Nowhere has more romantic Christmas markets than SouthWest Germany, with medieval and Baroque palaces and houses providing the backdrop for dozens of beautifully-decorated wooden stalls. Buy locally-made toys and artisan gifts; relax with mugs of mulled wine, gingerbread cookies, sausages and baked apples. Here are ten favourites, all traditional, all fun – and all very SouthWest Germany.
Stuttgart November 26th to December 23rd
One of Europe’s largest markets is also one of the oldest, with a 300-year history, and it fills the city’s car-free heart. Stalls vie for the “best decorated” title, so all have greenery, sparkling lights and ornaments. Free Christmas concerts are held in Old Palace’s Renaissance courtyard, as well as on the steps of the Town Hall.
Heidelberg November 24th to December 22nd
As well as the stalls in the Old Town, one of Europe’s longest pedestrianised streets is bright with cheerful shops. Couples skate round “Germany’s most beautiful ice rink”; children love the fairy-tale Winter Woodland. On Advent weekends, the romantic castle hosts a special Christmas market.
Karlsruhe November 27th to December 22nd
One highlight is the 56-ft tall Glühweinpyramide, a pyramid of mulled wine. The festive drink is at ground level; above are tiers of giant toy soldiers, fairies and angels. Children love the “Flying Santa Claus” that flies on his sled high above Friedrichsplatz square. Equally popular is the vast open-air ice rink.
Ludwigsburg November 28th to December 21st (weekends)
In this Baroque town, what else but a Baroque theme for the market? Thousands of tiny shimmering lights, many outlining the wings of giant angels, decorate the main square, where stalls sell locally-made gifts, foods and warming drinks. Try a freshly-baked local Holzofendinnede, like a mini pizza, but more delicious!
Freiburg November 24th to December 23rd
One of Germany’s most beautiful Christmas markets is held on the Town Hall Square, where stalls reflect the traditions of the surrounding Black Forest. Chat to, and buy from, woodcarvers, stone cutters, glass blowers, potters and candle makers. www.weihnachtsmarkt.freiburg.de
Gengenbach November 29th to December 23rd
Gengenbach in the Black Forest boasts the world’s largest Advent Calendar. In the countdown to Christmas, the 24 windows on the 200-year-old town hall, provide the “dates”. Every evening, the “calendar” changes as a new window is opened. Unique!
Konstanz November 27th to December 22nd
With artisans, stallholders and restaurateurs, Christmas treats are everywhere, from toys to sweets. One special feature of this market on Lake Constance is the illuminated Christmas Ship, moored in the harbour, with yet more stalls to explore. www.weihnachtsmarkt-am-see.de
Tübingen December 12th to 14th
Everything in this university city’s Christmas market is locally-made, hand-made, home-made, hand-crafted, hand-carved, hand-painted … and special! Before that, chocolART (Dec 2nd to 7th) is a 6-day chocolate festival: tasting chox, making chox, chocolate-inspired menus in restaurants.
Esslingen November 25th to December 21st
Even more fun than the Christmas Market is the Medieval Fayre: 200 themed stalls and 500 cultural events provide non-stop entertainment along the cobbled streets of this medieval town centre. Artisans display traditional craftsmanship and long-forgotten skills. Anybody for axe throwing?
Ravenna Gorge November 29th to December 21st (weekends)
Set in a wooded canyon, deep in the Black Forest, 40 stalls offer handmade Christmas gifts created by talented craftsmen and women. And, the railway arches above are illuminated with a special laser and Christmas music show.
The material comes from Tourismus Marketing GmbH Baden-Württemberg. For more information, please visit www.tourismus-bw.com