Cheap seats: Tour Christmas markets
The holiday season is fast approaching and Germany’s cities are preparing for their Christmas markets, with most opening the last week of November. So now is the time to make plans to catch a bus, grab a train or fuel up the car for a trip to the enchanted lands that await.
Start in Aachen, a mere four hours by train from London. Try a local specialty, printen — a type of gingerbread with almonds, orange peel and a sugary glaze. The market area around the cathedral and town hall is a festive mix of light, color and people. While the children enjoy a turn on the elegant carousel, sit back and enjoy a potato fritter and hot, spiced wine.
A short commuter train ride away from Aachen, the city of Cologne offers six Christmas markets. Browse the wooden pavilions selling sweets, mulled wine and handicrafts at the cathedral market, which sits in the shadows of the cathedral’s two towering spires.
Head to the heart of the old town, the Alter Markt, where children will find Santa Claus’ grotto, toy stands and puppet theaters. Among the other options are the city’s oldest market located on the Neumarkt, near the Church St. Aposteln; a medieval market outside the Chocolate Museum; a market held on a boat in the Rhine River; and the market on the Rudolfplatz, with its fairy tale theme.
In the spa city of Baden-Baden, live music is performed twice daily on a stage in front of the Kurhaus during this city’s Christmas market. There will be more than 100 stands selling decorations, toys, food, antiques and more. A highlight of the market is the living creche, featuring live animals and a shepherd.
In Bremen, the town hall is the backdrop for a Christmas market packed with Bavarian delicacies and fish specialties. Outside the Bremen Ethnological Museum, 50 artists from all over the world will be re-creating 30 scenes from Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol" using hundreds of tons of ice and snow.
In Hamburg, visitors will find handcrafted and mass-produced items being sold in the stalls crowding the city’s largest square. Children will enjoy watching for Santa Claus to appear above the roofs of the market cottages with his sleigh and reindeer.
Shop for baked goods, tree angels, ornaments and more from the red-and-white topped wooden stalls in Nuremberg’s market. One item featured for sale annually is the "plum people," little figures made from prunes.
If it’s candles you’re into, Bonn’s market offers beeswax candles along with traditional decorations, toys and food. And the old town hall becomes the city’s own Advent calendar, lighting up one more window each day during the holiday season.