Have you ever been to the famed Christmas Markets in Europe? It should be on your bucket list because there's nothing like it anywhere else and CP Travel Ambassador Dawn Androsky, who has been going for the past 22 years, has all the tips and tricks on where to go to make the most of it!
What specific cities and /or countries did you visit? We landed in Frankfurt, Germany and visited Christmas markets in the local area (Hanau and Michaelstadt) before driving to Aachen, Germany; then to Metz, France; onto Heidelberg, Germany and then back to Frankfurt.
What was your favorite memory from this trip? Our favorite memory was finally being able to visit Aachen’s Christmas market and discovering the fascinating history of the town, cathedrals and printens. The Aachen cathedral is one of the oldest Roman Catholic cathedrals (built 790-800) and was utilized for ~ 30 German King’s coronations and Emperor Charlemagne’s burial. The vibrant Christmas market had the cathedral as a stunning backdrop with Giant Printens (local gingerbread) displays throughout the square.
Top excursions and landmarks/sites to visit:
- Frankfurt, Germany – visit the Romerplatz where the Christmas Market has vendors selling everything from bratwurst and hot mulled wine to handmade gifts. While at the market, visit the Dom (Cathedral) and shops on the platz (center square). If you go the first weekend of advent, I highly encourage you to get a ticket for the Christmas Concert at the Alte Oper (Old Opera House). This year, the concert featured world-renowned violinist Sophia Jaffe (https://sophiajaffe.com/en/biography/ ) and she did not disappoint.
- Hanau – home of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. This is a family friendly market that has many rides for children.
- Michaelstadt – This market is decorated with life size wooden figures strewn throughout the market platz. The figures are made at a local woodwork school.
- Metz – Noel de Metz had a hut with local vendors and their wares. We found some unique gifts such as soap, honey and Mirabelle candy. This market also had a ride that would wisk people up for a birdseye view of the city. The cathedrals and churches were picturesque at night.
- Aachen – Phenomenal market with ~120 stalls with leatherware, food and German crafted Christmas decorations.
Were there any standout restaurants or foodie must-haves on this trip? In our travels all over the world, we seek out coffee shops that have great coffee, good company and hand made (not machine) cappuccinos. Our top coffee spots this trip were:
Aachen: Maqii – Pontdriesch 17 roasts coffee in the store. Walk up service with limited hours, but well worth the stop. Leni Liebt Kaffee Buchkremer Strasse 6 – small café with great breakfast. Hanau: Coffee Bay For an authentic German meal in Frankfurt, visit the Romer Pils Brunnen Tongesgasse 19. They carry everything from goose breast and red cabbage to escargot. For great French baguettes and beignets in Metz, France, visit La Boulangerie M&M Dudot. For quality service and food (or just a drink by the fire) in Aachen, choose Restaurant Elisenbrunnen at Fredrick-Wilhelm-Platz 14.
How would you describe the people and culture of this destination? Any interesting cultural lessons? I was born in Metz, France and raised in Germany so I feel at home in Europe. We have been going to the Christmas Markets for 22 years (we didn’t make it in 2020) and have visited markets in France, Germany, and Austria. We love their joie de vivre, zest for life and love of outdoors that we get to experience year after year. With all the great things in the United States, we can’t seem to be able to replicate German Ditsch pretzels, French baguettes or European creamy butter – which is probably good for my waistline.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about this destination? Each local Christmas market normally has their own food specialties. In Frankfurt, it is the grilled pork steaks; in Hanau, it was sauteed kidneys; in Aachen, it was printen (gingerbread like cookies sweetened with sugar beets); and in Metz, it was everything Mirabelle (a small light orange plum fruit famous in the Lorraine region).
Top 5 Tips and recommendations for this trip:
- If possible, stay as close to the markets so you can enjoy the day and evening time at the Christmas markets. Most markets are free to enter. Public transportation is easy, affordable, and accessible if you would like to travel via tram and train.
- Enjoy the cafes and local fare. For breakfast, we would ask the hotel and store staff for recommendations of eateries they frequented.
- Germany and France are full of history. Take advantage of the many sites and towns. We visited the Formula 1 Belgium Grand Prix race car track in Spa; Bastogne War Memorial in Belgium and Lorraine American Cemetery in France to pay our respects to our fallen. Each stop was a good break to stretch our legs and experience history firsthand.
- Most Christmas Markets in Germany begin on the first advent, so it is best to plan the trip to be there after that time. Some smaller towns have weekend only markets that are enjoyable (e.g., Bad Wimpfen, Germany). Check the starting DATES and TIMES for all Christmas Markets. Since COVID, they have been very fluid.
- Christmas Markets are outdoors so dress warmly in layers and be prepared for rain. There is always plenty of warm gluhwein (mulled wine), kinder punch and hot chocolate to keep you warm. Also, most vendors take credit cards so ensure your credit cards don’t have foreign transaction fees.
What makes this destination a must-see in your opinion? Christmas markets are the way to totally immerse yourself into the local culture and celebration of the season. Each one has familiarity (e.g., stalls with quality decorations, leatherware and food) but also uniqueness (e.g., local fare and historic cathedrals).
Additional thoughts and insights? Every year, our itinerary is different. We visit different markets and region of Europe and learn from the locals. We are planning to bring a group on a Christmas Market cruise next year. We are finding so many people want to experience the markets and have this adventure on their bucket list.
To travel the world and help others plan trips like this one, contact our franchise development team today!