What takes your fancy? Medieval or modern, baroque or family fun? SouthWest Germany’s Christmas markets cater to all. Find them on historic squares and in monasteries, in castles and stadiums. Sip mulled wine, nibble tasty treats, buy one-of-a-kind crafts and foods that are perfect for gifts. Join us on our tour through some of the best Christmas markets!
lavishly decorated stalls, spätzle and a touch of Finland
Stuttgart’s Christmas market is one of Germany’s largest and oldest. Spread out over several squares of the beautifully illuminated city centre, the market stretches from Königsbau and the baroque New Palace to Karlsplatz and Schillerplatz, with its medieval Old Castle, and on to the market square. The courtyard of the Old Palace twinkles with lights and every evening, you can enjoy free concerts of Christmas music. Just pop along! Wherever you walk, always look up because the Stuttgart Christmas market is known for its Budendächer, the imaginatively-decorated roofs on each of the 300 stalls.
DO NOT MISS: The Finnish Christmas village at the far end of Karlsplatz.
the perfect backdrop for a Christmas market and medieval market
Just outside Stuttgart, on Esslingen’s historic market square, the Christmas market has 180 stalls. But, there are actually two different markets. There is also a medieval market right next to the bustling Christmas market. Enjoy the real blazing torches and wood fires, instead of electric lights. The stalls, displaying traditional handicrafts made by blacksmiths, glassblowers, book binders and leather makers. And taste the hearty traditional foods: hot mead, roasted chestnuts, hog roasts. Jugglers, minstrels and fire-eaters entertain the crowds on small stages. You can even learn ancient crafts and have a go at archery or even warm up in a hot tub in a medieval.
GOOD TO KNOW: Visit on weekdays, when it is less crowded. Esslingen is a 15-minute S-Bahn train ride from Stuttgart.
Christmas market and Chocolate Festival
In Tübingen, 30 minutes south of Stuttgart, the Christmas market is held in mid-December, on the third weekend of Advent. Well worth a visit, this historic town boasts one of Germany’s oldest universities (1477). The Christmas market’s great appeal is that it is so uncommercial, with local citizens, artists and charities selling their home-made gifts and food. Alongside the market, the old town also hosts a wonderful event devoted solely to chocolate: chocolART. Part of the International Chocolate Festival Association, this has tempting stalls offering Chocolate in every shape and form: handmade chocolate, chocolate tastings, praline courses, even special chocolate menus at local restaurants.
DO NOT MISS: The best view of the old town is from the Neckarbridge.
beautiful market, beautiful castle
When it comes to fairytale castles, Hohenzollern Castle hast to be on the top of your list! An hour southwest of Stuttgart, near Tübingen, this was the ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern and the Prussian royal family. Perched spectacularly on a crag with fantastic views across the Swabian Alb, there has been a castle here since the 11th century. However, today's neo-Gothic fantasy dates from the 19th century and it is a spectacular backdrop to the annual Royal Christmas Market. It takes place on the first two weekends in December. The stalls are set up in the castle courtyard, out in the grounds and also indoors. This provides a very romantic and special setting. Equally special is the emphasis on highquality, one-of-a-kind gifts, from jewellery to accessories.
The Black Forest
the Ravenna Gorge’s romantic Advent market
About 30 minutes east of Freiburg is the small town of Hinterzarten that is famous for its Christmas market in the nearby Ravennaschlucht, the Ravenna Gorge. With the railway viaduct soaring above, there is a genuinely special and romantic atmosphere – especially after dark. The market is open on all four weekends in Advent. Explore the market with its handmade wood carvings and local Black Forest food; then warm up in the historic Hofgut Sternen, the traditional family-run inn next door. This has a guest list straight out of a history book, from Marie Antoinette to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
GOOD TO KNOW: Try a walk through the Ravenna Gorge and arriving at the market at sunset.
The unique Advent calendar
What makes Gengenbach so special? After all, other Black Forest towns are delightful, with half-timbered houses and cobbled streets. But nowhere else can boast that it has the world’s largest annual Advent calendar. It is actually the Town Hall, where 24 backlit ‘windows’ provide the ‘days’ leading up to Christmas. Each evening at 6pm, everyone gathers in front of the 200-year old baroque façade. Suddenly, the darkness is broken by blue, red and silver lights on the stone statues. A spotlight focuses on a single window; up goes the shade to reveal a new ‘window’ to the oohs and aahs of the crowd below. Over some 20 years, the windows have paid tribute to internationally renowned names. Finally, on December 24, all the windows are open: two rows of 11, plus two windows in the roof. The Town Hall, a ‘treasure chest of fantasy’, is the world’s largest annual Advent calendar. Add in music, mulled wine, food and games, plus the Advent market in the main square, and it all adds up to a wonderful family night out.
the elegant Christmas market
The Christmas market takes place in the Kurpark in front of the Kurhaus, right in the heart of the city Baden-Baden. Against the backdrop of the Kurhaus, candles flicker and lights sparkle, while more than 100 beautifully decorated wooden stalls offer unusual local arts, crafts and gifts. The aroma of mulled wine, roast chestnuts and gingerbread is tantalising. And there is plenty for children too: at the ‘living crib’, youngsters love to pet the sheep, goats and donkeys and they also love to make Christmas cookies at the children’s bakery. Every day on the open-air stage, there are live concerts and children’s choirs. To round off the day, relax in one of the two spas, with their warm natural mineral spring water: the ornate Friedrichsbad or the modern Caracalla Therme. To complete the Yuletide magic, it often snows!
Christmas on the lake
The Christmas market in Konstanz is unique. Where else would you find a Christmas ship moored at the quayside, with a 360° panoramic bar and views of the lake and snow-capped Alps? On shore are 100,000 lights, 10,000 gift ideas and 160 tempting stalls. No wonder GEO magazine and the Frankfurt Christmas World Fair competition ‘Best Christmas City’ rated the market as one of Germany's top ten Christmas markets. But there is much more, from top-class classical concerts and cultural events to special exhibitions in the museums. Plus attractive WinterSPEZIAL deals at the fine local hotels. On the water, take an Advent cruise and indulge in coffee and cake aboard festively decorated BSB line boats. Nearby Mainau Island, known for its flowers, offers the warmth of the spectacular butterfly house and indoor palm garden. Spend time at SEA LIFE Konstanz, an award-winning aquarium. Or explore the back streets of the city, with a guide dressed as a medieval knight!