, there are live concerts with over 60 musical groups performing as part of the official program.  

For an antique lovers’ dream, be sure to stop at the antique market on Karlsplatz square. Here you’ll find over 20 vendors offering rare pieces, all within a heated tent. If you already have antique pieces that you want to be valued, bring them with. Experts at the market will value antique items free of charge.

Children can also enjoy the holiday festivities in fairy tale land. Take a journey through this winter wonderland on a mini steam engine and continue on with some engaging activities.

Children can visit stalls to decorate gingerbread hearts, build chocolate fruit kabobs or craft a candle. With so many activities and things to see, the family is sure to be entertained for hours.

There is also a live nativity scene that includes lambs, sheep, goats and a donkey that stay in the crib on Sporerstrasse. The caretakers of the animals run a stall next to the nativity scene selling farm products like cheese and wool clothing.

Know before you go

  • The Stuttgart Christmas Market is open Nov. 27 - Dec. 23.
  • Opening times are Monday - Thursday, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday - Saturday, 10 a.m.  - 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
  • Special opening times are Nov. 27, 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. and Dec. 14, 10 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. for late-night shopping. 
  • The market is set in the middle of the city center. It is easy to get to from the main train station. Parking is available; however, it is recommended that you arrive via public transportation. 

Things to see outside the market

Car fanatics will love that both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have museums in Stuttgart. The Mercedes-Benz Museum is home to over 160 vehicles, ranging from some of the first automobiles to modern racing machines. It chronicles the influence of Carl Benz’ cars on technology, social history and popular culture. The Porsche Museum has over 80 cars on display and currently has a special exhibition called “70 years of the Porsche sports car.” The exhibit features a 356 Speedster from 1954, which was one of the first four Speedsters ever built.

For a great view of the city, go to the Fernsehturm, an iconic TV tower with an observation deck and café. This 60-year-old tower took almost two years to build and cost $4.2 million. The Stuttgart landmark is the world’s first telecommunications tower and was designed by structural engineer Professor Fritz Leonhardt. 

Stuttgart’s impressive architecture can be seen at the Old Castle. Originally built in the 10th century as a water fortress to protect the stud gardens, this castle evolved into a residence for the counts of Wuerttemberg in the 14th century. The castle is now home to the Wuerttemberg State Museum, which displays valuable pieces that represent the history of the state.   

The neighboring town of Esslingen is just a short 20-minute drive from Stuttgart and is home to a truly unique Medieval Christmas Market. 

Esslingen Christmas Market | Photo by Frank Gaertner 

Esslingen Medieval Christmas Market

Take a trip back in time at the Esslingen Medieval Christmas Market. In addition to the traditional market food and fun, you will find vendors dressed in historical garments, craftsmen demonstrating their skills and stage artists showing off their juggling, musical and other nonsensical skills. Esslingen provides not only a market but also a historical production. It’s only appropriate, as the half-timbered houses create the perfect setting for an adventure into the past.

Once upon a time, craftsmen were a common sight and normal part of the day to day life. Nowadays, seeing a blacksmith shape iron is incredibly rare. Don’t miss out on witnessing blacksmiths, knife grinders, glass blowers, basket weavers, spoon carvers, saddlers and leather makers ply their trades. Try to keep up in medieval times during workshops that offer hands-on training.

After all the hard work of crafting something from scratch, check out the plethora of hearty victuals offered. Warm-up with dishes like freshly baked Heurekaners, grilled pork, stews, duck leg or venison goulash. If you want to skip the meat, there are also pakoras (deep-fried vegetables), falafel and potato dishes. Don’t forget to add a beverage! Hot berry wine, honey-sweet mead, brandy punch or a hot, spiced beer are a great way to keep warm. What better way to spend the holiday season than learning a new trade and delighting in cuisine from the medieval ages?

If building your own trinkets isn’t quite your speed, don’t worry. Merchants at colorfully decorated stalls offer their goods for sale, no work required except perhaps some light bargaining. Items like old lighters made from tinder and polypore, handmade candles, handcrafted knives and jewelry are all available. 

Know before you go

  • The Esslingen Medieval Market is open Nov. 26 - Dec. 22. The first day hours 4 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. The last day hours 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Regular hours Sunday - Wednesday 11 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
  • The market is located near the Rathausplatz and Hafenmarkt. There is a shuttle bus on the weekends in Advent. Round trip 2 euros per person. On Saturday the shuttle runs every 30 minutes beginning at 11:00 a.m.; last departure 8:45 p.m. On Sunday the shuttle runs every 15 minutes beginning at 11:00 a.m.; last departure 9:00 p.m. The shuttle runs from Esslingen-Mettingen/ Daimler parking area to Schelztor bus stop and back or from Oberesslingen/Eberspächer company to Augustinerstraße/Kleiner Markt bus stop and back.

Things to see outside the market

Esslingen Castle has towered over the town for over 700 years and is a great place to get a postcard-perfect picture of the town. It was never home to nobility, but rather served as a part of the town fortifications to protect from attackers. The High Watch Tower originated in the 14th century, whereas the Big Tower was added in 1520 as a gun turret.  

There are many old churches in this town, including Stadtkirche St. Dionys, where the history of Esslingen began in the year 777. The current church is the third of constructions on the original site and is a Gothic structure with outstanding stained glass windows from 1300. The windows are amongst the most beautiful medieval stained glass pieces in Germany. 

The Old Town Hall, considered one of the most beautiful buildings in town with its colorful exterior, was built between 1422-1423 as a sales hall and tax house. The Renaissance facade, which was added in the 1580s, is particularly lovely. There is also a curved step gable, bell tower and astronomical clock where the current Registry Office resides.

For the most holly jolly Christmas you’ve ever had, take a trip to the Stuttgart area and experience the magic of the Weihnachts Markt and Medieval Christmas Market. From traditional to extraordinary, both markets are sure to dazzle you with their Christmas cheer.

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