Monday, December 24, 2012

The Best Christmas Market in Germany?

Having just been to Dresden this summer, even we were surprised to be back after 4 short months. But as the site of one of Germany's - thus the world's - best Christmas markets it was just that time of year.

People often scoff at Berlin's Christmas markets, which are admittedly more commercial and less unique than some others in Germany. Some people scoff at Christmas markets in general.  So you could say we are easily impressed. But Dresden's market is really something to see.

Dresden Christmas market

It is the oldest Christmas market in Germany with the first taking place in 1434. The market is called Striezel Markt in reference to the inescapable treat of the sweet Christmas cake called Striezl or Stollen. Though there are many markets, the main market is in the heart of Dresden's Baroque Old Town, with the Church of Our Lady making an impressive backdrop.

Weihnachtsmarkt Germany

Each stand was so uniquely decorated with displays showing what they sold (like the baker below). Moving parts, funny little dwarves, and a little holiday cheer exceeded my expectations. Ian even saw the Weihnachtsbäckerei (Christmas bakery), the setting of a German song he sings with the kita at this time of year.  My heart grew 3 sizes this day.

Crowds Christmas Market

Dresdener Striezelmarkt

When snow began to fall, we ohhhed & awed. It was magic.

And cold. By the end of walking around, or by the time we succumbed to the cold, we had take refuge in the Starbucks off the square. Still - it was perfect.

Snowy Germany

snowy beard
Ian models his beard warmth

German mushrooms
I use my go-to stay warm method - hot food!

Dresden Christmas Market Highlights

  • Stollen Festival celebrates the Christmas cake and presents the world's biggest Christmas bread
  • World's biggest Nutcracker 
  • Christmas pyramid (pictured at top; climb for a great view of the square)
  • Traditional toys, puppets, and wood carvings (though more of the same that you find in every market can be found, there are more individual crafts here)
  • Santa Claus visits at 16:00 each day.
  • Giant advent calendar
  • Puppet show, movies, and live performances great for the kids.

The crew (with Jeff lurking in back)

Dresden winter
The City
German food
....with lots of eating and drinking in between

Goldener Reiter to Albertplatz Square Weihnachtsmarkt

Germany Christmas

There are a selection of other markets throughout the city. In the Neustadt, a market extends from the Goldener Reiter (Golden Horseman) to Albertplatz Square. A little more commercial and a bit random (a teepee?) it was still fun.

German teepee

Weihnachtsmarkt Dresden
In the teepee

icy blue light tree

Market between the Terrace and Frauenkirche

Christmas Market germany crowd

German Christmas Market

Weihnachtsmarkt Dresden

Dresden Market Hours: 

Beware! They really close quite early.
  • Sun-Thu 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
  • Fri-Sat 10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Travel to Dresden: 

The cities are only 120 miles apart and transport can be easily and inexpensively arranged by carshare, driving, or train (or plane, but I recommend the former). There are Intercity Express (ICE) trains (which extend all the way to Prague and back to Amsterdam) or EC (2 hours from Berlin), or regional rail. In general, tickets cost between $40 and 80 (depending on the type of train).

We chose to do the trip on the cheap  and the 6 of us took 2 Schönes-Wochenende-Tickets to Dresden. This allows 5 people to travel on one ticket which (currently) costs 44 euro. However, you can only travel on regional bahn so the journey takes over 2.5 hours. If you can travel early in the morning or wind down late at night, I think it's worth it. You can also invite other people to travel on your ticket if you don't have 5 and though not legal, you can often re-sell your ticket upon reaching your destination. I refer you to the Deutsche Bahn site as well as the site for ride share and clear rail prices. 

For more info on transport within Berlin and how to get out of town, refer to my article on:
Berlin: By Foot, By BVG, By Bike, By Car, By Boat, By Train, By Plane

To find out more about the market, go to Dresden's Tourism Site. More pictures of our madness can be found on our facebook page. This time of year is also a great excuse to do a Christmas special so for work  I was able to round-up some expat Christmas stories to share with all of you.

In the meantime - hope you had a

Very Merry Christmas &

Happy New Year!

snow dresden

2013 UPDATE:


After the success of last year's trip, we decided to venture to a new East German city. Another oft over-looked stop, we have only ridden through it by train on journeys to Krakow and Prague

Leipzig is known for sites like Thomaskirche (made famous as the place where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as a cantor), Völkerschlachtdenkmal (monument commemorating the victorious battle against Napoleonic troops) and Auerbach's Cellar (where a young Goethe wined and dined while studying in Leipzig). Because we are sacrilegious fools, we paid no attention to any of this and just went for the Christmas markets.
 While not as old as Dresden's, the main market in front of city hall (Marktplatz) dates back to 1458. The markets stalls were decorated in a more monotonous fashion than Dresden, but more uniquely than Berlin. Teepees made another unnecessary appearance, and the central square's stage attraction and trombonists at midday were not worth catching. Trying to find a seat for a beer and a meal later in the evening was also a challenge as they were all booked up. So, pro tip: make a reservation.

On the plus side, there were more markets than in Dresden, each sprawling into the other with a bit of a different feel.  I particularly enjoyed the medieval market and there is a Finnish village on Augustusplatz that serves some seriously delicious smoked salmon. The options of Glühwein were plentiful (4 euro with shot) with fruity Glögi (a mulled wine made from berries) in the aforementioned Finish village. I think I'd rate the markets as somewhere between Dresden (excellent) and Berlin (greatly varying quality, but generally not that good for Germany).

Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt

Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt

Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt

Christmas in Germany Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt

I also quite liked the city and wish we had been able to spend more time here. The aforementioned historical sites are worth checking out and I really thought the city was quite impressive.The war memorial is supposed to be something to see, and there are quiet a few decent museums (although mostly only German language).

We remembered far too late another favorite fact about Leipzig - it is where Sternburg is made. No drink of champions, this is the reliable, cheap favorite. About .40 for .5 liter in the grocery store, you shouldn't pay more than .80 for it even at a Späti. If we had thought ahead, we would have tried to shoehorn some kind of Sterni activity into our visit, but the best we could do last minute is run into the Aldi on our way to the train - and I do mean run. Emerging with 1 liter plastic bottles of the "good stuff" for the ride home, it was so worth it.

Leipzig German beer train

Leipzig German beer train

More about the markets and next year's festivities can be found here and more pictures of us being ridiculous in the city can be found on our Facebook album.

Where is your favorite Christmas market?

1 comment:

Dadandandy said...

Looks like you had a great time. Might have to go back with us next Christmas...Dadandandy.

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008