Christmas in Germany means a few things – a glimmering Christmas tree, a belly full of German sweets and Christmas markets.  Not every Christmas market was created equal, however, so we’ve sorted out the best and most unique German Christmas markets for you to visit this year.

Berlin Christmas Markets

When: Most begin around the last week of November and run through to around the 20th and 24th of December. They start early in the day and go to 10 or 11 pm.

What: Berlin has an astounding 50+ Christmas markets which packs in millions of visitors each year. WeihnachtsZauber on Gendarmenmarkt, is set on a beautiful old square, has food provided by top chefs, live music and fire swallowers, in addition to all the classic Christmas treats.

Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz is more subdued but it has a 12m high, 70m long toboggan ride (which we bet is especially fun after a few glasses of mulled wine).

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Nuremberg Christmas Markets

When: Nov 26 – Dec 24, 2010
Open daily from 9 or 10 am until 8 or 10 pm

What: Germany’s most famous Christmas market is a wee overwhelming with its hundreds of stalls and hordes of people, but the scene is absolutely breathtaking. Stallholders are encouraged to compete for the most beautiful design so they become a spectacle in itself. Take home a token “Nuremberg plum person” – a little figure carved from a prune.

The market’s opening on November 26 is equally incredible. At 5:30 pm, the lights in the Main Market Square are switched on and the Nuremberg Christmas angel stands on the gallery and recites her prologue. No wonder they call it Christmas City.

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Cologne Christmas Markets

When: Nov 22 – Dec 23, 2010

What: The floating market on the Rhine is definitely worth a visit. It’s aboard the MS Wappen von Mainz, one of the largest cruise ships on the river. A medieval-themed market goes on near the Lindt chocolate factory, where you can pop in after (if you’ve got any room left for sweets, that is). The largest market is in front of the cathedral, which towers over the hundreds of wooden stalls selling traditional goods and warm drinks. Also admire the largest Christmas tree in Rhineland here.

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Dresden Christmas Markets

When: Nov 25 – Dec 24, 2010
Sun-Thu 10am-8pm
Fri-Sat 10am-9pm

What: Dresden’s Christmas market, Striezelmarkt, has many claims to fame. It’s Germany’s oldest Christmas market, dating back to 1434, it has the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid at 14m and the world’s tallest nutcracker resides here. See these wonders and all the traditional market goods in Dresden’s Old Town Square. 

On the December 4, see the Stollen Festival, which celebrates the loafy fruitcake or head to the Pyramid Festival on December 11. A Dresden market speciality is the Pflaumentoffe, a chimney sweep figure made of prunes.

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Rothenburg Christmas Markets

When: Nov 26 – Dec 23, 2010
Mon-Thu 11.00pm-7pm
Fri-Sat 11.00-8pm
Sun 11.00-7pm

What: Rothenburg is a medieval walled city with one of the most romantic Christmas markets in Germany. It’s market, Reiterlesmarkt, has also got a bit of a strange past. It’s named after a local legend who carried the souls of the dead in his bag. Over the years, he converted to Christianity and transformed into a loving, kind man who ought to have a Christmas market named after him.

Stuff yourself on Schneeballs, strips of fried dough covered in powdered sugar and chocolate and walk it off along the many cobblestone streets surrounding the market. 

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Now check out:
The UK’s best Christmas markets
France’s best Christmas markets

– Heather Vandenengel