The Christmas season is a magical one throughout Europe, but there’s something special about the Christmas markets in Germany. Germans invented the Christmas market, and maybe that’s why no one seems to do them better. Aromas of gingerbread, sausage, and glühwein fill the air, as friends stroll past the wooden stalls shopping for the perfect holiday gift. The Christmas markets are all about family and friends, and spending time together during the busy holiday season. Here are some Christmas markets in Germany kids will love if you’re planning a visit.
5 Christmas Markets in Germany Kids Will Love
Located on the banks of the Neckar River and the edge of the Odenwald Forest, Heidelberg is famous for its 14th century university and stunning castle perched high above the river. A haven for day trippers, it is best enjoyed in the evening, once the crowds have left. Heidelberg’s Christmas market consists of five separate markets located in squares around the city. Each one is quite unique and visitors can stroll from one to the next along Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street, the Haupstrasse.
In Karlsplatz, under the shadow of the castle, visitors can enjoy Christmas on Ice, strapping on ice skates and taking a spin in the open-air rink. Kids will love the merry-go-round at Universitätsplatz, and having their picture taken in “Father Christmas’ House” on Marktplatz, where all proceeds go to charity. Be sure to try the crepes, chocolate covered fruit, and lebkuchen hearts, then pick up a nutcracker or ornament to take home.
2. Freiburg im Breisgau
Located in the heart of the Black Forest, Freiburg is a university city, home to over 200,000 people, but the area where the Christmas markets are located is fairly compact. The markets take place in the heart of Freiburg’s medieval old town, which is dominated by a 116 meter Gothic spire, the Freiburg Minster. The town’s cobblestone streets have a recessed street canal system, called bächle, which kids will love to splash in, so watch out for wet feet!
There are five markets located in squares throughout the old town, each one offering a different ambience. Children will enjoy baking their own cookies at the Kartoffelmarkt or pouring their own candles at the workshop in the Franziskanerstraße. When visiting the week before, during, and after Christmas, families won’t want to miss Freiburg’s Christmas Circus, featuring artists from all over the world. Be sure to try the tarte flambé, raclette, and chestnuts. Save room in your bag for traditional arts and crafts of the Black Forest region including colorful wooden toys, cuckoo clocks, beeswax candles, and straw shoes, and don’t forget a souvenir mug!
Munich’s Christmas markets are mind blowing and may be overwhelming with small children in tow, so I recommend finding one of the smaller markets to enjoy.
Munich’s main Christmas market is on the Marienplatz and it is as magical as they come. The main Christmas tree is covered in over 3,000 lights, and sparkles like a beacon in front of the Rathaus. No one knows the exact height of the tree, because the city holds a guessing contest and awards the winner a prize.
The main market covers over 20,000 square meters and features typical Bavarian handicrafts and food, including chestnuts, schneeballen, and stollen. In the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus), a white angel sits behind a counter and takes letters to the Christkind (Christ child) daily. This service also includes a reply with an original “Christkindl” stamp. This location also has a Himmelswerkstat (Heavenly Workshop) where children (ages 6-12) can make holiday crafts and prepare for Christmas with staff from the Munich Children’s Museum.
Also, beware the Krampus! They look scary, but they’re totally harmless (they are meant to frighten those children who have been naughty). Your kids might not appreciate the 300 masked beings who frighten visitors to the Munich Christmas market during the big traditional run of the Krampusses. The scary fellows with their shaggy fur costumes will run around a second time about a week later.
There are at least seven other major markets throughout the city and many other smaller ones. We would recommend the Weinaachtsdorf (Christmas Village) at the Residenz as it is smaller, equally festive, and contained so children aren’t going very far if they get lost.
Nuremberg is perhaps best known for its old town and Royal Castle, but it offers a large variety of museums, churches, gardens, and a zoo. Nuremberg’s Christmas market is one of the oldest in Germany, with a history dating back to the mid 16th century. Today, the market takes place in front of the spectacular Church of Our Lady, which rises majestically skyward, as the market stalls surround her and spread out into the square and surrounding streets below.
Perhaps Nuremberg is the best Christmas market in Germany for kids as it has its very own Children’s Christmas Market. Here children have their own designated space to run around and enjoy rides, sample special holiday drinks created just for them, bake their own gingerbread figures, create glass baubles to take home, and even make their own candles. There’s a post office for writing their Christmas wish lists and an indoor space where fairy tales are read by the Christkind.
Don’t miss the lantern procession where over a thousand children carry their hand crafted lanterns through the market or take a ride on a horse drawn stage coach. We even discovered a live manger with camels to feed! For food, there’s the famous Nuremberg sausages and gingerbread, then pick up a Rauschgoldengel, a gold foil angel and prune man, both souvenirs found in Nuremberg’s market.
5. Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg is one of those places that celebrates Christmas all year long. There’s a Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village in the middle of this walled medieval town, with over 16,000 square feet of Christmas goodies and a Christmas museum. In spite of this, people descend on the town in mass every year during Advent for the Reiterlesmarkt, an event that hasn’t changed much since it began in this village 500 years ago. The small town is enchanting, and the Christmas market is very manageable with children. Be sure to try the schneeballen (which I really didn’t care for, but when in Rothenburg), as well as the Franconian wine and sausage. When finished, take some time to walk the elevated town walls, kids will love exploring all the nooks and crannies.
Have you explored the European Christmas markets? Which ones are your favorite?
Looking for other articles about the Christmas markets? Check out: How to Have an Amazing Time at the German Christmas Markets, or 11 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the German Christmas Markets, or these posts about Heidelberg, Freiburg, and Munich with kids. If you want dates and times, head to the German Tourism site.