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.
Book a Viator Tour for Your Trip to German Christmas Markets
Munich Christmas Markets Tour ↗
Soak up the holiday spirit with a 2-hour tour of the Munich Christmas markets.
Berlin Christmas Markets with Culinary Tour ↗
Save time researching, and instead have a guide to take you on a tour of Christmas market highlights.
>>Planning a trip to Germany? Read our Girl’s Guide to Germany.
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Thanks for the great post! This will be our first year making it to Germany for Volksfest in Stuttgart (at the recommendation of many friends who said the Stuttgart celebration is much better than the classic Oktoberfest in Munich). Now I am getting excited to go back for another trip to Germany just a couple months later for the Christmas Markets!
For the boots do you recommend a winter/snow boot, or just spraying a comfortable leather boot with a waterproof spray and wearing some nice, thick socks? I won’t be planning any snow shoeing, but I also want to be appropriately prepared!
Thanks Lacey! I don’t think you need snow boots. As long as they keep your feet warm and dry, you should be fine. Even if it does snow while you’re there, you’re unlikely to be walking through much snow, if any at all. They’re pretty good at getting the snow cleared from the sidewalks. But I think keeping your feet dry is important in case it rains. And yes, definitely thick socks, it’ll be cold! Have fun!
Just to note: Berlin is at 51 degrees north, which is equivalent to Red Deer, Alberta. Southern Canada (Pelee Island, Ontario) is at 41 degrees north. But that’s not always the best comparison. England is further north than southern Ontario, but it is considerably warmer due to the ocean currents.
This post has me wanting to go back to Frankenmuth, Michigan which is a Bavarian town. It’s year-round German Christmas market. Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is the world’s largest Christmas store.
I love the comments – I’m off to Paris, Berlin, Lucerne then back through Germany to Rothenburg and Frankfurt. Loved xmas markets Munich, Zurich, Prague etc so ready to shop again! I only use a Pacsafe Metro 250 cross body bag as holds everything you need.
I always take 2 pairs ankle boots as size 11 (43) difficult to get ladies shoes in Europe- spray to waterproof. Kathmandu thick socks x 2 and thin bonds underneath – save washing thick socks. I use this list above but replace long sleeve tshirts with thin ultra ore thermals. A silver chain and your dressed up for dinner – that’s it. This lasts me 3-4 weeks washing in sink and hair dryer on clothes or chuck over indoor heating. Bye bye Brisbane hello Xmas markets:)
Awesome list Louise! Have a great trip 🙂
I can highly recommend the “Tollwood” in Munich. It takes place in summer and winter.
In winter it’s kind of a mix from a indi-festival and a christmas market.
It’s at the same place as the Oktoberfest, so I usually were waterproof boots. (Snow-Mud-mix on the groun)
You can try food from all over the world.
My favorite is fresh made “Kaiserschmarn” 😉
“Liebe Grüße” from Munich
Thanks for the tips, Miriam! I’ve been to Munich a few times, but never for the Christmas Markets. My husband does love Kaiserschmarn though!
What a a wonderful blog ! It’s interesting to see the own country with new eyes 🙂
Don’t be afraid of snow, unfortunately it often begins to snow AFTER X-Mas.. 🙁
It’s just cold and wet.. I would recommend ‘Weihnachtsmärkte’: Nürnberg, Stuttgart (with the concert in the old palace), Celle, Bundenbach (in an old slate mine!) or some small city’s: Guteneck bei Nabburg, Bibeldorf or Bad Salzuflen ! Hope you enjoy your next trip ! :))
Greetings from Germany
Enjoyed the Christmas Markets in Berlin and Hamburg during December 2016. Your advice for packing is great with the exception of your suggestion for pants – jeans are not warm and get wet easily. Instead, enjoy what I brought to combat the cold and wet and with no need to wear thermal liners. Columbia, Eddie Bauer and other companies that sell outdoor clothing sell pants that are wet weather resistant poly fabrics that do not wrinkle and are sleek and attractive besides – the real bonus is that they are lined with a thin fleece type liner that keeps you looking trim very warm and dry. They usually are sold in black and can be worn many days looking great every day. So if you desire, pack one pair of jeans and one pair of outdoor lined pants designed for cold weather. Jeans do not pack so well nor do they look so fine after several days.
lol……love your idea on the jeans! I know they are not warm….this will e my first Christmas market tour so I require all tips ! the lined pant is what I was thinking so now will purchase a pair before I travel!
keep up the tips everyone
Going there Dec. /2017 sounds like we should really enjoy. I did buy some foot warmers—fit under sock and really keep your feet warm. Bought some for hands also. Like the idea of outdoor pants.
Barbara Kelley says
I am going to Germany and Prague this December 2018 on a Christmas Market Cruise. Are Ugg-type boots appropriate? I live in Houston and have a ton of cowboy boots but figured those are too heavy. I’m pretty sure I have a pair of snow boots but need to dig through my closet.
As long as you pack boots that are comfortable to walk in, will keep you warm, and will survive getting wet if it rains, you should be fine. Can Uggs get wet? I’ve never owned them. But if they’ll survive getting rained on, they should be fine to wear in Prague and Germany. Enjoy!
I am so happy to have found this packing list and advice. I am also having my first German Christmas holiday this year.
I am wondering about what is suitable to pack to wear for going out in the evening to dinners/shows etc. I think one dinner is a little fancier and I know that my daytime outfits of waterproof boots/thermals jeans and parka Just won’t cut it.
Any hints here?
Hi Lyn! Are the restaurants you’re going to really fancy places? In general, Germany tends to be a fairly casual place. If you really feel like you need something dressy, I’d suggest some nicer pants that are still warm and comfortable but look better than jeans. If it’s actually snowing, I’d still wear the waterproof boots. You’re likely to be walking and taking public transport, and I wouldn’t want to do that in heels in good weather let alone if it’s snowy or wet. Honestly, if I were you, I’d look closer at the places you’re planning on going to and find out if there’s a dress code and if anyone actually cares if you showed up in jeans and winter boots. Germany is more about being practical and warm in the winter.
Hi everyone. I`ll be heading over to Germany end of November thru early December. Any suggestions on a winter coat to wear? I usually wear my North face Arctic parka in winters in Washington, DC. Will this coat be too warm? Thanks!!!
Hi Brittney! Germany is a lot farther north than Washington, DC, so it will most likely be colder. That said, late November/early December is not as cold as it will get. If your parka keeps you warm in DC, it should be fine for your trip to Germany. Also bring gloves, a hat, and a scarf if you’re going to be outside for Christmas markets.
donna bowen says
What type of gloves to you suggest?
Karen C says
I thought I read somewhere to pack black boots and shoes. Is there any special reason black is recommended?