Germany has some of the best Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) in the world, running from the end of November until Christmas and sometimes longer. Germany’s Christmas market tradition dates back 500 years, and in the country’s north, both Hamburg and Lübeck refer to themselves as the region’s Christmas capitals.
Here are two of the best markets in Northern Germany:
With stunning 19th- and 20th-century architecture, the Speicherstadt district—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—and the Elbphilharmonie concert hall are incredible city landmarks. When you add twinkling lights and festive decorations, this maritime metropolis transforms into a winter wonderland. There are 16 Christmas markets in Hamburg, the most popular the historic market held in front of the city hall. This magical market features a giant twinkling Christmas tree and 80 local merchants showcasing classic toys, traditional woodcarvings, and mulled wine. Don’t forget to look up to see Santa riding his sleigh high above the market three times a night.
The White Magic Market mesmerizes visitors with dazzling lights along the Inner Alster Lake, the large artificial lake within the city). It is the ideal spot for a romantic walk, especially when the giant tree in the middle of the lake sparkles at night. Next to Mönckebergstrasse, one of Hamburg’s main shopping streets, is Gerhart-Hauptmann-Platz, location of the Winter Forest market, designed to feel like an enchanted forest of real fir trees.
One of Hamburg’s quirkiest Christmas markets is in the historic Reeperbahn area, the city’s red-light district. Santa Pauli is an adults-only market where you’ll find strip shows, live music, and some sensual gifts. In St. Pauli, club culture and live music have a longstanding tradition. In the early 1960s, the Beatles got their first gigs in a music club near the Reeperbahn.
Northeast of Hamburg, the Hanseatic city of Lübeck boasts magnificent churches and the historic Holsten Gate. The city’s Old Town was named a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1987.
The Traditional Christmas Market sees Lübeck’s town hall illuminated with garlands of lights. The smell of roasted nuts, grilled sausages, deep-fried pastries, and mulled wine permeate the air, while arts and crafts, handcrafted ornaments, and regional products are showcased at the stalls.
At the Historical Christmas Market, visitors can journey back in time to the Middle Ages at St. Mary’s Church. Craftsmen sell unique goods, while music and historical acts provide entertainment under the night sky.
The Koberg, a square in the old Seafarers’ Quarter of the historic Old Town, is the location of the Maritime Christmas Market. Wooden barrels and pieces from shipwrecks create a seagoing atmosphere, and mulled wine and hot rum paired with sweet treats help keep visitors warm. Youngsters can spin round on the merry-go-rounds or the Big Wheel, which gives spectacular views of Lübeck’s Old Town and harbour.