There is no place quite like Deutschland at Christmas time. Whether Christmas is your holiday or not, the lively Christmas markets, festive lights & decorations adorning every corner (literally) and the merry spirit of the hospitable Germans make visiting this time of year such a joy. I have called the south of Germany my home away from home for the past several Christmas’. So, I wanted to write my first post about one of my favorite things- Christmas Markets.
Although I’ve enjoyed the markets in the big cities like Berlin & Frankfurt, the most charming ones are in the smaller regions in the south. Here is a review of my three favorite markets, all an easy drive when staying in Freiburg, Germany (a city in the south west of Germany, close to the French & Swiss border). Freiburg is picturesque city that reminds me of a bustling Napa Valley- rolling hills in the heart of Baden wine region and michelin-starred restaurants with a lively city center. Although Freiburg always has a white winter, it’s known as the sunniest and warmest city in Germany according to meteorological statistics. It’s also a common tourist entry point into the beautiful Black Forest. **Click here to read about planning a fantastic trip to Freiburg.
Weihnachtsmarkt in der Ravennaschlucht (Black Forest Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market) in Breitnau, GER
A Christmas market under the Devil’s Valley Railway in the Black Forest- it just doesn’t get anymore Brothers Grimm fairytale-esque than this. The 130-foot viaducts give a dramatic backdrop to the most unique Christmas market experience ever. It’s an easy 45-min drive from Freiburg, but you’ll need to plan ahead to visit this special market. This is one of the only markets I’ve heard of that charges an entrance fee (€ 3.50 for adults; bring cash), and it’s only open on the weekends (Fri-Sun) for 4 weekends (26 Nov – 18 Dec). Buy a parking pass ahead of time (they always sell out) or you can take a convenient shuttle from one of the neighboring train stops.
Best Food & Souvenirs
Freiburger Weihnachtsmarkt (Freiburg Christmas Market) in Freiburg, GER
My all-time favorite Christmas market is in the medieval squares of Freiburg. Local crafts are a huge focus, and I always find the best gifts & souvenirs at reasonable prices from glass ornaments and wax candles custom-made, on the spot to gorgeous wooden sculptures from the Black Forest. My favorite are the handmade, ceramic houses. I am convinced that gingerbread houses are inspired by the actual houses in southern Germany. I love anything that reminds me of these cute houses. The house opens from the bottom so you can insert an electric tea light, and they sell little chimney toppers which you light with a match to create chimney smoke. The best part is the chimney toppers come in all sorts of scents- my favorite is the apple cinnamon.
I just adore the food at the Freiburg Christmas Market. Some of my favorites are the candied macadamia nuts, potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce (must get both), Nonnenseufzer donut filled with apple and the Raclette grilled sandwich- perfectly aged, Swiss cheese with bacon, onion and veggies.
Best Christmas Decorations
Christkindelmärik (Strasbourg Christmas Market) in Strasbourg, FR
The Strasbourg Christmas market is a mere 1 hr drive away. Driving across the border of one EU country to another is just like driving across state lines in the US, you don’t even notice it. Although I recommend you bring your passport as a precaution, there’s generally no check points.
Strausburg hosted one of the oldest Christmas markets (in 1570), and their festive decorations are a sight to behold! They go all-out with intricate props adorning every shop and booth facade. I love the abundant use of cute stuffed animals, from teddy bears to penguins 🙂 The heart of their market surrounds the stunning Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strausbourg and the Grande Île, a island in center of the city, deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You’ll find the same Christmas market staples at every market, like sausages, candied nuts & mulled wine, but when in Strasbourg, definitely look for French treats like croissants, Madeleines & foie gras. My favorite booth is Maison Kammerzell Degustation et Vente de Foie Gras. Maison Kammerzell is a restaurant by the cathedral, but their best dish is the foie gras, so make sure to find this booth. You can meet the chef and sample different types of foie gras. They offer a foie gras sandwich on a pretzel roll so you can eat as you browse or you can buy various types of foie gras in all sorts of sizes packed in a cooler bag so you can continue to wander the market without a worry.