It gets cold in the winter in Europe. I’m from Houston, Texas. I don’t “do” cold. Despite living two winters now in Germany, I still do not know how to properly dress and complain far too much about the (literally) freezing temperatures. Christmas markets are literally all over Germany, and even in other European countries! Anyways, the one outdoor activity I will do in the winter that is not walking from apartment -> tram -> work and back is attending the Christmas Markets.

The Christmas Markets are street markets of little vendor stands set up during the Advent period. The stands are wood and lined with lights and Christmas furs, which smells awesome and only slightly irritates my allergies. The tradition stems hundreds of years old with roots in Germany, but the popularity ($$) soon caught on in many other countries. The market in Dresden is the original and was first held in 1434. You know, hundreds of years before the US thought about becoming a country, no big. People gather at the markets to socialize, ice skate, warm up with hot drinks, eat, and shop.

Things to Look Forward to at Christmas Markets

Glühwein – maybe better known as Mulled Wine among English speakers (although Glühwein sounds much more appetizing), it is a red (or white) wine heated up and traditionally seasoned with cloves, cinnamon, sugar, and some orange and served up piping hot! You can often add in some whiskey or Amaretto for an extra Euro. It’s delicious. It’s also a massive hangover waiting to happen.

Lebkuchen – Christmas Cookies. Eat’em.

Nativity Scenes

Schupfnudeln – rolled thick noodle/finger shaped dumplings that come mixed with sauerkraut and ham bits. They may even throw it on a bratwurst and in a bun for you. It doesn’t get more German than this.

Langos – a fried Hungarian dough that comes sweet or salty. I suggest the salty option with the garlic sour cream sauce and loaded up with cheese. They should not be hard to find as it is easily the longest food line at the market.

Ornaments – Christmas market souvenir? Check! Although, my favorite souvenirs are keeping the mugs instead of getting your deposit back.

Ice Skating – many of the larger markets have gorgeous ice skating rinks. Germans own me on the ice, so I prefer to observe with Glühwein in hand.

Candied Nuts – because markets and festivals are all about taking healthy foods and making them worse for you and I’m ok with it. The roasted chesnuts are winners, too.

Things to Steer Clear of at Christmas Markets

Crowds – nearly impossible to avoid, but your best bets are daytime (but hello, Christmas Markets are much prettier and more fun at night). Weekday evenings are certainly more clear than the weekends, though. I also reccommend avoiding the known touristy markets. Sure, hit up one or two, but you can have a gorgeous and tasty experience in  smaller towns, too.

Candy stands – yes, they make pretty photos and the meter long licorice is cool looking, but really it’s been sitting out there for weeks and it’s not the best around, I promise. Oh, and you can make chocolate covered fruit at home, so hold off on that, too.

Beer – yes, I know you are in Germany and you are tempted to drink a beer, but now is not the time. Do you want your hands to be even colder? I didn’t think so. Save the beer when you seek warmth indoors later. If you don’t like the Glühwein, try it as the white wine option or a coffee or hot chocolate with Bailey’s.

Pizza – as delicious as it is, it’s not a Christmas market delight. Order it when you have the munchies later instead.

 The following photos are all from my homebase Christmas market, the Karlsruhe Weihnachtsmarkt.

What do/would you look most forward to at the German Christmas markets?

  • liz

    I love everything about this post :)

  • Sara Louise

    I went absolutely spazztastic at the Xmas market in Aix last week, the lights were all so beautiful that I basically freaked out. It was a bit embarrassing for my husband though. And can I tell you how bummed I am about the candy being a don’t. That sucks so hard.

    • Olivia Souders

      This is great! Thanks so much for posting! Sounds like a really amazing experience. We’ll have to go again!

      • ifs ands & butts

        They’re certainly a treat in the not so well treating weather :)

    • ifs ands & butts

      It’s so refreshing to see Christmas lights – I wish they’d over do it like the peeps of the US of A.

  • bevchen

    Dresden the original? Really? I’ve always been told Nuremberg is the oldest (don’t go there though – I’ve been, it’s not worth it. The Germans we were with actually apologised for taking us there!). Those pesky Germans lied to me!

    Garlic + cheese Langos are DEFINITELY the best! I’m going to the Freiburg Weihnachtsmarkt on Saturday. I haven’t been to that one before, and it’s 40 years old this year so we thought we’d give it a go. Can’t wait to get me some Glühwein!

    Oh, and I always keep the cups as well, at least the ones with the name of the town on. If they have the year it’s even better!

    • ifs ands & butts

      We might both be wrong…wherever Bautzen is.

      The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German speaking part of Europe. The Dresden Christmas market, first held in 1434, is one of the oldest Christmas markets. It attracts between 1.5 and 2 million visitors a year and has over 250 stalls. The Bautzen Christmas market was even older, first being mentioned in records in 1384.[1] The Vienna “December market” was a kind of forerunner of the Christmas market and dates back to 1294.” (Wikipedia)

      And Langos, oh gosh, I love festivals for many reasons, but the thought that there might be a Lango stand there is a big part.

      Strasbourg had terrible cups – all platic and weird – so disappointing!

  • Amy

    HOW COULD YOU FORGET THE SAUSAGES?! D: That’s the best part of going to the Christmas markets!

    • ifs ands & butts

      Valid point my friend, I think I’m just so dang used to them being available all the time, I’m not as excited by their presence.

  • TinainGermany

    we don’t get schupfnudeln or langos up here, must be a southern thing! although we do have schmalzkuchen, and that’s basically my favorite thing ever.

    • ifs ands & butts

      Just Google Imaged schmalzkuchen and it looks straight dank! …. for lack of a better word…

  • Jeff Titelius

    Your pics are amazing and really bring to life the enchanting Christmas Markets!! Oh how I wish I were there right now!!!

    • ifs ands & butts

      I just went there for lunch for a zweibel steak :)

  • Janna

    Wow! I WISH that we were having that weather and all that spirit going on here! Breathtaking <3 Hi from Helene's blog!

    • ifs ands & butts

      Hi Janna! Thanks for popping over. It looks beautiful now with the snow, but it sure is cold!

  • MySwissChocolateLife

    We were in Zurich last year to celebrate New Year’s Eve. There is the biggest New Year’s Eve outdoor Party in Switzerland on Lake Zurich with fireworks and champaigne (it is better and cheaper to buy a bottle earlier and just take it to the party ;-)). There is always a stage near to the Lake with live music and people are dancing everywhere! Check this website:

    • ifs ands & butts

      Ah wow thanks a lot that looks spectacular!!

  • kristina

    Christmas markets are the best about German winter!! Missing them so much! Drink a Gluehwein for me and I will be sending you some warm Australian sunshine instead!! 😀 Enjoy!!

    • ifs ands & butts

      Sunshine sounds to die for right now… I’ll be waiting for it in the mail 😉

  • helenesula

    when I looked at these pictures I literally gasped!!!! so pretty and so many fun things to do. I can’t wait for more alex!!!

  • Stacie Rihl

    This all makes me so excited to come to Germany!! Awesome pictures!!

  • christin

    im starving for a langos. i dont even know what it is but i want it in my mouth.

  • MySwissChocolateLife

    I really love chocolate covered fruits :-))

  • Stephanie @ meet.make.laugh.

    Love Schupfnudeln. And Langos…. I prefer the sweet ones though. :)

  • Katrin

    Oh, you don’t wear any gloves in the pictures! I would probably freeze to death!

  • pinkparliament

    Five days! This post makes me so much more excited. Tonight, I am posting about (believe it or not) Chicago’s German Christmas market, which was completely…..just terrible. It looked close to the same, but there were so many people that I acually found my self saying/ yelling/ madly spewing “FORGET IT! I’ll wait for the real deal” and left as soon as we made one round. I can’t wait for these markets! Hopefully next weekend I will be seeing this in real life. :) (Hoping.. who am I kidding. Next weekend I WILL be seeing this! YAY!)

  • Svenja Schoening

    Ahh, I love that “I don’t do cold” hahaha :-)
    I also love Christmas markets, and of course the socializing with mulled wine. Splendid. I do not know Langos and the Schupfnudeln (although I have heard of the latter), but I do know “Germknoedel” Perhaps something more popular on Eastern German Christmas markets, as I have seen (and eat) it in Dresden. It is something sweet: Dough, sweet plum stuff inside, covered up with sugar and poppy seeds. LOVE it.


  • ifs ands & butts

    But so fun you are doing all these German things before moving here – so soon!

  • ifs ands & butts

    I need to take some today, it is POURING snow and all the roofs are white, looks incredible and is incredible (as long as you’re inside).

  • ifs ands & butts

    They’re so magical they’re calorie-less. Ok, not at all, but I pretend so.

  • ifs ands & butts

    Get excited and pack warm :)

  • ifs ands & butts

    They are delish – just not my Christmas Market pick.

    BTW, do you know what goes on in Zurich on New Year’s Eve? I’ve been entertaining this idea with a friend.

  • ifs ands & butts

    It’s so hard to choose!

  • ifs ands & butts

    So cool learning that the Christmas markets serve different foods everywhere – love it!

  • ifs ands & butts

    I had the Gluehwein to keep them warm :)