Content Produced in Partnership with the German National Tourist Board & German UNESCO World Heritage Sites Association
Germany’s Christmas markets give the season a homespun feel that harkens back to the holiday stories of childhood. When these markets are connected to centuries-old sites and destinations, the experience is enlarged, making visits richer and more meaningful. Here’s our suggested route to the best holiday locations that merge the warmth of Christmas markets with the magic of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
For a taste of everything the German holiday season has to offer, our first stop is Hildesheim. Here, the country’s layered architectural history treats visitors to a timeless heirloom Christmas, beginning with a step back into the 11th century. Romantics will find a rich emotional connection to the holidays as they tour the Romanesque halls of St. Mary’s and St. Michael’s. Later, the town’s Christmas market glow welcomes guests into the reconstructed square, the pinnacle of which is the the Knochenhaueramtshaus — one of the finest half-timber buildings in the world. Christmas market dates: November 26 through December 27, 2018.
The "Old World" cityscape of Goslar recalls the hand-me-down tales of Christmas, and its history as seat of the Holy Roman Empire provides a meaningful connection between the past's and present's festivities. Over 1,500 preserved timber-framed houses line the idyllic streets. At night the city’s holiday spirit truly comes alive with tens of thousands of twinkling lights illuminating a seasonal Christmas forest, where visitors can sip mulled wine beneath pine tree boughs. Christmas market dates: November 28 through December 30, 2018.
Quedlinburg is a city best explored with meandering walks and warm cocoa in hand. Known as the "Advent City," several different periods of splendor overlap here, giving the town a rather surreal feel. The 9th and 10th centuries are reflected in the The Collegiate Church of St. Servatius, while the medieval period can be seen in the preserved town wall. Finally, the 17th century’s timber-framed houses fill the 1,000-year-old city. Special during the holiday season is the Advent of the Courtyards, a weekend-only event that opens up otherwise private collections of seasonal and religious displays and artifacts. Visitors should also visit the largest Advent calendar in Germany come to life. Each day of December leading up to Christmas Eve, the door of one of 24 homes is opened — lighting the way during the holiday season.
Wittenberg marks the trip’s first brush with Martin Luther. This city marks the site where Luther both was born and died as well as the church on which he posted his 95 Theses. Yearly, a Christmas market with local arts and crafts surrounds the historic church. For a really unique seasonal experience, visitors should also take the chance to visit the nearby Möllensdorfer Forest Christmas Market, a small Christmas market set amongst the forest. Christmas market dates in Eisleben: December 8 through 23, 2018. Christmas market dates in Wittenberg: November 27 through December 22, 2018.
It’s easy to make a full day or weekend in Weimar. With two separate World Heritage Sites encompassing over a dozen separate buildings throughout the city, guests have the opportunity to visit the homes of Goethe and Schiller as well as view significant architecture of the Bauhaus Movement. The Christmas season is when the city recognizes its other cultural gift to the world with the public Christmas tree, while a winter highlight is skating on the open-air ice rink which circles the Goethe and Schiller monument. Christmas market dates: November 28 through January 7, 2019.
Eisenach is one of the only places in the world where a World Heritage Site houses a Christmas market. Each year, Wartburg Castle is swept up in the charades of the holiday season as historical characters mingle with visitors, regular performances fill the air with holiday sounds, and warm cider paired with German treats underscores the stunning views and Norman period architecture. Wartburg Castle also has a deeper connection to Christmas as it was the place where Martin Luther translated the Bible.
Würzburg is a real treat for the eyes as both the Würzburg Residence and the city’s Christmas market are considered to be two of the prettiest sites in the entire country. The Residence is a monument to the 18th century ostentation and a prime example of the Baroque sensibilities. Likewise, the Christmas market is set beneath the Marienkapelle Chapel, a backdrop which elevates the scene to one of grandeur. A great way to experience the history of this area is on a guided tour, which will include the residences, the chapel and several other notable sites. Christmas market dates: November 30 through December 23, 2018.
Bamberg is a town for walking as only on foot can travelers appreciate the convergence of early Medieval town design and Baroque architecture. Having experienced several periods of civic and cultural importance, the city displays the intermixing of elements from the 10th, 12th and 18th centuries. It’s also important to travel through this city because it’s home to four separate Christmas markets and over 400 nativity scenes. You could spend an entire weekend taking in the heritage and seasonal splendor (and we would encourage it!). Christmas market dates range from November 22 through December 16, 2018.
With its famed four-mile-long string of lights, Bayreuth literally lights the way to its Christmas market. It’s fitting that the city’s market should be known for its lighting being that it’s set in front of the Margravial Opera House, a perfect example of ornate Baroque court theater design frozen in time. In addition to the seemingly endless lighting, visitors should make sure to view the yearly exhibition of Christmas cribs. Christmas market dates: End of November through December 23, 2018.
With its well maintained and truly authentic buildings spanning nearly two millennia, Regensburg is easily the most eclectic city of our tour. Being a city of great importance throughout its existence, the architecture here showcases great examples of Roman, Romanesque and Gothic styles. No matter the time of year, this city feels like a storybook come to life — and it's only accentuated during the Christmas season. Nestled into this one-of-a-kind location, the Christmas market in the center of Old Town takes on a magical feel, making wandering the stalls and sipping a final cup of hot cider feel timeless. Christmas market dates: November 26 through December 23, 2018.