Visiting Germany in December means Christmas Markets, plenty of them. There are the big, world famous ones looking back at several centuries, the smaller and more intimate but likewise century-old ones in rural villages and finally there is a thriving landscape of Christmas markets created by private groups such as local associations, hotels or within many of the German fairytale castles.
Though personally I think the latter are the most beautiful and exiting to visit, usually kept rigorously artisanal, selling only original handcraft decorations and excellent locally-sources food, there are several markets in the larger cities that are always worth a visit too.
From the end of November, the city centre of Hamburg seems to transform into one big Christmas Market. Wandering around, you will often struggle to tell markets apart, effectively walking from one into the other. Indeed, on Saturday afternoons the main city areas around the Town Hall and the major shopping street leading towards the main station will be closed to traffic and the whole area definitely becomes one huge Christmas Market.
There area also many additional Christmas Markets across the various Hamburg neighbourhoods but if you are in the city the first time during the Christmas period, I recommend to start checking out the main inner-city markets.
Christmas Market at the town hall square (Rathausmarkt)
The biggest and one of the oldest of Hamburg’s Christmas markets sits right in front of the striking historic city hall. It is one of the most popular not only in the city but also draws many visitors from across the country (and abroad) so expect to find large crowds even early in the day.
Stalls are arranged in neat little alleys with each dedicated to a specific topic, like selling decorations, sweets and of course food and the famous Glühwein (mulled wine).
The market is dominated by a giant Christmas tree spotting thousands of Christmas lights that come alive once the daylight is fading.
All of the stalls are beautifully decorated but perhaps the most spectacular feature here is the large sleigh carrying Santa Claus which comes alive every day at 4 pm, 6 pm and 8 pm, virtually flying over the market.
Translating into ‘white magic’; and that’s what this small market is. The charming little market is nestled on the large Alster Lake boardwalk directly at the shores of the Inner Alster Lake (Binnenalster). It is particularly beautiful in the evening when the numerous Christmas lights are reflected in the water.
There are lots of traditional crafts sold here but you will of course also find many stalls with food and the obligatory mulled wine.
Hamburg’s main shopping street stretches from the central train station to Spitalerstraße for nearly one kilometre and during December essentially turns into one long Christmas Market. One of the market’s main attractions is the huge Christmas tree – traditionally reaching up to around 20 metres – next to the large fountain where you will also find a handcraft crib featuring life-sized figures.
The Christmas Market along Mönkebergstraße also extents into Spitalerstraße, a pedestrian street where it is essentially becoming a little Christmas village
and around the Gerhard-Hauptmann-Platz where stall will predominantly sell handcraft decoration.
One of the loveliest squares in the old town quarter, Gänsemarkt is a destination not to be missed at any time of the year. But once the small Christmas Market comes to live here, the little cobble-stoned square really transforms into a fairy-tale like spot.
Given the small size of the square, only few stalls are set up here with most focusing on food and beverages. The benefit of the smaller offer is that less people find their way here – so it’s usually less crowded compared to the other locations, meaning more space for you!
Chrstmas Market at the Fleet
A beautiful small market nestled directly at the shore of one of the many fleets that strongly reflects the maritime roots of the city. Don’t get confused here, fleet does not mean a group of ships. A fleet in Hamburg describes a small waterway leading through the city, similar to a canal albeit not created artificially.
There are usually two beautifully decorated historic ships brought here for the Christmas Market from the museums harbour at Övelgönne. Sadly, these were missing this year which I have been told was due to the extensive sewerage works taking place throughout the whole city, which apparently made it difficult to move the shops along the fleet canals.
The market is slightly hidden away from the crowds at the very end of Neuer Wall and mainly frequented by locals. It has nevertheless become a local favourite and can get fairly crowed towards the evening, especially with many working at the nearby office buildings dropping by for an after-work mulled wine.
With only a few stalls, focus is on food and drinks, though you will although find stalls selling beautiful handcraft decorations and there is a little carousel for the kids.
Christmas Market at the Michel
Hamburg’s St. Michaelis church is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. However, the annual Christmas Market taking place only on the first Advent weekend is rather unknown to tourists – despite being the oldest in town, dating back to 1919. It extends into the historic crypt and the community hall of the church, with more than 100 stalls selling handcrafts, decorations and fashion alongside several food stalls.
Have you visitied a German Christmas Market yet? Which one did you like most?