The Christmas market is one of Germany’s best Christmas traditions and the oldest ones date back to the late Middle Ages. The Christmas market started as a passed down tradition from generation to generation of the farmers from the Nuremberg area bringing their crops to sell at the marketplace during the Advent period. The seasonal market brought a bit of light and liveliness to the cold, long, dark winter nights. That tradition morphed in to the Christkindlesmarkt as we know it today. There are now more than 2500 Christmas markets throughout Germany and though some of the most famous like Nuremberg and Rothenburg are located in Bavaria, the Christmas markets of Northern Germany are well worth a visit.
Lubeck is called the Christmas Capital of Northern Germany and with six different Christmas markets situated throughout the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it certainly was festive. The largest Christmas Market is on the market square with the wooden huts offering Christmas gifts and foods from all over Germany. The scents of honey roasted almonds, grilled sausages, and gluhwein drift across the marketplace as strands of Christmas carols dance through the chilly air.
You can also visit the medieval Christmas market with more traditional handicrafts, the fairytale Christmas market which highlights classic characters from the Brothers Grimm and has entertainment for children, or head to St. Peter’s Church where you’re sure to find unique handmade gifts for everyone on your list. And for gifts from a little further afield, visit the world Christmas market with vendors selling their wares from Estonia to Italy
Christmas concerts and organ music are another German tradition and you’ll find many events happening throughout the Advent season.
Schwerin is like the bar Cheers, where everyone knows your name. The small Northern German town was once part of the former GDR (German Democratic Republic), but these days it’s a picturesque spot nestled upon 10 lakes with its famous castle the jewel in its crown.
The Christmas market stretches throughout the old town with the little wooden huts lining the cobbled lanes. Though it actually comes from Dresden, the most popular food stall is the Dresden Rahmklecks. It’s a fresh baked bread stuffed with cheese and you’ll easily find the stall as there is always a long queue. A local specialty to try is the sanddorn punch, which is made with the tart sea buckthorn berry typically found in the north.
Very much like in the old days, the Christmas market is a place to gather to socialize and Schwerin’s residents do that around fire pits. But I doubt that in the Middle Ages that there was a polar bear band to entire the young and the young at heart. The four larger-than-life polar bears jam on their instruments while singing holiday favorites.
You can also head to the lakeside ice skating rink or take a spin on the ferris wheel. And if you’re lucky, it will be cold enough for Schwerin’s lakes to freeze over and you can ice skate with the beautiful spires of the twinkling old town as a backdrop.
Rostock boasts the largest Christmas markets in Northern Germany and some of the biggest and best decorations. The 19-meter high North German spruce comes from Rostock Reutershagen, is decorated with several thousand lights, and is the Hanseatic League’s largest Christmas tree.
The Christmas pyramid that adorns the center of the market square is also the largest in the world at over 20 meters high; it has even been entered in to the Guinness Book of World Records. These Christmas pyramids have been a German tradition since the Middle Ages, when they were made from evergreen branches and would hang in German families’ homes. The pyramids are said to be the predecessor to the Christmas tree.
The historical Christmas market is a unique feature where you can taste historic foods from the Middle Ages like Mutzbraten, pork with herbs roasted over an open fire and served with a type of sauerkraut kale. When I asked one local what the best thing to eat at the Rostock Christmas Market is, he didn’t hesitate to tell me that he waits all year for the Mutzbraten. It was indeed delicious!
Each night there is a different form of entertains from fire jugglers to jazz singers on the historical Christmas market’s stage and the fire jugglers solicited oohs and ahhs from the crowd on our visit.
Rostock also has a fun fair at the riverside with a tilt-a-whirl, ferris wheel, bumper cars and more. Just follow the laughter as all ages get an adrenaline rush on the carnival rides that have become a staple of the Christmas markets of Northern Germany.
With 14 different Christmas markets nestled throughout Germany’s second largest city, it might be hard to choose just one to visit. But if your time is short like ours was, the one market not to be missed is the Historical Christmas Market on Rathausmarkt.
Gingerbread bakers from Nuremberg, wood carvers from Tyrol, glassblowers, silversmiths, and many other craftsmen wait to welcome you with quality handcrafted items from all around Germany. A main attraction, especially if you have little ones, is the Spielzeuggasse (toy street) where you’ll find handcrafted toys sure to be on any child’s Christmas wishlist. And every day at 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm Santa Claus makes a grand entrance with his sleigh hoovering above the huts.
Be sure to have a gluhwein. It’s also a German tradition that began in the Middles Ages. As the story goes, it was quite a cold night and people were sitting around a fire with their wine. Someone decided to heat an iron in the fire, shake off the excess ask, and put the iron in the wine to heat it up. The hot iron in the wine glowed, giving it the name gluhwein or what translates to glow wine.
This post was brought to you by German National Tourist Board as we were invited guests to experience the Christmas Markets of Northern Germany. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.