German Christmas Markets

Christmas time in Germany is simply magical. The main attractions during the holiday season are the traditional Christmas markets, something this itinerary includes plenty of!

Medieval Christmas Market Germany Itinerary

As wonderful as the Markets are, there’s such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” Basically, that’s why I created this “medieval Christmas market Germany” itinerary. I was in search of places where the town IS the attraction. Enter Germany’s most atmospheric medieval towns with plenty of “non-Christmas market” things to see and do!

Medieval Christmas Markets Bavaria Germany

It just so happens that some of Germany’s most beautiful medieval towns are located in Bavaria, so that’s where we’re headed!

We’re going to travel right back to medieval times. These towns and villages are oozing with medieval charm and are twice as nice during the Christmas season! They are quaint, cozy, atmospheric and have that storybook quality you’re looking for. It’s the magic of Christmas old world style!

Explore picturesque lanes in towns that are plastered with tasteful Christmas decorations and Christmas lights this time of year. Christmas trees seem to be around each corner during the holiday season.

Which are the must visit medieval markets in Germany?
This itinerary includes 6 of Germany’s best medieval towns, all located in Bavaria!

  • Nuremberg
  • Dinkelsbühl
  • Rothenburg
  • Bad Windsheim
  • Regensburg
  • Bamberg

These are smaller towns and villages, no big cities. The largest city on our itinerary is Nuremberg (population 518,365 (2019.)

Europe’s Christmas Markets are bucket list worthy! Europe Winter Bucket list First time in Germany? Rookie mistakes people make when visiting Germany

About Germany’s Christmas Markets

Name:
Christkindlesmarkt (Christ child Market) or “Weihnachtsmarkt.”

History:
The traditional Christmas Market originated in Germany and still today hosts the best Christmas Markets in Europe! In 1434 (late middle ages) the first Christmas Market was held in Dresden Germany. From there the tradition spread throughout central Europe. (-Wikipedia)

What are the markets like?
Markets are traditionally held in the town square of German cities and with them bring a fun festive atmosphere. Wooden stalls selling unique gifts, traditional crafts, and handmade goods are adorned with fresh greenery and twinkling lights. Copious amounts of steaming mugs of spiced Glühwein served up from market stalls put visitors in the holiday spirit!

festively decorated wooden hut at a German Christmas Market
festively decorated wooden hut at a German Christmas Market
lighted stars German Christmas Markets
lighted stars: My favorite German Souvenir from the Christmas Markets!

One of the best things to do at the markets is indulge in the tasty delights being served up. Food stalls offer up an enormous variety of traditional food during this festive season. Smells like gingerbread (Lebkuchen), spiced nuts, and roasting meats permeate the winter air. Yes, definitely the best part of the experience!

“to add a little extra “warmth” to your hot chocolate, ask them to add a little amaretto liquor or peppermint schnapps!”

-Angie Marie

New to German food? Tasty German foods you MUST try!

Gluhwein Mugs are popular things to collect the Christmas Markets in Germany
A wildly popular market pastime is collecting the markets signature mugs

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links at no additional cost to you. 

eating raclette at the Nuremberg Christmas Market
My husband enjoying some gooey toasted raclette cheese in Nuremberg

Planning your trip

When is the best time to visit German Christmas markets?
Most European Christmas markets begin in late November or the first week of December and run at least through December. They are normally closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Some markets in smaller towns are open on weekends only.

How long do I need for the Germany Christmas Markets trip?
This itinerary is for 10 days. Have less time? Pick your favorites! More time? Slow down the pace or add some of my recommended additions in this article.

Check market dates:
DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about opening dates. Before you book your flight or hotels you need to confirm dates. To get the most accurate information on opening dates and opening hours check the official city website, or don’t hesitate to send an email!

Start booking ASAP:
Important note on accommodation: Hotel rooms book up fast for this time of year. Consider locking in your accommodation as soon as you decide on your trip dates.

Getting around

driving/public transportation combo

We decided that the best way to get around would be a driving/ public transportation comb, hoping to lessen our chances of driving on snowy or icy roads.
1-Do yourself a big favor and secure yourself some sort of GPS navigation. It makes life a whole lot easier!
2-Rental Car: I like to start my search at Booking.com or Expedia to get a good idea of which companies are offering the best rates and then make my way to the rental car company website to book with the company directly.

Here’s a map of the driving route.

total drive time: 4 hours

Medieval Christmas Markets Germany itinerary Map
trip route map: medieval Christmas market itinerary

public transport

We took the train from the airport to Nuremberg and back, for day trips to Bamberg and Regensburg. The rest of the time we drove but this trip can be done by public transit. Seamlessly plan your route and explore your options and purchase train tickets with the Deutsche Bahn (DB) website/app. Consider booking accommodation near the train station for easy access to trains.

New to public transportation? Public Transportation For Beginners.

Arriving in Germany

We started our trip at Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) because I normally find the best rates and most favorable flight options going through Germany’s largest airport.

Other options:

  • Nuremberg: Nuremberg (NUE) Airport
  • Munich (MUC) 2.5 hours by train with transfers
  • Stuttgart (STR) 4 hours by train with transfers
  • Frankfurt (FRA) 2.5 hours by train direct

First time in Germany? Don’t miss my Ultimate Guide to traveling in Germany! and check out my Germany page!

getting money in Germany

This is one trip where you are going to want to have cash on hand. Many of the market vendors only accept cash so stop at the ATM for some Euros before you leave the airport. Use your debit card and not your credit card. Refuse the Dynamic Currency Conversion (you want the transaction in Euros, not your home currency. They will charge you to convert it.)

German Christmas Market Itinerary

Day 1: arrival & Nuremberg

travel time for the day: 2-4 hours from the airport to Nuremberg

stay night 1 of 5 : Nuremberg

Our first stop is the medieval Bavarian town of Nuremberg (Nürnberg) Germany, known for its well-preserved medieval old town. Nuremberg was an important location during the days of the Holy Roman Empire and World War II eras. Nuremberg’s old town is a wild mix of historic and modern.

Google Maps: Nuremberg Christmas market and attractions map

Nuremberg specialties: Nürnberger Bratwurst (tiny brats), Nuremberg Christmas market punch fruit tea.

Handwerkerhof Medieval   Nuremberg Germany
Handwerkerhof personifies Medieval Nuremberg Germany

After what may have been a long flight and your travel time to Nuremberg, you may not have enough time to do much on the first day. I’d settle into your accommodation and then hit the Christmas Markets because I know you are dying to!

Nürnberg Christmas Markets

The Markets in Nuremberg run down Königstrasse with several smaller markets branching off down side streets but the main market is located in Hauptmarkt, the main square in Nuremberg’s old town. While the Dresden Striezelmarkt is actually Germany’s oldest Christmas market, Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt is one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany. One of the most famous Christmas Markets in the world, live music, the Schöner Brunnen fountain, and a ferris wheel are market highlights.

official website: Christkindlesmarkt

Nuremberg Christmas Market The Market
Nuremberg Christmas Market The Market
Lebkuchen (gingerbread)  Nuremberg Germany Christmas Markets
Lebkuchen (gingerbread) Nuremberg Christmas Market
Schöner Brunnen fountain and Frauenkirche square Nuremberg Christmas Market Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt
Schöner Brunnen fountain and Frauenkirche square is the location of Nuremberg’s main Christmas Market (Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt)

Where we stayed: Gasthaus Pillhofer, within walking distance of the main train station (main train station in German = Hauptbahnhof) (Great location, NO LIFT or ELEVATOR and you may have to go up several flights, good to know if you aren’t a light packer.) Book it here on Booking.com!

Day 2: Explore Nuremberg

Travel time for the day: zero

Stay night 2 of 5: Nuremberg

Nuremberg Activities

  • Old Town is surrounded by a 3-mile medieval wall (90% still survives)
  • Handwerkerhof Nuremberg courtyard has a fun medieval vibe.
  • Imperial Castle (Kayserburg), once the Residence of the Holy Roman Emperors.
  • Explore the underground passages and labyrinths of Nuremberg: Rock Cellar/passage tours (we chose this one) or the Medieval dungeons Tunnels and Secret passages.
  • Visit the historic churches, standouts include: The 13th century St Lorenz Cathedral which towers impressively over Nuremberg and the 14th century Frauenkirche with its mechanical clock/glockenspiel (daily at noon.)
  • Museums: Nuremberg has plenty of great museums but if I had to recommend one it would be the Germanisches Nationalmuseum- don’t miss this one, it will blow your socks off! I was shocked to find an entire 14th century Carthusian monastery in this big modern building.
  • Join a tour. Examples include historic walking tours, bus tours, beer tasting and much more! search for tours on Get Your Guide!
Angie Kunze, We're Not in Kansas Anymore in Nuremberg Germany
Medieval Christmas markets Bavaria Germany: sehr gut!

Day 3: Nuremberg (Day 2)

Travel time for the day: zero

Stay night 3 of 5: Nuremberg

Choose from the activities listed that you didn’t get to yesterday.

Day 4: Day trip to Regensburg

Travel time for the day: 2 hours

Stay night 3 of 5: Nuremberg

Catch the train to Regensburg, direct trains available: 1 hour

The historic UNESCO World heritage town of Regensburg escaped destruction during World War II, preserving its medieval charm.

Google Maps: Regensburg Christmas Market and attractions map

Regensburg specialties: Regensburger Wurst, blueberry or apple mulled wine.

Regensburg historic stone bridge Germany
looking across Regensburg’s historic stone bridge

Regensburg Christmas markets

Regensburg has several markets for you to choose from.

official website: Regensburg Tourism

Regensburg Christmas Market Germany
Regensburg Christmas Market, town centers come to life during market season!

But the one market you simply cannot miss is the Romantic Christmas Market at “St. Emmeram Castle” Thurn and Taxis. This was probably the most atmospheric market we saw on our entire trip! Magical at night with torchlit courtyards, lantern lit walking paths, and blazing open fires. Blacksmiths and glassblowers display their skills. The smells of spit-roasted pork, bread bowls filled with steaming ladles of soup, and the traditional Regensburger Knackersemmel brats fill the air.

Official Website: Thurn und Taxis

Thurn and Taxi's “St. Emmeram Castle” Romantic Christmas Market Regensburg
Thurn and Taxi’s “St. Emmeram Castle” Romantic Christmas Market

Regensburg activities:

You may fill most of your day at the markets but here are a few ideas for other things to do:

  • Explore the old town, including the historic Old Town Stone Bridge, walk the riverwalk, visit the Tree path / Pappelallee, one of Germany’s famous landmarks.
  • Grab a famous wurst at the 500-year-old Historische Wurstküche zu Regensburg, perhaps the oldest continuously open public restaurant in the world. (source: wikipedia)
  • Krampus event: If you happen to be in the area around Saint Nicholas Day (5 or 6 December check to see if there’s a Krampus event scheduled! Krampus is a horrifying creature said to accompany Saint Nicholas. It sounds like his role is to terrify children into good behavior. Whatever works I guess. It’s Christmas meets Halloween!
  • Warm up in one of the many museums in Regensburg. Search options on Trip Advisor.
  • Join a tour. Examples: Food and Wine tours, walking tours and more. Explore your options on Get Your Guide!

Take the train back to Nuremberg: direct train option available: 1 hour

Day 5: Day trip to Bamberg

Travel time for the day: 35 minutes to 1 hour

Stay night 5 of 5: Nuremberg

The small city of Bamberg is known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, such as the iconic Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) which is situated on an island in the middle of the Regnitz River.

Bamberg specialties: smoked beer, known as Rauchbier

Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)  Germany in winter
Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)

Bamberg Christmas Markets

The marketplace at Maximiliansplatz in the heart of the Old Town is illuminated by decorated shops and streets. At the end of the Weihnachtsmaerkte market lanes stands a large nativity scene.

website: Bamberg

Google Maps: Bamberg Christmas market and attractions

things to do in Bamberg

  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site historic old city centre of the medieval town , and visitors can explore charming cobblestone streets and unique half-timbered houses. Must-see attractions in the old town include Bamberg Cathedral, Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), and the picturesque Little Venice ( Klein Venedig) area along the river.
  • Do a brewery tour, either guided or on your own, to try out that famous smoked beer! search for brewery tours on Get Your Guide.
  • Hunt for nativities! Bamberg has a nativity trail (krippen). There are 36 nativity scenes around town.

Day 6: Dinkelsbühl and the magic forest

Travel time for the day: 1 hour 25 minutes

Stay night 1 of 1: Dinkelsbühl

Pick up a rental car and drive to Zauberwald Fichtenau National Park (Magic Forest): 1 hour 15 minutes

This park has over 80 cute wooden carvings, snow crunching underfoot, and enchanting evergreen flaked forest trails. During our visit everything was covered in a lovely blanket of snow. It truly was magical!

Zauberwald Fichtenau (Magic Forest) Germany
Zauberwald Fichtenau (Magic Forest) Germany
Angie Kunze, We're Not in Kansas Anymore at Zauberwald Fichtenau Germany
I’ve been wanting to get to this park!

Drive to Dinkelsbühl: 10 minute drive

Dinkelsbühl is a charming well-preserved medieval town with colorful half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets. THIS was a real hidden gem! The smaller town had smaller crowds. I’m honestly not sure if I saw one other English-speaking person in town! If you are looking to get a more authentic taste without the crowds don’t miss Dinkelsbühl.

Google Maps: Dinkelsbühl Christmas market and attractions map

Dinkelsbuhl Germany Christmas lights in Old Town Dinkelsbühl
Christmas lights in Old Town Dinkelsbühl

Christmas Market (Dinkelsbühler Weihnachtsmarkt)

This unique Christmas market is special because it’s held on the banks of the river rather than in the city center. THIS MARKET IS ONLY OPEN ON WEEKENDS. You may need to rearrange your schedule to be here on a weekend like we did or skip it.

Official website: Dinkelsbühl Tourism

Dinkelsbühl Christmas Market Germany
Dinkelsbühl Medieval Christmas Market Germany

Dinkelsbühl activities

  • Explore the Historische Altstadt (old town) and the Market Square.
  • The 15th Century St. George Church) Münster St. Georg Dinkelsbühl) with its large display of nativity scenes is worth visiting,
  • Walk the wall: a medieval wall with its many towers and beautiful city gates circles the perimeter of this historic old town. It was blessedly deserted there!
  • Nightwatchman tour, 9 pm, leaves from St. George’s Minster (in German)

Total walking: about 2 miles

Where we stayed: Meiser Altstadt Hotel, nice hotel, good location, very good restaurant. Book it now on Booking.com!

Day 7: Bad Windsheim (spa day!)

Travel time for the day: 1 hour 30 minutes

Stay night 1 of 3: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Drive to Bad Windsheim: 1 hour

Bad Windsheim is a tiny medieval town located just a few kilometers from Rothenburg. I lived here for a time as a child and it’s definitely off the beaten track! There are a couple of worthwhile attractions in town but on this trip we’re here to warm up!

Bad Windsheim town square market square Germany
Bad Windsheim town square
Bad Windsheim, a hidden gem in Germany
My childhood home for a time, and personal favorite hidden gem village in Germany: Bad Windsheim

Bad Windsheim Christmas Market

This tiny market is reminiscent of the quaint markets from my childhood memories. It won’t blow you away, but it has all of the essential elements and a whole lot less of the crowds!

Website: I wasn’t able to locate an official site but Deutsche Weihnachtsmaerkte seems to have accurate information.

Bad Windsheim Christmas Market Germany
Bad Windsheim Medieval Christmas Market Germany

Bad Windsheim attractions

  • If you have time explore the old town center. It’s super cute!
  • Franconian Open Air Museum (Fränkisches Freilandmuseum) consists of around 100 historic buildings from around the area that were moved to this site. If you happen to be in Bad Windsheim on a Sunday in December, there’s an advent market at the museum.
  • Franken-Therme Bad Windsheim: the highlight of the day are the spa and thermal baths! Let’s escape those crowded markets for the day and get warm and cozy! The thermal bath offers an array of spa services, saunas, and around 11 thermal swimming pools, including one with a Laser light and sound show. It’s like a rave party in the pool!

Drive to Rothenburg: 30 minutes

Where we stayed: Historik Hotel Gotisches Haus. This is my favorite place to stay in Rothenburg. Just a 2 minute walk from the historic center of the city, it’s the perfect place to base yourself. The 700-year-old hotel is bursting with old world charm! Book it here on Booking.com! (can’t find it? book direct)

hotel gotisches haus garni rothenburg ob der tauber how to find the best hotels accommodations when planning travel
Gotisches Haus (The Gothic House) hotel, a 700-year-old building in Rothenburg

Day 8: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Travel time for the day: zero

Stay night 2 of 3: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

It’s no secret that Rothenburg is a personal favorite of mine. I can’t seem to get anywhere near it without making a stop. The small town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, is located on Germany’s famous Romantic Road. With its half-timbered houses and winding cobbled streets this old town is something straight out of a fairy tale! We actually thought that this town had the best “Christmassy” feel.

Everything you need to know: Rothenburg Christmas Guide

Google Maps: Rothenburg Christmas market plus attractions map

Rothenburg specialties: Schneeballen (literally snowballs) strips of dough formed into a ball, and deep fried.

Markusturm tower Christmas tree Rothenburg Germany
Markusturm tower at Christmastime

Rothenburg Christmas Market

Rothenburg’s Christmas market is one of Germany’s most popular. The Market is located in the main town square and wraps around the town hall and through the alleyways around the St. Jacobs Church. It’s a small but nice market.

official website: Rothenburg Tourism

Rothenburg Christmas market in the town square Germany
Rothenburg Medieval Christmas Market Germany

Rothenburg Activities

  • Rothenburg’s Museums: Rothenburg has several good museums. The two most popular are the Criminal Museum and the Christmas Museum.
  • Town Hall tower climb: If you dare, market time is a great time to Climb the city hall tower that overlooks the Christmas Market. It’s around 220 steps, gets narrower and you go. I had a massive case of Acrophobia once I got to the top!
  • St. Jacobs church/ St James. The chalice in the famous ornate altar in this church is said to contain the blood of Christ.
  • Get a big dose of Rothenburg’s fascinating history on the Night Watchman Walking tour.
  • Get another Massage. Still have tired achy muscles? I favorite place: Wellness Massage by Somwang Merklein. Call for an appointment or book through Facebook Messenger.

Want more options? find out everything you need to know! Magical Rothenburg visitor guide or check out this 3 day Rothenburg itinerary!

Day 9: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Travel time for the day: zero

Stay night 3 of 3: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Fill your day with activities you didn’t get to yesterday!

Day 10: drop off car, travel to airport

Travel time for the day: dependent upon what airport you’re headed to

Stay night 1 of 1: Near the airport

Drive to Nuremberg to return the rental car: 1 hour 15 minutes

take the train to your next destination

The hotels around Frankfurt international are cold, impersonal and isolated. We opted to stay in the German town of Mainz instead, just a 20-minute train ride from FRA. There are plenty of restaurants and amenities near the train station in Mainz.

Google Maps: Mainz Christmas Markets and attractions

Mainz Christmas markets

Exhausted from your trip and don’t feel like getting out? No worries because there’s a small market right outside of the train station! It’s not the best market in town but you can get some last-minute gifts and treats. Mainz Market highlights: a giant working Christmas Pyramid, a giant music boxy with spinning angel figurines.

official website: Mainz

Mainz Christmas Market

Where we stayed: AC Hotel by Marriott Mainz, nice place, just across from the train station. Book it here on Booking.com!

Add more medieval towns

If you are looking to add another medieval city or town some great area additions would be the Esslingen Christmas Market. Esslingen MEDIEVAL Market features jugglers, fire and stilt artists, musicians, craftsmen, medieval games, archery, the candle workshop, the hand-operated Ferris wheel and much more.

Take a look at this map of Germany’s best medieval towns, add as many as you want!

Top Travel Tips

Make dinner reservations

days in advance if possible. This is an incredibly busy time of year. The markets are a great place to eat, for both lunch and dinner, but for sit down meals you better have a reservation.

Crowd Control

You’ll find fewer crowds: closer to opening time. Night time is crowded but come back to see everything all lit up. Do your shopping first thing and then come back at night to see the lights, people watch, and revel in the merriment! Try to visit smaller towns on weekends and save the more popular markets for weekdays.

Pack light, stay warm tips (what to pack for Germany in winter)

  • Layering is the key to keeping warm without the bulk. Warm clothes don’t have to be bulky. Layers can seamlessly take you from indoors to outdoors and back again. The warmest layers are fleece, wool, and down. I like fleece base layers like CuddlDuds for outdoor activities.
  • Fleece lined jeans, big thumbs up! (may be harder to find in summer, keep checking!)
  • Lightweight insulated boots or shoes (bonus if they are waterproof too!)
  • Fleece neck gaiters, wear it as a scarf or pull it up over your face to keep it warm!
  • PACKABLE down, layer them over a light fleece jacket to stay toasty warm without the bulk.
  • Waterproof pants (comfortable and warm) snow pants are bulky and unless you are skiing you probably don’t need them.
  • Wool socks and wool glove liners (double the heat insulation!) and something to keep your head warm.
  • Hand warmers
  • Waterproof outer layers like rain ponchos or an umbrella in case of rain, you don’t want to get wet on cold days!

Need to do Laundry?
You could find a laundromat but I don’t relish spending my time doing laundry when I’m on vacation. Instead, I wash my clothes out in the sink at night. Towel warmers and radiators are great for speeding dry time!

cost of a 10 day trip to medieval markets in Germany

tip: book rooms early, check back and rebook if price goes down but it isn’t likely to during this busy time of year.

(2023 prices)

Hotel (based on double occupancy)$2,500 (10 nights)
rental car$230
train tickets$250 (I tend to by the flex ticket which costs a little more, and make seat reservations)
tours and admission$150 (you may spend more, or less)
estimated total for two people:$3,500
(prices are for approximation only)

Don’t forget to add the cost of airfare (we fly free, learn how here!) PLUS sign up for “Going” (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) to get flight deals sent to your inbox! see the world for less!

Protect yourself with trip insurance (one of my #1 travel tips)
Trips to Germany cost money. Protect your investment with “cancel for any reason” trip insurance. Shop for one at the Travel Insurance website! but don’t delay, most CFAR policies need to be purchased within 14-21 days of your initial trip payment, depending on the policy.

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Alsace Region of France Christmas Market itinerary, including the magical and stunning Raveena Gorge Market in the Black Forest!

Check out the ultimate guide to visiting Neuschwanstein Castle in winter!

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