story by Susan Melnyk
The Christmas Markets of Germany are one of the best parts of being stationed abroad. If you are stationed in Europe during the holidays, this is a something you can’t miss out on! Even if you plan to travel or head home for Christmas, the markets kick off at the end of November, so you’ll have plenty of time to get your share of Glühwein (mulled wine) and Nutella smothered crepes or waffles!
No matter the size of city or town you find yourself in, there is a small town market feel that is infectious, with lines of pretty, decorated stalls selling food, christmas crafts, and drinks!
Here are a few tips for you to get the most out of your Christmas Market experience, so stay warm and have fun!
Top Christmas Market Tips:
1) Dress for the weather! Better to remove a few layers because you’re warm then to have to leave early because you’re chilly. Warm shoes are a definite must have, as the market takes place outside (unless you sneak into an open restaurant for a bite) and you will be standing or walking around for most of your visit.
2) Most Christmas markets are standing room only. You get some Gluhwein and wander around the market or stand at a table and chat with friends, so wear comfy shoes and do some people-watching with a warm beverage in hand.
3) Bring cash. There will be ATM’s around the city center, but most of the stalls are cash only and there is plenty to see and buy!
4) German Christmas markets are very kid-friendly, with hot chocolate, waffles, and Children’s Gluhwein (Kinderpunsch), a warm, non-alcoholic mulled juice to keep everyone warm and happy!
5) Most hot drinks are poured into ceramic mugs, which you will pay a reimbursable fee for (Pfand), similar to the glasses at wine and beer festivals. If you want to keep the mugs to remember your visit to the market (they change each year and have the year and city name on them), just take it home with you! If not, drink up and then return your mug to the vendor you purchased it from to get your fee returned (normally from .50 euro to 2 euro)
6) Bigger is not always better. Although the size of the larger cities Christmas markets are impressive and the lights and decorations beautiful, the smaller Christmas markets have a wonderful ‘small town’ feel that gives you a sense of what this tradition was built on. Grab some friends or join a USO tour to take in the event with a larger crowd. If you go just you and your spouse or your family, you’ll still feel a part of something bigger and these markets are the perfect way to meet new people and expand your circle!
Check the event calendar for updates on all the scheduled Christmas markets in Germany, especially those near our U.S. military bases.