If you’ve never experienced German Christmas markets, you don’t know what you’re missing. Vendors sell handmade crafts, while other stalls sell traditional German food and mulled wine called Glühwein. Not only are they a fun way to celebrate the holiday season, but they’re a great way to make the cold weather a little more tolerable. (The Glühwein really helps us ease into winter.)
You can find at least one Christmas market in almost any town in Germany, from big cities like Berlin to tiny towns you’ve never heard of.
The Christmas markets start towards the end of November and usually end on December 24th, though some will stay open a few days or even a week longer. Traveling to Germany during this time is not quite the same as visiting during the warmer months, like for Oktoberfest. Make sure you come prepared with tips from this post on how to pack for German Christmas markets.
If your main goal is to visit Christmas markets, pack clothes that are warm and comfortable because you’ll be outside for hours at a time in freezing temperatures. Here’s what I would pack for a week, knowing that I wear most items more than once.
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 3-4 base layer t-shirts
- 3-4 long-sleeved shirts
- 2 light sweaters
- 4 pairs of warm socks
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 2 bras
- 2 pairs of thermal pants – to wear under jeans
>>See why layers are a must for cold weather packing.
Germany gets cold in the winter. It’s as far north as the southern parts of Canada, and there could be snow (or rain, unfortunately) in December. Again, the Christmas markets are an outdoor event, so you need to keep warm.
- Warm winter coat – even better if it’s water resistant and can double as a rain jacket
- Winter scarf
- Winter hat
- Warm gloves
- Comfortable boots or other shoes that will keep your feet warm and dry
Pack your standard toiletries, and you should be fine. Don’t go crazy with make-up because half of your face will be covered by your hat and scarf anyway. And I definitely recommend moisturizer, lotion, and lip balm to protect yourself from the drying weather.
- Shampoo, conditioner, soap/shower gel
- Lip balm
- Solid perfume
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hair brush and hair ties
- Prescription medications
Accessories and electronics
I wouldn’t bother with jewelry for this type of trip because you’re going to be spending so much time covered up by your winter gear. A cute pair of earrings might be a nice touch if you don’t like going completely without jewelry.
- Purse – the kind that goes across your body so you don’t have to hold on to it all night
- Camera or smartphone
- Chargers, cords, batteries
- European plug adapter
- Umbrella – I don’t recommend using this while you’re at the markets because it gets crowded, but if it rains, you’ll be glad to have one on your way to and from the markets. Check ahead to see if your accommodation loans out umbrellas, or consider buying one there, instead of packing.
Tips for visiting the German Christmas markets
Germany is a varied country with differences in dialect, food, and culture from one end to the other. This makes for a diverse experience if you decide to visit Christmas markets in several different parts of the country. Each will serve up their own varieties of Glühwein and local foods.
Just about every town and city has a main square, usually in front of the city hall building, and it’s a safe bet that you’ll find a market there. Other popular squares and tourist hubs will usually have markets as well. Do a search for the city you’re going to along with “Christmas markets” or “Weihnachtsmärkte” in German and you’ll find a list of locations, dates, and times. In general they run for about four weeks before Christmas.
Germany is an environmentally friendly country, and most places will give you a real plate and Glühwein mug instead of disposable ones. They will charge a small deposit, or Pfand in German, to ensure they get their stuff back. However, the mugs are usually designed new each year and will have the name of the city and Christmas market along with the date, so if you don’t mind forfeiting a euro or two, it makes a nice souvenir.
>>Planning a trip to Germany? Read our Girl’s Guide to Germany.
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