How to Plan a Christmas Market Trip to Germany
Are you interested in a Christmas trip abroad to get in the festive mood? Annie Pennington shares her top tips for planning a break to Germany on a budget to see some of the best Christmas markets in the country this December.
This Christmas I was absolutely desperate to visit some German Christmas markets. Being a student, I’m perpetually on-a-budget, so I put on my thrifty hat (a 99p faux fur charity shop find, of course), and got thinking.
First off was a checklist. Travel insurance is first, then flights, hotel, and general research. Sounds easy enough. Before I booked my travel insurance I had to confirm some dates, and for that I made sure I wouldn’t be visiting an empty marktplatz with mulled wine vendors packing up for the end of the Christmas season.
I looked at the dates for some of the main cities in Germany, with the help of www.christmasmarketsgermany.com.
Best Christmas Markets in Germany
There are Christmas markets located throughout Germany but here are some of the best places to visit:
There are Christmas markets galore in Berlin, all ranging from around the 25th November to the 31st December. The most beautiful seemed to be at the Charlottenburg Palace, 27th November to 26th December.
The main market is at St Paul’s Square, November 27th until December 22nd. This is the market for you if you love music: trumpet horns blare from the balcony of St. Nicolas’ Church if you time it right, and it’s almost impossible to avoid festive carol singers.
Hamburg’s Christmas markets run from the 27th of November until the 23rd of December, but the ‘Winterwald’ runs until the 30th of December and is centred on creating a winter forest in the middle of the city.
On the bank of the Rhine, a short walk away from the Königsalee canal, Düsseldorf’s Christmas market runs from November 23rd to December 30th.
Other Places to Consider
Cologne, Dresden, Stuttgart, Rothenburg, Munich, Nuremberg & Schloss Guteneck
With Uni finishing on December 15th, and a lot of the Christmas markets ending shortly after or before Christmas Day, I decided on visiting Germany for four days before the 25th. Also, although all the Christmas markets I had looked at were equally beautiful, my favourites were Berlin, because of the sheer variety of markets available, and Düsseldorf due to the beautiful market place, riverbank and ice rink. Plus, Cologne is only a 30 minute train ride away so I would have the chance to see two gorgeous German cities. I was entirely happy to leave my choice up to the cheapest flight available.
- Berlin: Direct flights were surprisingly tricky to find, but I was flying from Newcastle, so this won’t be true for everyone. I could fly on the 17th to the 20th, but that didn’t feel like long enough to me, or on the 20th to the 24th, but I was a little wary of flying on Christmas Eve due to the (admittedly slim) chances of my Christmas dinner being from an airport vending machine. Both flights would cost around £200 per person, return.
- Dusseldorf: These flights worked a lot better for me. I could fly on the 18th with AirBerlin and fly back on the 22nd with GermanWings, and it would only cost £120 per person.
Obviously, even though I’d found the flights, provider and dates, I had to book our travel insurance first. A quick Google later, I’d entered my travel information and basic personal info and I was covered for all sorts of unfortunate mishaps, which, knowing my luck, could happen. It only cost us £10 each, but if you need insurance cover for any death-defying sports then make sure to check your insurance provider will cover any possible injuries. I was then free to book my flights without fear of paying if my flight provider cancelled or anything similarly annoying happened.
Hotel preferences will vary from person to person, but some general tips: make sure the route from the airport/train station/wherever you’re arriving is relatively easy to navigate. Check the FCO website for an easy-to-read map of wherever you’re travelling to, and any areas that aren’t so great for tourists to stay in.
Research Things to Do
With my insurance, flights, and hotel booked, it was time to start my favourite part of visiting anywhere: researching it! I know that sounds incredibly sad but I love finding things to do – normal things like the Rhine Tower in Dusseldorf and obviously the Christmas markets, and the gorgeous cathedral and Chocolate Museum in Cologne, but also the collection of brains that you can go see in Dusseldorf, and an art exhibition in an abandoned underground public toilet. Although just turning up in a foreign city and wandering the streets sounds romantic and spontaneous, that same spontaneity can let you wander straight into difficult or even dangerous situations. A quick research allows you to check if you should be avoiding anywhere as a tourist, and it also ensures you’re not missing out on anything.
Plus, if you didn’t research wherever you’re visiting ahead of time, how would you learn to say “Cheers!” in the language of the country you’re visiting? (It’s prost, in German.) Or whether you need to carry your passport when walking around? And you’d miss out on strange facts such as if you’re told “Half three,” in German, it means half of three: half past two! You definitely wouldn’t know it’s illegal to stop on a motorway, or that using a pillow as a weapon can put you in prison. Also, if you’re relying on your one hour a week of Year 7 German to get you through a trip, addressing a police officer with the informal ‘you’ (du) can lead to being fined. Again, check the FCO website and click on ‘Local Laws and Customs’ of the country you’re visiting – it’s a little bit easier than learning an entire language to avoid embarrassment.
By Annie Pennington