Christmas in Germany – an adventure for all the senses

When Germany's town centres are adorned in Christmas decorations; when streets and market squares are transformed into a sea of lights; when the air is filled with the scent of gingerbread, baked apples and roasted almonds – you know Christmas is around the corner. A celebration of family and a time of reflection, peace and tradition. The Advent period, which begins on 3rd December this year, is rich with anticipation and preparation. A visit to a Christmas market is a must, where you'll find beautiful and enchanting regional handicrafts and festive delicacies. It's the time for mulled wine or children's punch, and for a wide variety of gifts, but also for winter fun. Venture out into the snow, for a hike and some sledging! Be inspired by our tips on Christmas markets, winter fun and the most beautiful customs and traditions.

Get in the festive mood with our chosen Christmas carols, or try your hand at baking gingerbread and stollen. In our podcast, travel experts also reveal their tips for the Christmas period.

This is where things get festive

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Christmas sparkle in Thuringia

Pickles, baubles and more

In Thuringia, glittering Christmas traditions emerged that are now embraced worldwide: from the Christmas tree to baubles, and even Christmas carols. What other whimsical things are still to be discovered here?

We'll tell you.

Baking traditional Christmas biscuits

No other holiday is associated with quite so many traditional family recipes for delicious sweet treats as is Christmas. For children, baking biscuits together at home is one of the best parts of Advent. Every region in Germany has its own special culinary delights, many of which are popular throughout the country: baked apples, Nuremberg Lebkuchen gingerbread, and Dresden Christstollen are among the most famous. Advent means it's time for baking! Here are some of our favourite recipes.

From classic to contemporary: the festive season's soundtrack

Christmas wouldn't be complete without a myriad of songs. From children's favourites like "O du Fröhliche!" (literally: "O joyful ones!"), to the traditional and peaceful "Silent Night, Holy Night", which is regarded worldwide as the epitome of a German Christmas, and modern renditions of classics like "Jingle Bells". During Advent, these sounds of Christmas are everywhere – on the radio, during Advent carol services, and at the Christmas market. We have created playlists to suit any taste, and put you immediately in the Christmas spirit.

Christmas podcast: top tips for the festive period

Every family and every region shapes the Advent and Christmas season according to their own ideas and traditions. At some Christmas markets you may encounter the Christ Child, while at others you'll meet the Snow Queen or Father Christmas. And there are winter delights to be found even when there's no snow on the ground. On an audio journey through Germany in the run-up to Christmas, travel experts from all over the country will share their personal recommendations for typical activities, traditions and events.

Listen in...

... and let us take you on a Christmas journey across Germany.


02 DZT Podcast - Winter and Christmas

Intro with music:

“Experience Germany – A Surprising Journey of Discovery”


In the run-up to Christmas, the smell of roasted almonds, gingerbread and mulled wine is found everywhere in Germany. Each city has its own Christmas market. One of the most famous is the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt and it is opened by the Christ Child himself, says City Councilor Dr. Michael Fraas.

OST Dr. Michael Fraas, Nuremberg, Bavaria

Man: It is the Friday of the first Advent weekend, it is dark at the main market. All the lights will be turned off, including those in surrounding buildings and stalls. The square is dark. Then a big spotlight comes on, directed at the balcony of the Frauenkirche, and suddenly the Christ Child is standing there in his golden robe and crown and says: “The Christ Child invites you to his market and everyone is welcome.”

And the oldest German Christmas market is actually the Striezelmarkt in Dresden, dating back to 1434. Like Nuremberg with its gingerbread, Dresden’s Christmas market is also associated with a famous pastry, reports Veronika Hiebl of Tourismus Marketing Gesellschaft Sachsen.

OST Veronika Hiebl, Dresden, Saxony

Woman: The Dresden Striezelmarkt and the Dresden Christstollen share a common history, and this history continues to this day, as the Dresden Striezelmarkt owes its name to the traditional pastry originally known as Striezel.

But when it comes to the capital city of Christmas markets, Christian Tänzler of Visit Berlin clearly sees this as the German capital, with more than 50 themed markets ranging from royal to urban.

OST Christian Tänzler, Visit Berlin

Man: We have a Christmas market for dog lovers, for example. Of course, we also have nice things like a children’s Christmas market, a winter camp for the LGBTQI community, we have an old railroad, which is a bit magical and atmospheric in an old locomotive shed. And, what is very, very important in Berlin is the issue of sustainability. We have an organic market at Kollwitz Square. Therefore, everyone can find what they are looking for.

The 17 Christmas markets in “Holy Hamburg” also range from the cheeky and frivolous “Santa Pauli” on the Reeperbahn to maritime Christmas flair, explains Guido Neumann from Hamburg Tourismus.

OST Guido Neumann, Hamburg Tourismus

Man: We have a Christmas market in the Hafencity right on the waterfront, overlooking the harbor, a Christmas market around the Binnenalster lake or there are two Christmas markets on the waterways, on the canals. In addition, there are many things that take place on ships: Christmas fairy tales on steamboats on the Alster river, boat trips and Christmas-themed cruises on the Elbe through the brightly lit harbor.

Grog instead of mulled wine, fish sandwiches instead of the usual bratwurst. But stollen, cookies, Santa Claus, Christmas carols and Advent calendars are also part of the Advent season. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest Advent calendar house in the world is located in the Black Forest, according to Oliver Gerhard, spokesman for the town of Gengenbach.

OST Oliver Gelhardt, Gengenbach Advent calendar, Baden-Württemberg

Man: The town hall happens to have 24 windows, and this town hall is illuminated and becomes a giant Advent calendar, and every evening at 6 pm a window opens. The special thing about the Gengenbach Advent calendar is that great artists are always included. We already had paintings by Chagall, by Tomi Ungerer … There is always great art in these windows.

If you want to see the German cities with the most beautiful Christmas decorations through a window, you can book river cruises to romantic winter destinations on the Rhine, Danube or Elbe. From November to March, so-called winter punting trips are also offered on the Spreewald, says Patrick Kastner from Reiseland Brandenburg.

OST Patrick Kastner, Spreewald, Brandenburg

Man: These are unique Winter moments to enjoy snuggled up in a warm wool blanket with mulled wine in hand. You can listen dreamily to stories of the bargemen, who stand at the end and steer the ship almost like a gondola in Venice.

If you travel to Germany’s northernmost tip, you can find fir trees in Freest and on the island of Rügen, which are decorated with apples, potatoes and rose hips instead of baubles, angels and tinsel, because that’s where Lütten Christmas is celebrated, the Christmas festival of animals based on a book by Hans Fallada, explains Kathrin Hackbarth from Tourismusverband Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

OST Kathrin Hackbarth, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania: Lütten Christmas

Woman: The animals also find it difficult to find the appropriate food: there is snow on the Baltic coast in some places. So the idea came up to create edible ornaments. These can be titmouse rings, carrots, clay pots filled with lard and seeds or fruit, which are then laid out for the animals.

A small joy for the forest animals in the snow. And the snow also makes skiers happy, especially in the Bavarian Alps and the Black Forest. But there are also lifts on the Wasserkuppe mountain in Hesse, on the Fichtelberg in Saxony and on the Erbeskopf in the Palatinate. And Andreas Lehmberg from the Harzer Tourismusverband recommends winter vacations in Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.

OST Andreas Lehmberg, Harz ski resorts

Man: There are large ski resorts for alpine skiing in Braunlage on the Wurmberg or the Matthias-Schmidt-Berg in Sankt Andreasberg, and in the ski resort on the Bocksberg mountain in Hahnenklee. Those are the big ones. In addition to alpine skiing, cross-country skiing in the Harz Mountains is of course very exciting, where we have over 500 km of cross-country trails. And also, the Harz Mountains are very important when it comes to tobogganing, because from the north we are the first mountain range where you can go tobogganing on a longer stretch. That is why we have a dense network of winter hiking trails prepared.

If you want to get really active this winter, you’ll find plenty of sporting highlights at the Olympic base in Oberhof in the Thuringian Forest, reveals Thuringian sports journalist Katja Bauroth.

OST Katja Bauroth, Oberhof, Thuringia

Woman: There is the ski jump. Walking up and down the steps is great for the leg muscles. You will meet international athletes in the biathlon stadium on the Grenzadler. It is also possible for tourists there to have a go at the targets themselves. The cross-country ski hall allows year-round cross-country skiing and you can also meet the international crème de la crème of Nordic skiing there.

Well then, have fun in Germany in the wintertime!


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