One of the most magical experience we have ever had as a family was visiting Christmas Markets in Germany. While it might not seem like the most welcoming time of the year in terms of weather, I think after having experienced it that I would have to say that everyone should see the magic of Christmas in Germany.
I am not sure what I expected when we were flying to over to Europe around Christmas time and thinking about Christmas market. I am sure I was imagining cold and snow, which as you know does not appeal to me personally. But like most worth while experiences, I did not even come close to imagining what it really would be like. In the end you can never predict emotional response to actually being in a specific place.
Here are a few fun facts about Christmas Markets in Germany
If you think United States goes crazy with Holiday decor and spirit, we have got NOTHING on Europe’s craze. Most Christmas markets and booths in Germany are SO decorated that they do not have a single empty spot on signs, walls, or windows. Everything is thick with fur, ornaments, sweets, and other colorful decorations. Just when you think things couldn’t get crazier, you come upon a booth that took it a step forward. See for yourself:
Food and drinks
Hundreds of vendors come to set up shop offering the most delectable sweets and homemade foods that are hard to resist. We dropped all the rules in terms of diets for our time at the Christmas markets in Germany. You don’t really have a choice. Germany means sausages, bread, cheese, and oh- HOT Gluhwine. If you can survive on those three items, then you’re gold. Unfortunately, Lexi and I don’t eat meat ( though I did make an exception here for myself, because otherwise I’d be living on cheese bread and fries) and I don’t really like to drink alcohol. So you can see how food got very limited for us there. But we did load up on sweets and hot cocoa, and I think I ate more cheese and sausages than I have my whole life.
And some Christmas markets in Germany have an indoor market with a variety of bulk foods to buy.
Goods and souvenirs
This part is something that I really enjoyed especially after the fact. We bought some warm German socks, mind blowing loose teas that I still enjoy to this day with Lexi, and matroshkas for Lexi. There are so many goods to pick from it’s hard to resist. Set a generous budget and find some unique gifts. If you don’t set a budget, you either end up overspending or buying too little and missing opposrtunities for really cool gifts and souveniers.
Festivities and Entertainment
All around town there are things set up to celebrate the season and bring families and people to the market. There are ice skating rinks, lots of lights and decor, trains and attractions for kids, ferris wheels, Santa, photo ops, and big Christmas trees. There is so much to do and see, it’s like you have been transported to a magical Christmas wonderland in Germany. One of the Christmas markets in Germany that we visited was set up in a gorge under a bride with trains passing by. Photos do not do it justice; it was unreal.
Gorgeous photo ops and how to take them
Taking photos is pretty challenging at Christmas markets, but with the right equipment and attitude, they can be beautiful. The issue is abundance of light AND the lack thereof. Taking photos OF the actual Christmas markets in Germany is pretty easy. Taking photos of people next to all that beauty is challenging. Here are a few rules:
- skip the on-camera flash
- use a tripod if possible
- expose for the lights if taking landscape photos, for the person (and then underexpose a bit) if taking photos of people
- keep your ISO as low as possible while still allowing light in (due to noise)
- learn how to shoot in Manual mode
- keep your hands steady if you’re don’t have a tripod by placing your elbows on a solid object or leaning against a wall (or a significant other)
- make sure your lenses are crystal clear and clean, because any oil or fingerprints on them will make the christmas lights look fuzzy
- if using a tripod, use low shutter speed. That will blur all the crowds, and will give extra light to the Christmas markets
- when handheld, use a shutter speed of no less than 1/100 if your hands are steady. I’ve gotten pretty clear shots with as low as 1 second, but you have to be practiced
Should I take my kids to Christmas Markets?
Obviously, if they are with you in Europe, absolutely! If you’re wondering if it’s worth flying over to Europe with your kids to see Christmas markets in Germany, that is a difficult question.
Lexi came with us when she was almost 6. She was still very young and it was challenging for us to be in a cold, somewhat unfamiliar, environment (being used to Florida) with a small child. She found it magical and amazing, and she DOES remember the experience, but I feel at that age, they could get the same level of fun at Disney’s Christmas party. I would wait till kids are slightly older to make a special trip just to see Christmas market. What they learn from visiting Europe at this young age is invalueable, but that can be accomplished at a more pleasant time of the year weather wise. That’s my personal opinion.
Keep in mind that bathrooms and water is very difficult to find around Europe in general and that becomes a bigger concern at a festivity like Christmas markets.
Things to remember at Christmas Markets in Germany
- everything is cash only
- it is REALLY cold
- plan ahead if you have dietary resitrictions
- scope out bathrooms ahead of time (they are limited)
- get some souveniers and non-perishable food to bring home
- arrive early, because it’s warmer and the light is better