The tradition of Christmas markets goes back centuries, both in Europe and in America. However, if an American ever gets the chance to explore European Christmas markets, especially in Germany, count yourself blessed.
Christmas “markets” in the United States have evolved primarily over the last 20-30 years as commercially-based stores that are crammed into convention centers. The harsh lights, noise, and chaos, fun though it is, is not quite the same as the traditional markets you can experience whilst living here in Germany.
A German Christmas Market is an entirely different experience. Full of Old-World charm, and usually set up outdoors, here you’ll appreciate the friendly, homespun approach to sharing the Christmas season with friends, family, and even strangers.
Hands down, the Aachen Christmas Market is the most famous in all of Germany. Set up in the shadow of the magnificent Aachen Cathedral, it looks like a delightful Christmas village during the day, and transforms into a fairyland of sparkling Christmas lights at night.
Aachen is located in the most western part of Germany where the country borders both Belgium and Holland. The town has a rich history, being Charlemagne’s favorite residence, as well as the primary spot for the coronation of Germany’s emperors.
Interestingly, for such a popular and world-famous Christmas Market, this market did not open until 1973. Since that time it has grown so that it spills from the Cathedral marketplace down many of the small side streets. Last year over a million and a half visitors made the Aachen Christmas Market part of their Christmas season fun.
The market sells wares of all kinds, from blown glass Christmas tree ornaments to fresh gingerbread. One of the most famous baked goods that comes out of Aachen is the Printen, a gingerbread-type of cookie. These are actually shipped from several of Aachen’s bakeries to customers all around the world.
In fact, a giant “Printen” watches over the Aachen Christmas Market as a symbol of the Market’s roots – the very first Christmas Market was actually a “Printen Market.”
Here at the Christmas Market you can have Printen hot and fresh right out of the oven. Also look for Domino Stones – a type of chocolate-covered gingerbread with hazelnuts; Spekulatius – a spiced “shortcrust” cookie (or “biscuit” – the term used for “cookie” in Europe); and Marzipan Bread. Marzipan is an almond-flavored paste that can easily be molded, so also look for marzipan candies in the shape of fruits, animals, and Christmas-related items.
While the children ride the cute little carousel, adults can indulge in the mulled wine, just right for a chilly December day.
Here is a sneak preview of the fun and Christmas joy you can expect to experience at the Aachen Christmas Market:
Since the Aachen Cathedral towers right over the Christmas Market in all of its architectural splendor be sure to take time to tour this oldest cathedral in northern Europe. It is so magnificent that in 1978 it was one of the very first World Heritage Sites ever to be designated by UNESCO.Author profile: Alice Perkins is a travel blogger for RedWeek.com, the largest online market place for timeshare rentals, where vacationers can find luxury accommodations for less than the cost of a typical hotel room.