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Germany’s Most Romantic Christmas Markets

by Barbara Rogers

Dec 4, 2019

Stillman Rogers

Destinations / Europe

Twinkling lights, fragrances of spice and evergreens, cups of steaming mulled wine, all in a setting of half-timbered buildings — it’s like stepping into a fairy tale, and perfect for a romantic trip for two.


Cities and villages all over Germany join in this annual celebration that lasts from the end of November through Dec. 24. Smaller towns may have their markets only on weekends or for a shorter time, but the larger markets are open every day, often highlighted by parades, choral concerts and other entertainment.


For romance, it’s hard to beat the Hohenzollern Castle, set high on a hilltop in southwest Germany. Inside the castle gates, the courtyard has become an impromptu café where you can get mugs of glühwein — hot spiced red wine — and grilled sausages. Beyond, beneath the towers and stone walls of the castle, the inner courtyard is lined with wooden cabins displaying hand-made decorations and gifts.


Christmas Market Ludwigsburg, Germany. Photo: Stillman Rogers


Romantic as this courtyard setting is, it gets even better. Step inside to find the magnificent Great Hall ablaze with lights and filled with colorful booths where the region’s top craftspeople have been selected to show and sell. From delicate lace and sturdy hand knit woolens to blown glass, wrought iron and anise-scented springerle, you’ll find original designs and local materials: wood from the Black Forest, wool from sheep that graze in the surrounding pastures. This market is open only two weekends each December, and they are worth planning your trip around.


Plan to arrive in Esslingen, a bit farther north in Baden-Württemberg, in the late afternoon for the full effect of stepping into the Middle Ages. Browse thought the “modern” Christmas market on your way to the Rathausplatz, where no electric lights intrude on the scene surrounded by the largest intact collection of half-timbered buildings in Germany. Here, tented booths and authentic dress recreate the street markets in the Middle Ages. Meats sizzle on open fires, craftspeople weave baskets and carve wood, jugglers and minstrels stroll — all the crafts, foods and entertainment are authentic to the Middle Ages.


Esslingen Ceramic Elves. Photo: Stillman Rogers


Just outside of Stuttgart in Ludwigsburg, site of the splendid, Baroque princely palace, one of Germany’s loveliest markets fills a perfect square surrounded by Baroque mansions. The beautiful surrounding set the theme for a market of specialty goods and foods from all over Germany, most of them handmade. No two booths are exactly alike, and you’ll find beautiful glass ornaments, fine leatherwork, hand-made felt hats, fine woodcarving and traditional foods, such as lebkuchen from Nuremburg and fruit-filled stolen from Dresden.


Half-timbered houses line the winding stone streets and tiny squares of Tübingen, in the Black Forest, where the Christmas market centers on the most romantic of all foods — chocolate. Called ChocolART, the festival draws chocolatiers from all over the world to sell their most luscious and beautiful treats. Sip cups of steaming hot cocoa as you browse among the heady selection of truffles, pralines, dipped candied fruit, chocolate-covered spice cookies and bars in every chocolaty shade.


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