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8 of the quirkiest Christmas markets in Germany

Want to try something different from the classic German Christmas market? Here are eight unique alternatives.

Burlesque dancers from the team around drag queen Olivia Jones drink mulled wine at a stand at the St. Pauli Christmas Market at Spielbudenplatz in 2016.
Burlesque dancers from the team around drag queen Olivia Jones drink mulled wine at a stand at the St. Pauli Christmas Market at Spielbudenplatz in 2016. Photo: picture alliance / Christian Charisius/dpa | Christian Charisius

1. Erotic Christmas market – St. Pauli, Hamburg

If you want to spice up your advent this year, then head to “Hamburg’s hottest Christmas market” in the city’s Sankt Pauli district.

Alongside the typical festive offerings of Glühwein and traditional stands, this market also hosts regular strip shows and features numerous stands selling erotic gifts and sweets.

Visitors walk through the Santa Pauli Christmas Market on Spielbudenplatz. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Bockwoldt

The Spielbudenplatz stage in the market also plays host to live music almost every evening throughout the season.

On Mondays, a special Glühwein “pharmacy” offers unicorn mulled wine – a glittery pink beverage with a choice of special flavours. 

Open from November 14th to December 23rd

2. Underground Christmas Market – Traben-Trarbach, Rhineland-Palatinate

The town of Traben-Trarbach in Rhineland-Palatinate is home to a particularly special type of Christmas market.

The Mosel Wein Nachts Markt, as it’s officially called, takes place underground in a series of former wine cellars which date back to the 18th century.

A festively decorated wine cellar in Traben-Trarbach – at the Moselle Wine Night Market. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Weinkeller Traben-Trarbach | Jan-Gerrit Baumann

As the name suggests, this Christmas market has a lot to offer in terms of wine, as it is set in the heart of the Mosel region which is famous for its Riesling.

READ ALSO: 5 things you need to know about German Glühwein

There’s an emphasis on art, antiquity and culture in this market too. International and national artisans and exhibitors sell decorative items, antiques, clocks and creative fashion and jewellery.

Open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 18th to December 18th, 2022

3. Forest Christmas market – Velen, North Rhein-Westphalia

For a fairytale festive experience, visit the forest Christmas market in Velen, North Rhein-Westphalia.

The market has been running here on the land of the Krumme family in North-Western NRW since 1999 and is well-known throughout the region for its special brand of Christmassy magic.

Huts scattered throughout the forest serve up culinary delights and homemade goods and those wanting to warm up can visit the historic farmhouse café or nestle inside one of the winter huts.

Children can ride on the nostalgic train, bake stick bread at the crackling fire or meet Santa Claus.

Open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 25th to December 18th, 2022

4. 19th Century Christmas market – Werben, Saxony-Anhalt

The Biedermeier Christmas Market in Werben is one of the most beautiful and unusual markets in northern Germany.

The theme is the Biedermeier period from 1815 to 1848 and, accordingly, stall owners, local theatre groups, merchants and friends of the town, participate in creating this early 19th century themed market.  

The Biedermeier Christmas market in Werben an der Elbe takes visitors back in time. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | Jürgen Sturtzel

The market is always bustling with men in tailcoats and top hats, and ladies in long dresses and bonnets and is full of stalls selling contemporary knickknacks. There are theatrical and musical performances and, in the evening, candle lanterns and kerosene lamps bathe the hustle and bustle in atmospheric light.

Open on December 10th and 11th, 2022

5. Ecological Christmas Market – Berlin

For those feeling bad about the excesses of Christmas already, the Ökomarkt at Kollwitzplatz in Berlin is a good place for guilt-free shopping and celebrations.

The assortment of sustainable stalls ranges from Christmas decorations to textiles, toys and jewellery from all over the world that meet social and ecological standards.

READ ALSO: Seven unmissable Christmas markets that open this week in Germany

There is also a wide range of organic and fair trade food on offer, from sweet treats such as crêpes, vegan waffles and pastries to hearty dishes such as bratwurst and pizza.

Open on November 27th, December 4th, 11th, and 18th

6. Japanese Christmas Market – Berlin

Since 2014, the Japanese community in Berlin has been laying on a colourful celebration of Japanese culture with a Japanese Christmas market.

Stalls selling paintings, photography, ceramics, illustrations and fashion cover traditional and modern designs – from kimonos to kawaii, from kokeshi to kendama. A taste of Japanese cuisine is also on offer along with hot sake.

There are workshops for those wanting to deepen their knowledge of Japanese culture and the entertainment program includes Japanese music, karaoke, dance and sumo.

Opening in December – dates not yet released (check here for updates)

7. Pink Christmas Market – Munich

The pink star amongst Munich’s Christmas markets will be back again this year on Stephansplatz in the heart of the Glockenbach district in Munich. 

The Pink Christmas on the Stephansplatz in Munich. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | Pink Christmas

With its elegant white pagoda tents and atmospheric light design – and abundance of pink – this Christmas market is a special spot to enjoy the festive season. Organisers call it “the place to be” for the LGBTIQ* community, neighbours, friends and Christmas market fans from all over the world.

READ ALSO: How do Germans celebrate Christmas?

Stalls offer delicious food, drinks and gifts, while unique, nightly shows keep the bustling crowds entertained. 

Pink Christmas is open from November 21st – December 23rd. 

8. Christmas Market by boat – Spreewald, Brandenburg

Spreewald is a magical place to visit at any time of the year but at Christmas, it’s something truly special.

The Spreewald Weihnacht – zwei Märkte, eine Kahnfahrt (two markets, one boat ride) offers a very unique Christmas market experience.

Visitors wait at the port of Lübbenau (Brandenburg) to take a Spreewald barge to the Christmas market in the open-air museum of the Spreewald village Lehde. Photo: picture alliance / Patrick Pleul/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa | Patrick Pleul

The first port of call is the Great Spreewald Harbor, where – amongst the usual Christmas market offerings – stalls and booths sell smoked fish, Christmas plinse and hot grog. Then, market-goers are taken on a wintry boat trip to the open-air museum in Lehde through the tranquillity of the Spreewald nature in hibernation.

In the Open Air Museum Lehde visitors can taste regional delicacies at the market stalls, stroll along the craftsmen’s market and meet some ancient mythical figures who offer good wishes for the coming year.

Open on November 26th, 27th and December 3rd and 4th

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For members


The best winter activities to try in and around Munich

Munich isn't particularly well known for its winter activities in comparison to the nearby Austrian Alps. But that's not to say there's nothing to do here when it's cold. Bavaria's capital has a lot to offer both inside and outside city limits.

The best winter activities to try in and around Munich

Winter sports in the heart of the city

When snow falls in Munich, you don’t need to travel far to enjoy some winter sports – cross-country skiing, sledding, curling and ice skating are all possible in the city. 

Cross-country skiing (also called Nordic skiing) can offer an exciting new challenge for experienced downhill skiers. But it’s also accessible to those who have never donned a ski in their life.

Cross-country equipment can be rented at the German Alpine Club (DAV) or otherwise at equipment rental stores like Sportgeschäft.

Paths along the sides of the Isar River are easily accessible and offer long, flat and scenic trails for beginning cross-country skiers to try out their stride. The Ostpark, Pasing, Reimer Park, Schlosspark Nymphenburg and Westpark are also ideal cross-country locations. 

For sledding, simply buy or borrow a sled and head to a snow covered slope. Olympiaberg, Maximiliansanlagen, Monopteros, Neuhofener Berg, Rodelhang Teufelsberg, Theresienwiese, and Westpark are all officially recognised as sledding hills by the city.

A youngster sledges in Munich on January 12th 2024

A youngster sledges in Munich on January 12th 2024. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

When temperatures get really cold over a long period of time, water in the iconic Nymphenburg Canal freezes over, making for a picturesque outdoor ice skating rink. But make sure it’s safe to tread the ice first. Curling is also practiced here, and the surrounding area is a beautiful place to walk around with a bit of snow and frost on the ground. 

If it’s not quite cold enough for the canal to freeze over (or if you have any doubts about safety), indoor ice skating is also available at Prinzregentenstadion.

Ice bathing in the Isar

Those who really want to embrace the chill of winter can consider a quick dip in the Isar River. Cold water bathing, or polar plunges, have gained popularity recently with advocates suggesting the habit is linked to numerous physical and mental health benefits.

In Munich, the Isar River offers a bountiful supply of fresh water that’s known to be exceptionally cold, even in the warmer months. Hence the river’s other name, the Eisbach (ice brook).

READ ALSO: Ice bathing – is it worth taking a cold plunge in Germany?

A local group, called Munich Hot Springs, meets every Sunday at 11am to brave the chilly waters of the Eisbach together.

Elevate your body temperature in a hot spring pool or sauna

After a long day of winter sports or cold exposure, there is nothing more relaxing than a nice long soak in hot water.

Soaking in pools of natural hot spring water, called Thermen, is a favourite German winter activity. Therme or spa facilities typically include a number of pools at different temperatures as well as a collection of saunas and steam rooms. 

A snowman in Munich

Head to a sauna to escape to the cold in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Munich and surrounding Bavaria aren’t particularly well-known for their hot springs. But with a handful of natural hot spring baths nearby, perhaps they should be.

A number of saunas are found within and just beyond Munich’s city-limits. 

Just outside of the city, Therme Erding claims to be the largest thermal spa in the world. In addition to 40 pools and 35 sauna and steam baths, the complex also has water slides and a wave pool surrounded by palm trees.  

Further away from Munich, Northern Bavaria and Franconia also have a number of hot springs. Obermain Therme in Bad Staffelstein has super salty pools, called Thermen Meer, where one can experience buoyancy comparable to that felt in the Dead Sea. Franken-Therme, located between Nuremberg and Würzburg offers a particularly nice collection of saunas.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s sauna’s culture

Take a walk through the winter wonderland

For a more laid back and thrifty winter excursion, just go out for a walk.

A number of river gorges in the areas surrounding Munich make for great day hikes, and remain open through the winter months. Additionally nearby landmarks like the Schloss Neuschwanstein or Tegernsee are worth a trip – and everything looks a little more beautiful when it’s covered in a bit of fresh covered snow. 

Or consider a walk through the botanical garden, which is next to the Schloss Nymphenburg. One advantage here is the tropical greenhouses, offering a place of refuge from the cold and a moment to feel as if you’ve escaped the German winter altogether.