Christmas markets are held in many towns and cities between the end of November and a day or two before Christmas. Medieval squares are decorated with Christmas trees and lights, making an enchanting backdrop to the bustling stalls where you can shop for charming gifts and decorations.
Here’s how to get the most out of your pre-Christmas city break:
Book your flight early
Cheap flights to the largest Christmas markets such as Munich, Cologne and Nuremberg sell out quickly, so book early to get the best deals, or check out flights to less well-known markets such as those held in Stuttgart and Hamburg. Price comparison sites such as Kayak and Skyscanner can show you the most competitive prices.
It is often better to book directly with the airline though. For example, easyJet does not allow anyone to sell their flights more cheaply than they do, so just book directly on easyJet.com. The longer you wait before buying your tickets, the more expensive they will be.
Think carefully about whether you need to take a suitcase with you. You will probably only be going away for a few days, so it’s tempting just to take hand luggage, but if you want to bring back lots of souvenirs and presents from the market, make sure you’ve got enough space to carry them home! Because of the need to take lots of warm clothes, it’s probably best to take a suitcase.
You may prefer to travel in an escorted group with a specialist operator: prices are from £299 for a four-day tour by Eurostar of some of the best markets. Google “Christmas market tour” to start researching your options.
Wrap up with layers
Germany can be very cold in winter: the festive markets are all held outdoors, and you will be standing outside for a few hours, so wearing several layers of clothing will help ward off chills. If you’re prone to getting cold feet, take some good thick socks!
Wear sensible shoes
The streets and squares of German towns are often paved with cobblestones that can sometimes be a little slippery. Flat shoes with non-slip soles are the best way to avoid trips and falls.
Sample local delicacies
Give your taste buds a treat when you try the local Christmas delicacies such as mulled cider and stollen, wild boar sausages and decorated cookies. You will be asked to pay a deposit, usually around 2 euros, for a mug of glühwein; you can sometimes then keep the pottery cup as a souvenir (although it’s best to ask!).
The colour and bustling crowds of Christmas markets offer wonderful opportunities for photographers: the scene really comes to life as darkness falls. Mobile phone cameras often don’t take great pictures when it’s dark, so if you have a digital camera, take it with you when you go out.
Take care of yourself
If you require medication, be sure to pack enough for your visit and keep it with you in your hand luggage. Even on a short break, health insurance is advisable or you could find yourself facing big bills should you be unfortunate enough fall ill.
If you plan on doing some serious eating and drinking – and why not? – then you might want to carry some indigestion tablets with you when you go out to the market!
Other Christmas markets
While we tend to think of Christmas markets as typically German, Krakow in Poland has held markets at Christmastime for centuries. Bruges Christmas market is equally authentic and the city is easily reached by Eurostar. Vienna, a beautiful and atmospheric city, also has a Christmas market.