For Germany’s most beautiful Christmas market (yes, it’s official), look no further than the Cultural Heart of Germany region. Read on for more big hitters and unique festive corners in the regions of Thuringia and Saxony to create your perfect 2019 Christmas market outing.
To Thuringia, for old Christmas market favourites and new experiences
As voted last year by international travellers on the European Best Destinations website, Erfurt is Germany’s most beautiful Christmas market (26 Nov to 22 Dec 2019) and at number 5 in Europe. The market in Thuringia’s capital city is, indeed, a stunner, set right in the centre on Cathedral Square and against the background of the city’s unique medieval structure. Apart from the to-be-expected array of stands offering traditional handmade crafts, delicious treats, Thuringian specialties and Christmas decorations, an enormous candle-lit Christmas tree, a 12-metre high pyramid and a nativity scene with hand-carved and almost life-size figures are stand-out features.
Tip: Combine your Erfurt visit with a hop over to the hidden gem of Gotha, only 20 minutes on the train, for the premiere of a very special Christmas experience (29 Nov to 22 Dec 2019) on the grounds of Friedenstein Palace, one of Europe’s most stunning Baroque ensembles. Set within the palace’s courtyard, the Christmas market will feature around 50 artists, traders, craftspeople, winemakers and bakers from the region, plus historical merry-go-rounds and an ice-rink and turn into a Russian winter “Yolka Festival” from 2 to 7 January 2020. While there, don’t miss visiting Friedenstein Palace, one of the favourite places of Queen Victoria when in Germany and closely related to her husband Prince Albert’s family, with its impressive Ducal Museum.
To Saxony, for Stollen and other (culinary) delights
Over in Saxony, plan your trip around the second Saturday in Advent (7 Dec 2019), when the Stollenfest takes over Dresden’s Striezelmarkt Christmas market (27 Nov to 24 Dec 2019). The city, where the famous Christmas cake was born and is still prepared according to a secret recipe, each year dedicates an entire day to the Stollen, a giant version of which is paraded through the streets. Foodies should also take in the wide range of international culinary treats on offer at Augustusmarkt (28 Nov to 23 Dec 2019), Dresden’s second biggest market on the main shopping street. Modelled on a 18th century Baroque festivity, instead of traditional wooden stands, food is served from white and golden illuminated pagodas. Sample anything from German specialties to Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Italian, Belgian, Swiss or Czech traditional festive treats.
To make the most of your Dresden trip, venture out to nearby Saxony Switzerland and dive into the Canalettomarkt (27 Nov to 23 Dec, 27 to 30 Dec 2019) in the historic old town of Pirna on the Elbe river. Little known internationally, Pirna is the gateway to the stunning sandstone mountains of Saxony Switzerland and provides a picture-perfect setting for a Christmas market. Each night, the town hall is illuminated in a display of Canaletto paintings to a soundtrack of. Baroque music. Special!
More inspiration for a Christmas country road trip in our sample itinerary of highlights in Saxony and Thuringia to create a pre-Christmas holiday to remember.
For an overview of Christmas markets in Saxony, including visitor favourite Leipzig and traditional markets and miners’ parades in the Ore Mountains, please see here. A list of Christmas markets in Thuringia can be found here.
All major airlines to Berlin or Frankfurt with onward rail connections.
New Ryanair flights directly to Dresden from 29 October.
The Cultural Heart of Germany, www.cultural-heart-of-germany.com is a tourism initiative of Saxony Tourism and Thuringia Tourism. The neighbouring states of Saxony and Thuringia feature a unique cultural heritage and rich musical tradition that the Cultural Heart of Germany promotes in the UK.