Christmas markets dot the German countryside and cities from Kiel in the north to Munich in the south.

Some have been around for hundreds of years, others are relatively new. All are great places to buy Christmas decorations for your tree or presents for the folks back home. And all are delightful settings, with plenty to eat and drink, for meeting up with friends or unwinding after work.

Bavaria, with its mountains and valleys, dirndls and lederhosen, has always been a popular place for Americans to visit. At Christmas time, it is no different. The region has many popular Christmas markets, such as the ones at Aschaffenburg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and the three we visited last year: Würzburg, Nuremberg and Munich.

The Würzburg market takes place on the city’s vast market square, which is divided into the Oberen (upper) and Unteren (lower) markets. Modern buildings surround much of the square, but the Gothic Marienkapelle (chapel) and the ornate stucco façade of the Falkenhaus make a beautiful backdrop for the Christmas market.

About 100 vendors stalls line narrow lanes, with the smell of bratwurst and Glühwein wafting through the air. Arts and crafts and Christmas decorations are for sale, along with warm food and drink for nourishment during a stroll through the market.

There are merry-go-rounds and pony rides for children, and on weekends bands and choirs entertain visitors.

From the marketplace, wander down Langgasse to the Rathaus, Würzburg’s city hall. On the four weekends before Christmas, an artists’ Christmas market is set up in the city hall courtyard. And if you are tired of eating standing up, the Ratskeller restaurant serves traditional Franconian fare.

The Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg’s famed market, is one of the oldest in Germany. It was first mentioned in writing in 1628, and although electricity powers the thousands of bulbs that light the market stalls and decorations, it is still very traditional.

It is forbidden, for example, to decorate the stalls with plastic garlands, and piped-in Christmas muzak is frowned upon.

The Christkindlesmarkt is held on the city’s market square, with the Church of Our Lady as a backdrop. It is from the balcony of the Frauenkirche, as it is known in German, that the Christ Child opens the market with a solemn speech at 5:30 p.m. on the Friday before the first Advent Sunday — Nov. 27 this year.

About 180 stalls fill the square, offering many of the same goods as in Würzburg, but with many Nuremberg specialties thrown in. Try some Nürnberger Bratwurst, the short, spicy version of the traditional German sausage. Nürnberger Lebkuchen — spicy gingerbread — is also plentiful, as are the Nürnberger Zwetschgenmännle, figurines made of prunes and nuts.

You will also see signs for original Nuremberg Glühwein, as many locals claim the widely consumed hot mulled wine originated here.

Just north of the Marktplatz is the Rathausplatz, where there is a Christmas market featuring Nuremberg’s sister cities, including Atlanta, Ga., and east of the main market on Hans-Sachs-Platz is the Children’s Christmas market, with lots of rides for the kids — and Glühwein for the adults.

Munich, the Bavarian capital, hosts a variety of Christmas markets.

Its main market is on Marienplatz, in the shadow of the beautiful, towering city hall. Every evening between 5:30 and 6, choirs or bands perform Christmas carols from it balcony, entertaining the market revelers below.

Another highlight of the market is its giant Christmas tree, donated by a different Bavarian community each year.

Just 0a few steps away, on Rindermarkt square, is the Kripperlmarkt, or crib market.

Here you can buy mangers and figurines for your nativity scene in all shapes, sizes, styles and price ranges. Styles run from the very traditional to Bavarian baroque.

Of course Glühwein and bratwurst can’t be missing — one of the brat stands is inside a giant Christmas pyramid — and the square is very popular with the young crowd.

Another Munich market is at the Sendlinger Tor. With the former city gate as a backdrop, this one has an old-time feeling. Besides the food, this market has stalls selling Christmas decorations and crafts from numerous countries as far apart as Peru and Lithuania.

The Christmas market in the hip Schwabing section is known for its arts and crafts. Here, among other things, are jewelry, leather goods, sculptures, handmade hats and wooden toys. Live music and theater make up the entertainment, and foreign cuisine offers an alternative to the bratwurst.

Nearby in the English Garden, the Chinese Tower Christmas market is a quiet affair compared to the crowds downtown, but with its beautifully lit tree and tower, it is a perfect spot for a romantic holiday outing.

So bundle up and join the locals at a Bavarian Christmas market. You’re bound to find one that’s perfect for you.

Know and Go• The Würzburg Christmas market is open Nov. 27 to Dec. 23 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. The artists’ market is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. More information at

• Opening day for the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremburg is also Nov. 27 and it runs until Christmas Eve. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays; 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Additional details at

• In Munich the main Christmas market on the Marienplatz and Rindermarkt is open from Nov. 27 to Dec. 24. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays. On Christmas Eve it is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The market at Sendlinger Tor is open Nov. 27 through Dec. 23 from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The Chinese Tower market opens a day later and the hours are noon to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends. The Schwabinger Weihnachtsmarkt operates the same time as the Chinese Tower, plus 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 24. Find more information on the city’s markets at

More markets

Looking for more Christmas markets in Germany? Check out the map at

It has dots marking the location of more than 150 markets in Germany, from Flensburg in the north to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the south, and from Görlitz in the east to Aachen in the west. Click on each dot for a brief description of the locale’s Christmas market, a little about its history and for a Google map of the region. Some of the sites also have advertisements with special hotel packages.

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