In Germany, Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt,) are a traditional Holiday gathering, which attract Germans and tourists from all around to celebrate with music, drinks, food, shopping and holiday spirit.
You will find a Christmas Market in the center of just about every German town, big or small and just about every one of them will have the same characteristics.
In bigger cities they generally start on the last weekend of November and end on the 23rd or 24th of December. In smaller towns Christmas markets usually take place over a weekend. In smaller cities they are usually only held for a weekend or up to a week directly before Christmas.
You could compare a German Christmas Market to a fair in the U.S. A big area with lots of stands, but instead of games these stands are little shops with Christmas items like clothing, ornaments, “Nutcracker” Soldiers etc. You will also find some rides, just like at the fair in the U.S. but these rides are typically in the larger cities and not a main attraction.
There are also many food and drink stands where you will find most of the traditional German Christmas food and drinks, including, but not limited to, Gluehwein, Christmas punch, gingerbread and Christmas cookies.
Gluehwein (a warm, red wine served in a coffee-type mug) is by far the most popular drink at the markets. You will find many gluewein stands throughout the markets with crowds of people around them drinking and socializing.
The overall experience of a Christmas Market in Germany is really like no other. It tends to truly bring out the Christmas spirit in all who attend with the “Christmasy” smells, sights and sounds.
As soon as you arrive you smell a mix of the the roasted chestnuts, the sweet Gluehwein and a variety of other Christmas goodies. You hear cheerful Christmas music, which really lifts your spirits, even if you don’t understand German.
I’ve visited many different Countries in the past decade and I can honestly say that German Christmas Markets provide one of the best Christmas experiences you’ll find.