I love Christmas markets! I always look forward to the Christmas market season. The weather has turned cold by the time the markets start so everyone is rugged up against the chilly winter air, and it is sometimes even snowing (unfortunately not yet this year ?). Family and friends seem to make the extra effort to meet up after work or on the weekend or while out doing their Christmas shopping for a quick glühwein and a bit of Christmas cheer. This is our fourth festive season in Munich. Needless to say we have been to quite a few Christmas markets. In the name of research, yes it is a tough life I know, we decided to go and explore a few more markets. We also asked our friends about their favourite market. Keep reading to find out more about Munich’s Christmas markets…
Christmas markets first started in the German speaking countries, hence there is a long standing tradition throughout Germany of cute Christmas markets in every town. Of course you can find them throughout Europe and even in other parts of the world but in my opinion you can’t beat the traditional German and Austrian markets for authenticity and a festive atmosphere. To top it off, the Munich Christmas market is one of the oldest in Germany.
They usually open in the last week of November, when Advent begins, hence opening day varies each year, until the 23rd or 24th December (often a half day as this is Christmas in most of Western mainland Europe). This is, they are open for the four weeks of Advent, which is observed by western Christian churches. Opening times vary but tend to open from around 10:00 or 11:00 until around 21:00 (a bit earlier on Sundays).
Before I start talking about the different Christmas markets, I need to discuss some key lingo:
- Weihnactsmarkt/Christkindl markt – Chistmas market
- Glühwein – mulled wine
- Eierpunsch – eggnog (kind of)
- Kinderpunsch – children’s non-alcoholic (obviously) punch
- Pfand – like a deposit that you get back when you take your mug back
- Wurst – sausage
Ok now you are up on the lingo you need to know why on earth you would bother freezing your butt off standing outside in the cold and what there possibly is to do.
Your first priority is to have a traditional spicy, hot glühwein. It is guaranteed to warm you from the inside out on a cold winter’s day. Most stalls will also offer the option of having a shot of rum, schnapps or amaretto, in case there is not enough alcohol for you or you need a little extra boost of warmth inside. Most stalls will have special christmas market mugs that you pay a pfand (deposit) for that is included in the price of the drink. However, you get the pfand back once you have finished or you can choose to keep the mug. The fancier or more original the mug, the higher the pfand usually. Some mugs have the year and place and others are very generic and not that special at all.
All Christmas markets have glühwein but you will find the more you visit there will be other variations available, such as white glühwein, berry glühwein (more about this one later) or the more exotic Kokosglühwein (white glühwein with coconut water) among others.
The other main drinks available are eierpunsch (eggnog), and kinder punsch if you don’t fancy something alcoholic. Heisse schokolade (hot chocolate) is also a yummy, warming, non-alcoholic alternative but if you do fancy just a little oompf you can get a shot of a variety liqueurs at an extra cost.
So a lot of the food available at the Christmas markets is not necessarily unique to Christmas markets. Much of the food that I am about to mention is available at most festivities that are held in Munich throughout the year, including Oktoberfest. Lets get the non-Christmasy ones out of the way first. You will definitely find some sort of sausage available at every market, whether it be the traditional bratwurst ( pork sausgae), Thuringer rotwurst ( spicy red sausage), Nürnberger wurst (smaller skinny sausages) or a half metre long weisswurst (white sausage made of veal and pork).
It is highly likely you will also find a crepes stand where you can buy crepes with all sorts of savoury or sweet fillings. If you have a sweet tooth like we do you may also enjoy a baumstriezel, a cylindrical pastry that is crispy on the outside and has a croissant like texture on the inside. If that doesn’t sound good enough already it is then coated with your choice of sweetness, normally sugar or cinnamon. I’m not a big fan of gingerbread but you will certainly not have any trouble finding iced gingerbread in the shape of Christmas trees or santa claus or a heart with a Christmas message.
Now for the food more unique to the Christmas markets. This year we have discovered a new favourite called apfelkücherl. If you love doughnuts and you love apples, you will not be able to get enough of these. It is a cinnamon fried doughnut on the outside and a thick gooey slice of apple on the inside. YUM-O! It has fruit in it so it must be good for you right?
Another favourite has many names. We have seen it called flammbrot, holzofenbrot, fleckerl and rahmschmankerl. They cook the flat. long bread in a wood oven on site and top it with sour cream and your choice of toppings. I like the bacon and shallots version but herbs, salmon, ham and cheese, tomato and mozzarella or thinly sliced potatoes are some of the other possibilities.
Maroni (chestnuts) are a favourite of David’s and are always available around Christmas time at the many street stalls.
As I have already mentioned, we both have a very sweet tooth so couldn’t resist trying the chocolate covered flavoured marzipan we recently discovered. David tried the banana flavour and I couldn’t resist the Baileys. Both were damn good! Did I mention that I love marzipan?
Once you have been to a few Christmas markets the shopping starts to get a bit same-same. However, I must confess to doing some of my Christmas shopping at the markets for friends and family overseas. At most markets you will find stalls selling cute Christmas decorations, candles, tea, jewellery, ceramics and accessories such as socks, scarves, gloves and hats in case you didn’t rug up enough.
Right, enough about food, drink and shopping. Time to talk about the markets. Our local Christmas market is called Neuhausen.
We like it because it is not filled with tourists and is small and cosy. It is filled with people on their way home from work or doing their weekly shopping in Rotkreuzplatz. There is also a two-piece traditional band that sits above the crowd playing Christmas tunes. It’s a nice place if you just want a quiet glühwein or two. Plus, they have apfelkücherl!
The Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz, in the centre of the city, is the most touristy of all the markets. It is crowded and cramped as there is not a lot of space between the stalls. The shopping is also pretty kitsch and aimed more at tourists. This is our least favourite market in Munich but still a good place to start your Christmas market sojourn.
Just south of Marienplatz is Rindermarkt which is much calmer than the craziness of Marienplatz and David’s favourite market. It is also more oriented towards locals. Feuerzangenbowle, a block of rum soaked sugar is set alight and left to drip into the glühwein, is the specialty here and what attracts the locals as this cannot be found in many of the Christmas markets.
If you head west from Marienplatz along the pedestranised street, Kaufingerstraße which turns into Neuhauser Straße, you will find a variety of stalls in terms of food, drink and shopping. Be warned, you will also find this area to be crowded. We stopped at Beerenalm (not far from Marienplatz), a stall that offers an alternative to the traditional glühwein. They have blueberry, cherry, plum and mixed berry glühwein so if you like your wine a bit fruitier this might be an option for you. We would certainly recommend you give it a try.
If you keep heading along Neuhauser Straße you will end up at Karlsplatz and of course another Christmas market, Münchener Eiszauber am Stachus. This is another good place to stop while doing your christmas shopping if you feel like a cheeky glühwein. There are not many stalls but there is of course the obligatory glühwein and wurst stall. What makes this market more unique is the iceskating rink in the middle of the city. Don’t worry you don’t need skates because you can rent them there.
From Marienplatz you should head south-west down Sendlinger Straße to Sendlingertor. This is another smaller more local market that also sells feuerzangenbowle. They also have some different versions of glühwein and some more original stalls for gifts. The atmosphere is intimate with the city gate at one end of the market. It is similar to Rindermarkt.
A short walk from Sendlinger Tor is the Pink Christmas market. It lies in the Glockenbachviertel, traditionally aimed at the gay community but all are definitely welcome. It has a cosy, edgy and off-beat vibe with the stalls selling more local wares. We didn’t try the cocktails while we were there but we hear they are pretty tasty. They have live music in the evenings which I also hear is worthwhile.
The Mittelaltermarkt (middle ages/medieval) market at Wittelsbacher Platz (near Odeonsplatz north of Marienplatz) is a favourite amongst the locals and tourists. It has an original vibe with all of the stall holders dressed in medieval costumes and the stalls themselves being a little different from many of the other markets. They sell feuerzangenbowle, which is the main drawcard as it is served in original clay mugs mmmmmm yum! Not only does the feuerzangenbowle warm you up from the inside, the open fires that are built to stand around and socialise warm you up from the outside. The only negative is that it can get really crowded.
Das Weihnachtsdorf im Kaiserhof der Residenz is nice to visit any time. Set in the courtyard of this gorgeous palace that has been a seat of government to the residence of kings over the years. This cozy Christmas market is not to be missed for the surroundings alone. It is also good for families to visit as it has a large area for kids at the back.
Tollwood Winterfestival is not far from the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) on the grounds of Oktoberfest. Some people love it here because of the variety of food and shopping from all over the world. Some people dislike it because it is so big and quite similar to Tollwood Sommer Fest (summer festival) and therefore not as Christmasy as some of the other markets. There are loads of activities for all ages and some kind of art or political exhibits around the grounds.
Schwabinger Weihnachtsmarkt is known as the artisan market. I think this may be my favorite market in Munich. It is not as touristy nor kitschy as some of the bigger Christmas markets and certainly is original.
This year they had many sculptures and an art exhibition where all pieces of artwork were for sale. Most of the stalls were selling original, hand-made products like jewellery, ceramics and artwork. We tried the kokosglühwein (warm white wine with a hint of coconut) which was a tasty twist on the original glühwein (which is still my favourite). We also bought some reiberdatschi (a potato pancake from Germanic countries and some eastern European countries) for the first time. We each bought two datschis with our choice of filling. I chose the more traditional filling of apfelmus (apple sauce, sounds strange but was absolutely delicious!) and David had salmon with a horse radish cream which he also recommends. A new favourite on our Christmas market food menu.
Two other markets that we didn’t get to this year that are very good are the Weihnachtsmarkt am Chinaturm by the Chinese pagoda (Chinesischer Turm) in the Englischer Garten (English Gardens) and Bogenhausener Weihnachtszauberwald which is set in the forest (we are still hoping to get to this one before the season is over as it sounds rather magical).
If you didn’t get enough Christmas market goodness during your visit to Munich you can get your fix one last time at the airport! Only in Germany would they make it so easy to grab a beer or one last glass of glühwein before you head off on your next adventure or back home. There is even an iceskating rink erected for those of who have an extended wait for a connecting flight. We have to admit, it is quite nice when arriving or leaving or when going to pick someone up at the airport to stop and enjoy some Christmas cheer. We will certainly make sure we arrive at the airport early in a few weeks time before heading back to Australia for the holidays!
Check out this map for an overview of the Christmas markets in and around the city of Munich. Very convenient for your next Christmas visit!
If you have time to visit other parts of Germany at this time of the year you will find Christmas markets in every town. Below are a few additional Christmas market tips from us and friends:
- Regensburg and its surrounding area is known for its beautiful Christmas markets.
- Nuremburg (or Nürnberg) has been highly recommended by many.
- Gut Wolfgangshof near Nürnberg is a romantic place to have a glühwein or two.
- Chiemsee Christmas market is less than an hour from Munich by train and comes highly recommended. It is situated on the Island Frauenchiemsee on the lake. I think we will definitely try and visit this next year.
- Schloss Guteneck near Nabburg isn’t far from Nürnberg so if you’re in the neighbourhood it looks absolutely enchanting, it is in a castle!
- In Schönsee (near the German/ Czech border), there is Advent im Wald (Christmas in the forest) that looks pretty magical and will definitely be on our list to visit next year.
- Hamburg has great Christmas markets all over the city, one seems to lead to another. I actually like them even better than Munich if that is possible.
- Lübeck and Lunenburg (both about an hour from Hamburg) are also very cute and cosy.
Do you have a favourite Christmas market in Munich or Germany or anywhere else in the world? Let us know by leaving a comment at the top of this post. Happy holidays!
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