Roasted chestnuts, fragrant pine trees, glimmering lights reflecting off of colorful ornaments, and a visit from Saint Nick… these are the signs of Christmas for many of us around the world, but did you know that all have their cultural roots in Germany? It wasn't until the Victorian Age, when the German Prince Albert brought these traditions to Britain, that the Christmas we know today took off.
So what better place to visit during the festive season than the homeland of Christmas culture? From around late November until the holiday, many picturesque German towns and cities transform their central square into an ongoing festival to usher in the glad tidings. You can find locally handcrafted ornaments and toys, along with regional specialty sweets and street food for sale in the many stalls that line the cobbled streets. Once you've found that perfect gift for everyone on your Christmas list, relax and enjoy the entertainment of the market. Schedules are often provided listing the time and location of various performances. Whether you discover the sweet sounds of a children's choir, or are treated to a cavalcade of lively jugglers, you are bound to enjoy the lively market atmosphere.
One of the largest and most popular Christmas Markets takes place in the city of Frankfurt. Convenient for international travelers, Frankfurt is also home to Germany's largest airport. The market itself hosts more than two hundred stalls each year, featuring artisans and craftspeople from all over the country. Guided tours are offered to help you find your way through the lively festival, or explore on your own to find your own taste of Christmas magic around every corner. And speaking of taste, you won't want to miss tasting gluhwein, a uniquely German mulled wine that is sure to warm you up when Jack Frost comes nipping at your nose!
For a traditional Alpine Christmas, head to Munich in Germany's Bavarian Region. One of the oldest celebrations of its kind, the Munich Christmas Market harks back to the 14th Century. The iconic half-timbered buildings of the city look like larger-than-life gingerbread houses frosted with snow. The scene is picturesque to say the least, with the stunning mountain peaks providing the backdrop for the bustling marketplace. During the holiday season Munich is host to wood carvers specializing in nativity scenes. Many artisans carry on the traditional Bavarian style of carving passes down through generations. You just may find a special heirloom for your family that will enrich your Christmases for years to come.
With so many markets and activities all over Germany at Christmastime, it would be impossible to describe them all. Different regions all lend a unique flavor to their celebrations, so if you have the time, pick a few destinations to explore. Large cities like Frankfurt and Berlin have the most to offer, but don't overlook the charm and romance of small town celebrations in villages like Dinkelsbuehl and Osnabruck. Second only to the summer holidays, Christmastime in Germany is the biggest tourist season of the year. This means you need to plan ahead, and book your hotels and travel arrangements well in advance. Keep an eye out for money-saving packages that incorporate other Yuletide events at your destination, such as sleigh rides, concerts, or workshop tours. Buying tickets early and as part of a package may save you considerable cash. For more information and resources for your travel planning visit http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.uk/ which features descriptions of all the major markets in Germany.