From the end of November until Christmas Eve Germany’s night life goes outdoors and I for one could not be more delighted.
How to get there
Public transport is the way, unless you are lucky enough to have a designated driver, kick back and let someone else get you there.
Deutsche Bahn have some good deals on travelling within Germany if you book in advance.
Local transport operators VVS (Baden-Württemberg) and VGN (Bavaria) also offer very reasonably priced state wide and local travel.
What to wear
It’s probably going to be cold, and once the sun goes in it will definitely be cold so wrap up warm. I’m talking layers, thermals, big coat and hat, scarf, gloves are essential, you’ll thank me. Oh and fingerless gloves can come in handy so you have some grip on your Glühwein.
Ladies (and gentlemen where appropriate), tights and/or leggings under your jeans/skirt are recommended, markets can be crowded so movement can be restricted, standing around you’ll be glad of the extra layers.
A small cross body bag is recommended, it can be quite tight moving between people at the markets and a shoulder bag an be easily knocked off.
Boots with decent traction (ice, slush, snow, other peoples feet) and a warm pair of socks will stand you in good stead, say no to trainers, pumps or ballet flats!
Need ideas? Check out this post.
Useful to know
As with beer festivals you will pay a refundable deposit (pfand) for your mug, this could be anything from 2-5euro. So take a little more cash than you think you’ll need. Beware buying a round can be expensive!
Christmas Markets are at their busiest at the weekends from just around lunchtime onwards, the atmosphere is great but it can be hard to check out the stalls with so many people around, so if you have present buying in mind try to visit in the mornings or on weekdays.
As with most things in Germany, lots of stalls don’t take cards, some do, but don’t rely on it and take some cash.
Glühwein is alcoholic (surprise surprise) if you want something non alcoholic your choice may be limited to Kinder Punsch (Kids fruit drink, a bit like ribena), hot fruit juice or hot chocolate.
Schuss means a shot, usually rum but any spirit really, if you buy a hot fruit juice or hot chocolate you might get asked if you want a ‘Schuss’ added.
Most Christmas Markets are free to enter, although some on private property do charge an entrance fee.
What to drink
Glühwein (obviously) but shop around for different fruit flavours, Erdbeere and Brombeere are two of my favourites.
White Glühwein is also growing in popularity and pretty tasty too.
Feuerzangenbowle, it’s hard to say but delicious to drink. Glühwein which has been warmed with a flaming rum soaked sugarblock dripping into it, yep, it’s awesome
Hot cocktails, all your favourites Hugo, Aperol spritz, mojitos, just hot, they can be a bit hit and miss flavour wise, as well as very strong but, are a nice grown up, less sweet, version of the traditional Glühwein
Hot chocolate, trust your nose to find a good stand and expect cream not marshmallows (and a shot if you so desire). If you order a Russian, Turkish, insert name of a country before Heiße Schokko it will have alcohol in.
Belgian Pommes, the closest thing to a proper English chippy chip you are going to find in Germany, thank me later.
Flammkuchen, a thin pastry base topped with savoury or sweet toppings, the classic sour cream onion and bacon is a winner for me.
Spätzle, I’ve heard it described as ‘German pasta’ before, its consistency is somewhat heavier and thicker but still delicious. Pan fried with cheese and onions or as a side to goulash it’s equally warming and very filling.
Lebkuchen, if you’ve only had those little hard iced things that they sell in the UK you are in for a wonderful surprise, these treats are generally larger than your palm, topped with almonds and melt in your mouth.
Fruit covered in chocolate, I’m not a huge chocolate lover but the husband loves this stuff and it is always pretty funny to watch him try to convince the stall-holder he really wants the chocolate covered chilli.
From personal experience Forchheim, for it’s charm, Erlangen Historisches, for it’s fuerzangenbowle and Nürnberg, just to experience the true scale of it.
This year I plan to visit Stuttgart (obviously), Ludwigsburg, Esslingen and hopefully a few more.