Germany and Christmas go together like peanut butter and jelly, or bratwurst and mustard. They are virtually simultaneous. I took a 12 day trip through Bavaria, Germany and saw about one Christmas Market a day so I’m basically an expert, right? Fortunately for you, I kept detailed notes on every single Christmas Market I visited to give you the run down on where to find the best gifts, the tastiest treats, and the liveliest place to drink your glühwein. Or heißes shokolate.
To start, here is some basic Christmas Market information:
*Germany has Christmas Markets, Winter Markets (and festivals), and Advent Markets. I found them all to be rather similar. The winter markets tend to last past the Christmas holiday and have more winter-related gifts rather than Christmas decor.
*Most markets are open all day (10am-8pm), or are at least open by 11am. In the smaller towns like Füssen, they are only open on the weekend (Friday-Sunday) for one or two weekends during the month of December. Prior to visiting the market, make sure to check the hours and dates just to make sure it will be open.
*The markets sell similar things, but If you find something you like at a market, purchase it. The next market might not have it. Here are a few examples of what Christmas Markets typically sell.
Christmas decorations: ornaments, candles, home decorations
Candies: chocolates, fruity candies, cookies, nuts
Winter accessories: scarves, hats, gloves
Food: bratwurst, spatzel, potato pancakes, crepes
*The best time to visit is through the workweek after 5pm. The locals are off work and enjoying their mulled wine and bratwurst. After 5pm is usually when live music starts, the sun goes down, and the Christmas lights come on. I found the weekends, especially in the evening, to be too crowded for my liking. You can also visit during the day. The markets are open and much less crowded.
Christmas Markets Ranked
Before I hop into the post I’ll give you a short run down of my ranking system. Yes, I have a German Christmas Market ranking system. I ranked each Christmas Market based on five different categories, 1 through 5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best in each category.
Food: Every Christmas Market sells bratwurst and other sausages in rolls, some type of potatoes - whether that be fried, boiled, or mashed - and sweets. If the market received a 3 that means it has a good selection of these foods and anything above a 3 was above average and had a great selection and variety.
Unique Gifts: As I mentioned above the markets sell similar things. The average (3) was a market that had a good selection of all these things and anything above 3 includes stalls with homemade gifts, special decorations, or things we only found at one Christmas Market.
Sweets: Most Christmas Markets had at least one stall that sold gingerbread type cookies that are decorated with icing and have festive sayings on them. Chocolate covered fruit and Bavarian nuts were also common. The average (3) was a market that has a good selection and roughly one stall of each. Anything above a 3 had multiple stalls of sweets or speciality sweets like crepes, waffles, or doughnuts. Dampfnudle, kaiserschmarnn, and other specialty desserts were only found at a few places, and gave a big boost to the rating. We love sweets…
Atmosphere: The atmosphere differs from day to night. The atmosphere ratings are based on their nighttime vibe, crowds, location, and how festive they were. The average was a fine market with a good atmosphere. Anything above this means it was in a special town square with festive lights, or a beautifully lit church, or Saint Nick walking around handing out candy to children. Note: we didn’t necessarily see every market at the ideal time, so this is a bit subjective.
Size: It’s hard to describe the size in words but the average Christmas Market took about 15 minutes to walk through. There were roughly 20-40 stalls including food, but only the big ones had lots of repeats of stalls. The average market was a bit of a square, with the stalls outlining the sides. Bigger markets had rows of stalls like a grocery store to fit the bigger crowds.
The Best Overall: Augsburg
Augsburg was overall the best Christmas Market we went to! Augsburg had an awesome selection of both traditional German Christmas decorations and handmade scarves, ornaments, and baked goodies. As mentioned, a lot of the Christmas Markets sell similar things. Augsburg had the best selection compared to the other Christmas Markets. It was also a lot larger than we anticipated. We were there on a Saturday evening and the crowds were out in full force. It took us about an hour or so to walk through the whole market including the food stalls. At first the crowds were a little overwhelming, but when you take a step back, the crowds actually add to the atmosphere. There were locals everywhere drinking glühwein, eating currywurst, and snacking on chocolates. If you can only go to one Christmas Market, consider going to Augsburg. It will give you the perfect taste of what a traditional German Christmas Market is like.
The Best Food: Nuremberg
Without a doubt, Nuremberg had the best food compared to every other Christmas Market. They had the traditional selection of wursts plus a Nuremberg speciality which is three small sausages in a roll (drei bratwurst maybe?). I highly recommend smothering it in mustard. In addition to wurst they were serving up mashed potato cups with Thai green curry and sautéed mushrooms and crispy onions. We tried both and they were fabulous. The flatbread selection was a plenty and sent delicious smells throughout the entire market. To end your meal with something sweet, you have lots of options: hot chocolate, hard candies, freshly fried Franconian doughnuts (do this), or chocolate covered gingerbread, otherwise known as Lebkuchen (another Nuremberg specialty). Nuremberg is the perfect market to “tapas hop” your way though. You will have no shortage of options and leave full.
The Best for Unique Gifts: Tollwood Winter Market (in Munich)
The Tollwood Winter Market is an honorable mention on my list of Christmas Markets but receives the top spot for most unique gifts. The Winter Market takes place about 30 minutes walk from Munich’s main market, but you can also hop a quick metro ride there. They have a nice selection of traditional market goodies, but what gives them the top spot is their gift bazaar and market. Both are housed in two large tents. Stalls line the inside of the tents with homemade artwork, home goods, ornaments, and unique gifts. This was hands down the best selection of unique goodies we found. (Also, check out their vegetarian tent. In fact, their food in general was pretty amazing)
Best Atmosphere: Nuremberg and Würzburg
This was a tough one, Nuremberg had the best atmosphere during the day and Würzburg at night. Nuremberg was buzzing with tourists and locals, smells of fresh sausages flowed freely through the market, and the town square was beautiful. There were a lot of people, but given the size it was very manageable. We were able to walk through the market aisles with ease and see all of the stalls without fighting the crowds. Würzburg was magical. The market was much larger than I anticipated and the main town square it was housed in is so special. The market was full of families dancing to live music, Saint Nick was passing out giant chocolate Santas to children, and the aroma of pizza was permanently in the air. We spent a good portion of our evening at the market people watching and enjoying the band playing Christmas carols. This is my vote for the best place to spend a weekend evening. It was the perfect mix of lively fun but calm enough to enjoy yourself.
#1 Augsburg (Main)
Food: 5- One of the best selections of wursts, flatbreads, meats we found. They also had sweet and savory dumplings, a späzel bar, and savory crêpes.
Sweets: 5 - Just about everything you can think of: crêpes, candies, Bavarian nuts, chocolate covered everything, popcorn, scheneeballs, sweet dumplings (Dampfnudel)
Unique Gifts: 5 - A wide selection of all the Christmas goodies we saw at other markets plus some homemade things
Atmosphere: 5 - There were a lot of people there. At times it was a little too much for me personally but it does add to the lively Christmas atmosphere.
Size: 5 - endless aisles
#2 Nuremberg (Main)
Food: 5 - A “must-try” is Nuremberg’s famous three sausages in a roll. They are 3 euros and worth every cent. They also serve more unique dishes like mashed potatoes, green curry, and goulash.
Sweets: 5 - Delicious hot chocolate, freshly friend Francionan doughnuts, plus candies, cakes, and German Lebkuchen
Unique Gifts: 4 - Best selection of Christmas ornaments, including glass, wood, and straw ones, plus a great selection of the traditional gifts.
Atmosphere: 5 - The main town square is beautiful during the day and night. It was pretty crowded with tourists during the daytime and I imagine the nighttime and weekends the crowds increase.
#3 Tollwood Winter Market (Munich)
Food: 5 - Awesome unique food selection including two large food plazas that feature Italian, Indian, and Greek. This is in addition to the traditional wursts, flatbreads, and crêpes. They had a full food plaza dedicated to vegan and vegetarian cuisine which was a huge plus!
Unique Gifts: 5 - Lots of unique homemade gifts from local and regional artisans, the best selection of tees and spices I found, and the cutest winter accessories
Atmosphere: 5 - Lively with locals, young and old listening to live music, drinking glühwein, and shopping.
Food: 5 - The best selection of non-wurst stands we found! Including a anti-pasta bar and Italian pizza.
Sweets: 3 - The basic options including cookies, Bavarian nuts, and candy
Unique Gifts: 4 - A particularly large assortment of household goodies like brushes, brooms, and cute cleaning supplies. A wide selection of unique tees and ornaments.
Atmosphere: 5 - My favorite square of the whole trip! It was beautifully lit, buzzing with families, a band playing live music, and Saint Nick himself was mingling with children
Size: 5 - It was much larger than I anticipated
#5 Munich (Main)
Food: 4 - A wide selection of wursts, including my personal favorite, currywurst. We also saw smoked fish and fried potato pancakes.
Unique Gifts: 4 - Beautiful handprinted ornaments, best selection of olive wood plates and bowls, and best selection of beeswax candles
Atmosphere: 4 - The market comes alive at night. Carollers are singing on the balcony of the beautiful Rathaus, the crowds increase but in the best way possible.
#6 and # 7 Munich (Chinese Tower and Medieval)
Food: 5 - Good selection of foods, some of which were closed during the day. I had the most wonderful vegan dumplings with two types of kraut and mushroom gravy at the Medieval one. I am still dreaming about it.
Sweets: 3 - Basic sweets but some of the best Bavarian nuts we had. They also offer samples.
Unique Gifts: 5 - Lots of medieval themed goodies including ornaments, mugs, and winter accessories. The Chinese Tower market had really unique candles.
Atmosphere:3 - We visited both during the day so the atmosphere was pretty mellow and uneventful. I imagine the nighttime vibe is much more magical.
Food: 4 - A nice selection of wursts, potatoes, and flatbreads. The flatbreads looked and smelled particularly amazing.
Sweets: 2 - I do not recall the market selling anything besides the candies and nuts
Unique Gifts: 5 - The market had a section where local children had created handmade ornaments and decorations. There are two wood carving stalls where men were carving statues and decorations.
Atmosphere: 3 - Pretty standard, nothing special. It was a little more crowded for a daytime market because it was the weekend.
#9 Munich (Residenz)
Food: 3 - Small selection of food, but close to the main market and Medieval one which has much better options
Unique Gifts: 3
Atmosphere: 4 - The atmosphere is what stood out about this one. It is located in the Residenz Plaza which has several booths of robot animals telling Christmas stories, singing, and dancing.
Food: 2 - The only food option is wursts.
Sweets: 2 - Sweet (and savory) crepes are served and were some of the tastiest of our time in Germany. No other sweets though.
Unique Gifts: 5 - Almost everything at this market was handmade or unique to Füssen which made it very special
Atmosphere: 4 - This market really came alive at night. Live music, lights, and locals filled the square and the atmosphere was a lot of fun.
# 11 Nördlingan
Food: 4 - Meat and Veggie gyros type sandwiches, a very large selection of wursts including currywurst, a spätzle and kraut side dish are just a few of the unique dishes Nördlingan’s market had.
Unique Gifts: 2
Atmosphere: 3 - Had it not been raining and freezing cold, I imagine the atmosphere would have been more enjoyable.
Food: 2 - For the size of this market there were limited food options. Wursts, burgers, and flatbreads were the only options and only one or two stands for each.
Sweets: 2 - The market itself did not have a large selection of sweets, but Rothenburg is known for their schneeballs, which are basically shredded fried pastry dough tossed in powdered sugar or chocolate and there are plenty of shops around the market that sell these delicious treats.
Unique Gifts: 3
Atmosphere: 4 - The square, and the town in general, is beautiful. I will say this market had a lot of people, most of which were tourists which can be a good or bad thing depending on your preference. I recommend going to the market in the evening and skipping the daytime tourist crowds.
# 13 Nuremberg (Sister City Market) - This market was very unique and wasn’t quite like the rest. Nuremberg has a number of “sister cities” across the globe. Each Christmas the Sister City Market is set up right behind Nuremberg’s main market. Each city hosts a booth in the market. The booths have goodies and foods from each city. For example. Atlanta is one of the sister cities and the booth had Reese’s Cups, Butterfingers, stockings, and cards in English.
Food: 2 - Not many food options, but it is located right beside the main market which has a plethora of options. There are meat and cheese samples in some of the booths.
Sweets: 2 - There were no sweets other than the international candies
Unique Gifts: 5 - The gifts are from different countries and cities around the world and were some of the most unique we found!
Atmosphere: 3 - There is nothing special about this particular market’s atmosphere other than the uniqueness.
I hope you find this useful. This was exactly the type of guide I was looking for when I was planning my two week trip through Germany! If you have any questions or want more information about any of the markets while it is fresh on the brain, comment below! Also, if you want to share your experiences at Christmas markets, I would love to hear them!