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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.
Packing List for a German Christmas Market in December
If your main goal is to visit Christmas markets, pack your suitcase with 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
- Hairbrush and hair ties
- Prescription medications
Accessories and electronics
I wouldn’t bother traveling 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
- Your laptop or tablet if you need it
- Chargers, cords, and batteries for the devices you are bringing
- Plug adapter for Europe
- 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.
The most well-known and popular Christmas markets are those in Nuremberg, Munich, Dresden, and Berlin, but even the smaller towns will have Christmas markets that are well worth visiting.
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. Often they will close a few days before Christmas Eve so don’t leave it too late.
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 to bring back home.
The Weather in Germany in December
Here at HPL, we like to be prepared for whatever the weather is going to be at our destination, and we know you do too. If you’re planning on visiting Germany in December, here’s everything you need to know about the weather.
On average, the temperature ranges between -3ºC (27ºF) and 5ºC (41ºC ) so you’ll definitely want to take our advice in this packing list and pack warmly.
You can expect frequent snow, especially towards the end of December and there are three to eight days of rainfall on average.
Although there are only eight hours of sunshine a day, it’s perfect for taking advantage of the magical Christmas lights. The sun rises at about 8 a.m. and sets as early as 4 p.m.
The weather does vary between different parts of Germany. For example, Southwest Germany like Frankfurter will be a little warmer in December with a high of 6°C (43°F) and a low of 1°C (34°F). And the northern coast will be a little wetter than average.
HPL Essentials for your Winter Packing List for Germany
The Christmas markets are a must-see in Germany in December, but we’re sure your days will be filled with lots of other adventures too. When packing for Germany in December, we have a few tips that will ensure a smooth and comfortable trip.
Good shoes are essential for a German winter
While you might want to reach for your comfy sneakers, it is much more common to see Germans wearing leather boots in winter. However, you might want to pack something a little more heavy-duty. You want shoes that are going to keep your feet warm and dry in the rain and snow.
While not the most stylish, we recommend something like the Keen women’s Nxis Evo waterproof hiking shoes. These will keep you dry and are perfect for spending long hours on your feet, whether that be at a Christmas market, traipsing through the city, or hiking.
Make sure your shoes fit over thick socks so that your feet stay nice and warm. We recommend a pair of thick merino wool socks.
It’s all about layering
While it might be cold outside, it can get pretty toasty inside. Make sure you pack lots of layers that you can take on and off easily.
Very important, don’t forget your thermal underwear. A properly insulating base layer will keep you nice and warm when walking around outside. A bonus if your thermal underwear is moisture-wicking which will keep you dry and allow for maximum airflow.
If you’re planning on going to a nice restaurant while you’re there, pack one or two nice blouses that you can wear underneath your thick coat and sweater. You might even want to pack a wool skirt that you can layer with thick tights if your hotel is close to the restaurant.
Don’t forget your swimming costume
Yes, you read that right! Ice bathing, jumping into freezing water in the middle of winter, is extremely popular in Germany. There are a whole host of benefits so if you want to feel like a local and are looking for a thrill then remember your swimming costume (aka bathing suit). Or think about packing one of these swimsuit alternatives.
Planning a trip to Germany? Read our Girl’s Guide to Germany
Book a Viator Tour for Your Trip to German Christmas Markets
Soak up the holiday spirit with a 2-hour tour of the Munich Christmas markets.
Save time researching, and instead have a guide to take you on a tour of Christmas market highlights.
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