Hohenzollern Castle, a true fairytale castle on the edge of the Swabian Alb, puts on a dazzling display at Christmas time. This imposing fortress on the Zollerberg Mountain is aglow with lights and invites you to stroll through the decorated royal chambers. A romantic winter dream can also come true at Schwetzingen Palace. During Advent, the Princely Residence is transformed by light artists into a "Christmas Wonderland" with an illuminated palace garden. The varied stage programme, together with the lovingly designed arts and crafts market and the diverse menu of culinary delights on the Schlossplatz, invites visitors from near and far to stroll around over the three Advent weekends.
Sparkling Lights and Fragrant Mulled Wine: Christmas Dreams Come Alive in December
"I saw the firs all tipped with a golden light ...", we read in a popular German Christmas poem. Everything really does sparkle and glitter during Advent. There are fairy lights on the Christmas trees, the spicy fragrance of mulled wine, and children eagerly opening a new Advent calendar window each day during December. A highlight for the young and old alike are the Christmas markets, which invite you to take an atmospheric stroll through the illuminated streets with their festively decorated stalls. If you feel hungry, you can snack on gingerbread, toffee apples, Christmas stollen cake and hot chestnuts. You will find traditional wooden ornaments made in the Ore mountains, ornate glass baubles and unique hand-crafted regional articles that are perfect as Christmas decorations or gifts for your loved ones. Beyond the Christmas villages, you can enjoy many other winter delights such as walks in the snow, hiking by torchlight, and medieval Christmas markets where blacksmiths, weavers and leather makers demonstrate their crafts.
There is much more to Advent than just Christmas markets: torchlight processions, illuminations and authentic traditional customs
Light shows, swimming by torchlight or sleigh rides: apart from the popular Christmas markets, Advent is also the ideal time to get to know Germany at its most festive and to experience age-old traditions. When it gets dark and cold outside, candles and hearth fires are kept burning right across the land. Streets and houses sparkle in the glow of fairy lights. The delicious aroma of freshly baked biscuits and stollen cake, made according to traditional recipes, wafts through the bakeries, and the snow-covered forests invite you to go for a winter walk or a toboggan ride.
Cottage innkeeper Silvia Beyer offers real winter romance in her "Hündeleskopfhütte" in the Ostallgäu Alps. If you trudge up through the deep snow-covered forest to this inn, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Alps and the Zugspitze group of mountains. After a stop for refreshments, you can return to the valley by toboggan, or on a torchlight hike. This traditional "Dirndl" innkeeper offers old-world hospitality - and yet she is breaking new ground. She is the first mountain lodge owner in the Alps to focus on vegetarian cuisine. Rather than schnitzel and bacon, she serves cheese spaetzle or vegan lasagne - and wins over every foodie.
All of Berlin sparkles in a blaze of lights during the Christmas season. In December, whether shopping, strolling or exploring, visitors walk through a glittering city. Highlights include the festively twinkling Christmas tree in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the tree-lined avenue "Unter den Linden" decorated with fairy lights, or the shining stars in Lichtenberg, which bathe the neighbourhood in a wintery, enchanted light. The Christmas Garden in Berlin's Botanical Gardens is also a fairytale location with light displays and a tree bearing Christmas wish-lists hanging from its glowing branches.
Everyone loves to hear the old fairy tales and magical stories, especially during Advent. That's why the splendid imperial city of Potsdam invites you to its "Potsdam Christmas Stories". The tour starts at the Old Market and goes through the historic city centre to the Dutch Quarter, while legends and stories about the Christ Child and Father Christmas are told. The historic trams used as the ViP Mulled Wine Express, which shuttle between the Christmas markets, are also very popular. A stroll through the "Blauer Lichterglanz" Christmas village in Potsdam's baroque city centre is definitely a highlight.
Christmas is a busy time in German bakeries. Needless to say, this also applies to the Hanseatic City of Bremen. Here, however, there is a speciality, the Bremer Klaben - a delicacy that no one can resist. This Winter Cake, which was first mentioned at the Bremen Council of 1593, consists of a yeast dough filled with sultanas and almonds and seasoned with cardamom. It is similar to the Stollen, but after baking is not coated with butter and sugar. Anyone can easily bake this delicious cake - but only the Bremen Klaben are allowed to bear the designation "original".
Even in Advent, Hamburg shows its maritime side. During the traditional "Tannenbaumwerfen", a barge carrying conifers chugs through the port of Hamburg. Then they toss the firs and spruces high through the air onto the big vessels, so that the sailors on board can enjoy a merry Christmas far from home. A walk along the harbour and the River Elbe is particularly charming. When the lights of the ships are reflected in the evening water and their outlines blur in the fog, it creates the perfect illusion of a Winter Wonderland.
Berlepsch Castle on the heights of the Werra Valley is perfect for an atmospheric Christmas market. This centuries-old fortress is decorated in its traditional style and offers medieval music, spiced wine, juggling and homemade delicacies. When Father Christmas strolls through the market side by side with Saint Nicholas in flurries of snow, childlike happiness is guaranteed. Fairytale readings are also highlights for the kids - as are the Fairytale Days throughout the year. Berlepsch Castle is fulfilling a dream, because the fortress is part of the German Fairy Tale Route.
When snow crystals dance in the air and the winter sun bathes the land in a delicate light, the far north of Germany becomes particularly beautiful. A winter hike on one of the ten Thalasso spa trails in the Warnemünde seaside resort, the Stoltera nature reserve or the Rostock Heath is particularly tempting. Letting the bracing sea air blow over you as you stroll along the beach will make you feel reborn. Culture enthusiasts can explore the Ahrenshoop art trail. There you will discover the works of renowned painters from the artists' colony of Ahrenshoop, which was founded around 1892.
During Advent, many German kitchens are transformed into Christmas bakeries. In Lower Saxony in particular, fragrant pastries made to traditional recipes create festive anticipation in many homes. In Grafschaft Bentheim, flat cakes called "Schoosollen" (shoe soles) are baked over an open fire and from the Lüneburg Heath come the biscuits called "Heidesand". On the North Sea coast, people love thin New Year's cakes baked on a waffle iron, called "Rullerkes" or "Neejahskoken", which are served with East Frisian tea at "Teetied". Those who like it more substantial will reach for the kale, the "Oldenburg palm", which is served with Bregenwurst or Pinkel, a typical Northwest German Grützwurst.
Perhaps the most beautiful, and certainly the most original, ice rink in Germany can be found in the middle of the Kokerei Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage Site. This former coal mine in Essen was the largest in the world and is transformed every December into a 150-metre-long skating rink running alongside the imposing coke ovens and chimneys. A romantic experience awaits you, especially in the evening. Then the ice rink sparkles brightly under the lights and the nearby winter village takes care of your physical well-being. There is sometimes also an invitation to dance on ice, when skaters can skate their laps to disco classics from the last three decades.
When it gets bitterly cold at Christmas and the December sun casts long shadows, it's time for a walk in the clear air. A winter hike in the Wasserliesch Orchid Region is particularly spectacular. Follow the Moselsteig trail to the Löschem Chapel, which stands high up on the edge of a slope, offering a fantastic view of the Mosel valley and the Eifel and Hunsrück mountain ranges. After dark, romantic winter pleasures are also promised by torchlight walks, for example, in the Rhine towns of Andernach or Neuwied.
Oh, if only it could always be Christmas! In the toy village of Seiffen in the heart of the Ore Mountains, this dream becomes reality. Here, Christmas pyramids, nutcrackers, angels, candle arches and incense burners are made with the finest craftsmanship that has been practised for generations, and are offered for sale all year round. During Advent, this spa town is particularly festive and invites visitors to the Seiffen Christmas market or to the Nativity play in the Seiffen church, which is a popular motif in the traditional art of the Ore Mountains region.
Maximum Sparkle! At Christmas time, Magdeburg switches on 1.2 million lights and decorates houses and squares with countless chains of lights, totalling 100 kilometres in length. The city is transformed into a glittering world with decorated lanterns, illuminated life-size giant Christmas baubles, twinkling holy figures and a festively illuminated cathedral square. A ride on the Harz narrow-gauge railway promises more nostalgic pleasures. Historic locomotives take you from Wernigerode through a snow-covered winter landscape up to the Brocken.
Lübeck is an important Christmas city in the North of Germany. The Hanseatic city, with its famous Holsten Gate and magnificent churches, is beautifully decorated during Advent. Beside the Christmas Markets there is a fairytale forest at the foot of St. Mary's Church, the European Hanseatic Museum's Christmas Wonderland with Secret Santa huts, as well as a Kissing Arch and the Lübsche Christmas with many one-of-a-kind designer items made of natural materials. Lübeck Marzipan is also an essential sweet treat for the festive season. According to local legend, it was invented in 1407 during a famine. Lübeck's granaries were empty and so people began to bake bread made from almonds.
Lauscha, a small town in the Thuringian Forest, is the birthplace of the Christmas bauble, which today hangs on Christmas trees all over the world. Legend has it that in the past, glassblowers could not afford nuts and apples to decorate their trees, so they made Christmas tree ornaments out of glass. In the traditional glassworks in Lauscha, the colourful Christmas decorations can be seen all year round. Anyone interested in this craft can walk the historic Lauscha Glassblowers' Trail, which is around 15 kilometres long - at its best on a snowy winter's day. A ride on the illuminated mountain railway through the forests of the Schwarza Valley is another truly romantic experience.