When my friend Miriam moved back to Germany a few months ago, I knew that December was the perfect time to visit. I had been to Germany before, but somehow visiting in time for the famous German Christmas Markets had eluded me thus far.
In true German efficiency, Miriam took it upon herself to plan the whole weekend – all I asked for was to visit a Christmas Market and also to be shown the most authentic German experience she could provide. I’ll give a hint that she didn’t disappoint!
After our arrival into Stuttgart on Friday evening, Mark and I had come ready with an appetite as Miriam had told us we’d be having raclette for dinner. Raclette is a Swiss-German dish – the raclette cheese is melted on a metal heater, and then scraped over potatoes, meats, bread, or whatever else inspires the eater. It’s one of my favorite meals and I certainly ate to my hearts desire.
Fun fact: Germans think its very odd to drink tap water from the sink, despite it being totally safe to do so!
Our morning started with a very German breakfast – pretzels with cold cuts and pate. A bit of strong coffee to go, and we were on our way to the heart of the city. Our first stop was to a traditional German restaurant called Ochs’n Willi, where I ordered my favorite German noodle dish, käsespätzle (cheese noodles).
Post lunch it was time to hit the Christmas Markets. The Stuttgart Christmas Market is quite expansive – there are lots of stalls with gluhwein, waffles, lebkuchen, raclette, bratwurst, and various arts and crafts. I also loved that the roofs of the market stalls were adorned with various festive decorations.
I’ve been obsessed with lebkucken heart cookies ever since going to Oktoberfest in 2011 – I remembered spotting one that said “Ich liebe dich”, meaning “I love you”, at the time and regretted not buying it – so this time around I made sure to get one. I also found out over the weekend that while soft lebkuchen can be eaten, the hard lebkuchen are meant to be souvenirs – so don’t eat them!
Not wanting us to only experience one Christmas market, Miriam brought us about a half hour outside of Stuttgart to another Christmas market in the town of Schwäbisch Gmünd (good luck pronouncing that one if you aren’t German!). As it was dark out, many of the daytime stalls had closed, but the gluhwein stalls were most certainly abuzz. I always thought there was only one flavor of gluhwein, but at the market I was able to try apple gluhwein which was delicious!
Schwäbisch Gmünd also had something I had never seen before – an entire building lit up as an Advent calendar! Each window had a different numbered day and throughout the night the windows light up with different colors. There didn’t seem to be a logic to which were lit up (I thought it might be days that had already passed), but I thought it was a cool sight nonetheless.
Sunday we got a later start to the day; after having a leisurely breakfast – again of German pretzels – my new favorite – and playing some games, we headed to Gerber Brauhaus, a brewery restaurant where Mark and I enjoyed a round of their home brewed beer. “Gerber” in German refers to a tanner, so the brewery has hides in various colors hanging from the ceilings.
Miriam had one more Christmas market in store for us, this time in Esslingen, Germany, which is a city next to Stuttgart. The Esslingen Christmas market had something that the other two hadn’t though – a Middle Ages area where there were German Middle Age reenactments and items like wooden swords and helmets were sold.
Needless to say I don’t recommend drinking too much gluhwein with a sword in hand!
Have you been to a German Christmas market? What’s your favorite Christmas event?