How and where Christmas markets will take place in Germany

Many Christmas market have been cancelled in 2020. Yet throughout Germany, a handful of 'Weihnachtsmärkte' are still taking place, with restrictions in place. Here's an overview.

How and where Christmas markets will take place in Germany
A woman holds the typical Christmas market drink, Glühwein.

Strolling between decorated huts, sipping Glühwein (mulled wine) wrapped up in thick layers or admiring nativity plays – for many people, the colourful hustle and bustle at Christmas markets is part of the countdown to December 25th. 

Yet 2020 will look a little different, with one-way streets instead of an unorganised rush of visitors, food to-go replacing social gatherings around a tiny table, and a face mask in addition to a scarf and cap.

 Yet for some markets, even this has become too risky amid Germany's recent spike in coronavirus infections, leading to a number of recent cancellations.

For example, the world-famous Nuremberg Christmas Market was cancelled on Monday, following a string of other recent cancellations in Frankfurt, Berlin and Cologne.

READ ALSO: World famous Nuremberg Christmas market cancelled over Covid-19 concerns

So where are Christmas markets still happening?

Many parts of Germany are still hosting the markets – which normally attract millions of guests around Germany and the world. But there will be strict social distancing and hygiene restrictions in place.

In Munich, for example, where the market is scheduled to start on November 23rd, masks will be compulsory at the stands. The same goes for Bayreuth, which starts earlier this year, on November 16th.

To stop visitors from getting too close, the stalls will be spread out at intervals of five to ten metres. Alcohol may only be drunk following a registration and only in catering areas.

Many smaller markets in Bavaria, such as those in Fürth or Coburg, have, however, been shelved.

Several Christmas markets in North Rhine-Westphalia are also falling victim to the pandemic. Cologne's popular market at the foot of its Dom was one of the first to be axed in 2020. There will be no Christmas market in Düsseldorf’s city centre either, nor in AachenDuisburg or Münster.

People in Essen, on the other hand, can still look forward to their traditional Christmas market in the city centre, scheduled to start on November 13th. Instead of leisurely strolling around with cup in hand, people are planning with Glühweingärten, or “mulled wine gardens”, reported the Essen Marketing Gesellschaft. 

The Nuremberg Christmas market, which was cancelled for 2020. Photo: DPA

In this way, the market is to become safe and yet still festive. Masks, as with most open-Christmas markets, must be worn at the stands.

The typical Christmas market is still taking place in the centre of Leipzig, but Glühwein and other gastronomic offerings have been prohibited. 

Mayor Burkhard Jung of the Social Democrats (SPD) said the move was not an easy decision. But he said that the aim was to protect the health of the citizens. “And we want them to be able to visit their families at Christmas,” Jung said.

Preparations are also underway in Magdeburg, the capital of the neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt. As in many other cities, the area for the stalls has been significantly expanded, so that the Christmas market now extends through other parts of the city centre.

Erfurt, on the other hand, will not be hosting the largest Christmas market in Thuringia this year. The health and economic risks have become incalculable in view of the increasing number of new infections.

“This is no longer justifiable,” said organiser Helmut Russ, who made the decision “with a heavy heart”.

Berlin already cancelled its famous Christmas market at Gendarmenmarket, but the market at Breitscheidplatz is to take place. Significantly fewer stands, more space allotted for passersby, and plastic tarpaulins as protection are planned, among other things, explained spokeswoman Angelika Grüttner.

Alternatives in southwest Germany

Further south in Baden-Württemberg, Christmas markets in Heilbronn, Freiburg and Karlsruhe have already been cancelled, while in Stuttgart and Mannheim they are also likely to be shelved for this year. Nevertheless, city centres are trying to make up for the lack of markets through a typical cosy Christmas atmosphere.

“More festive lighting should instead put people in the Christmas mood”, said a spokeswoman for the city of Heilbronn, for example.

In Hesse, too, there have already been cancellations – including for the Christmas market in Frankfurt.

Wiesbaden, on the other hand, is planning to go ahead with markets, spread over a larger area. The same applies to Mainz, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate.

READ ALSO: Frankfurt cancels Christmas market as infections rise

Still up in the air

While many cities have already decided for or against a Christmas market, others have not yet reached a decision – for example in the northwest city-state of Bremen.

The decision will probably be made by the Senate this week, a spokesman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced. In Lower Saxony, too, many Christmas markets still remain a big question mark for 2020.

It is also clear that increasing numbers of infections are more likely to lead to further cancellations through Germany, hitting artisans especially hard.


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Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”