While you’re in the neighborhood: Things to do beyond the Christmas market

While you’re in the neighborhood: Things to do beyond the Christmas market

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

It’s all well and good to travel far and wide to visit a Christmas market, and of course, we encourage you to do so. However, if you’re a first-time visitor to the city that’s hosting the market, it would be a bit of a shame to miss the landmarks or traditions for which the place is famous in the first place. Here’s a peek at a few side activities to indulge in beyond the bustle of the Christmas market.

Enjoy the view from on high: get a bird’s eye view of your surroundings by visiting the city’s highest point. In Frankfurt, the Main Tower skyscraper has a viewing platform open to the public. The steeple of the Kaiserdom (Imperial Cathedral) is nowhere near as high, but it’s closer to the Christmas market and also offers sweeping vistas. Other buildings with great views include the steeple of Dresden’s Frauenkirche or Nuremberg’s St. Lorenz Church, Leipzig’s Panorama Tower, and of course, Berlin’s TV Tower.

Take a river cruise: several cruise lines offer journeys of just a few hour’s duration in the Advent season. You can take day trips along Frankfurt’s Main River with Primus-Linie, and KD Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt offers a number of Advent-themed cruises from cities along the Rhine including Cologne, Düsseldorf, Mainz and Rüdesheim. From Heidelberg, it’s possible to sail to the Advent Market at the Klosterhof Neuberg or Ladenburg’s Christmas market with the Weisse Flotte.

Explore the city’s famous landmarks: while you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss UNESCO heritage listed sights such as Würzburg’s Residence, Regensburg’s Old Town, or the Roman monuments of Trier. Museums, zoos and botanical gardens can make for wonderful outings any time of the year too.

Indulge in the city’s culinary specialties: while it’s often the case that you can sample a city’s signature dish without leaving at the Christmas market, basking in the warmth of a local restaurant could make a welcome break from all that walking. Sample Swabian maultaschen in Gasthaus zur Linde in Stuttgart, the tasty little sausages at Bratwurstglöcklein in Nuremberg, or Schweinshaxe in Munich’s Hofbräuhaus.

Try the local wine: cities in wine-growing regions just might have a typical wine you’ve yet to try, so call in to a cozy tavern and sample something along the lines of a Rheingau Riesling in Wiesbaden, a Württemberg Trollinger in Stuttgart, or a Franconian Silvaner in Würzburg.

Cathedrals are must-sees: even those who aren’t particularly religious can stand in awe at the age and architecture of centuries-old cathedrals, including those in Aachen, Bamberg, Cologne, Mainz, Regensburg, Speyer and Worms, to name just a few. Which brings us to our next activity:

Check out the nativity scenes: nativity scenes can be found not only in cathedrals but in Catholic churches large and small throughout the land. A city that’s particularly famous for its nativity scenes is Bamberg, where over 36 of them can be viewed well into January.

Visit funky neighborhoods: yes, there are German cities in which you can find neighborhoods with a funky, alternative vibe. Some of the best are Neustadt in Dresden, Kreuzberg in Berlin, Sternschanze in Hamburg, or Rudolfplatz and the Belgian Quarter in Cologne. As an added bonus, these neighborhoods may have their very own Christmas markets with a unique selection of gifts.

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