So, the time of year is officially here, as I mentioned the other day. Today I want to talk about the markets in depth, and maybe give some advice to first-time market-goers, because this stuff can be a little overwhelming.
The markets are a pretty amazing part of the German Christmas experience, even if you don’t like Christmas. Or the cold. Or crowds, for that matter.
What You Need to Know:
* The markets usually open around middle November and stay open up to the 24th of December. Most of them will operate from around 11 in the morning to late at night, but you can check every individual market’s times at this website.
* The closer to Christmas, the more people at the markets. In fact, the markets get scarily busy – something to be aware of if you don’t like crowds. If you want to avoid the masses of people, go in the morning / in November, or visit the smaller markets.
* The markets are well-priced. Overall, you can expect to pay no more than a Euro or two more for any specific item than you would in a store. Consumerism doesn’t have that much of an impact. Market food is inexpensive and tasty – a real must.
* You can expect to buy anything imaginable at the stalls. The most prominent additions are Christmas decorations and lights, food and gloves, hats and scarves. You’ll also see hand-made jewellery, art, leather work, baking supplies, hand-made crockery, toys and the list goes on. You’ll find an array of amazing items!
* In the bigger markets, you’ll find at least one English-speaker per stall, though you might not be so lucky in the smaller ones. You might want to make sure you can speak at least a phrase or two German if you’re coming for a visit.
* Live shows, carolers or other kinds of music-makers are a feature at most markets. You can expect to be entertained. Personally, the live music is one of my favourite aspects of the markets. The atmosphere is electric, something I adore.
Do This at the Markets:
* Layer your clothes. Winter in Germany is cold, especially when the wind picks up. You’ll want to dress warmly, and also make sure you’re wearing something wind- and waterproof. Expect rain, so bring an umbrella or wear something with a hood.
* Come with an empty stomach. The food and treats are good and inexpensive, as I noted above. At some of these markets, you can even buy bigger meals, like stews or soups. I can recommend all of it. My personal favourite is spätzle, a German egg noodle, usually served with a cheesy sauce.
* The sweet treats are also a must! Most markets will have a wide variety of sweets and food, from all over Europe. So expect churros, Duch poffertjes and Belgian chocolates in each market. Don’t even get me started on the sugar-coated almonds! The smell of almonds roasting has become the smell of Christmas to me, something I thoroughly enjoy.
* Gluhwein is often around 2 – 3 Euro, but you can expect to pay up to 5 Euro when you order it. This is because the gluhwein comes in a glass mug, decorated with Christmassy-things or something about the city you’re visiting. You can return the mug and you’ll get back a 2 / 3 Euro deposit, or keep the mug if you’d like. This is a great souvenir for really cheap.
* Most stalls make their own gluhwein on site, though some of them do just buy the store bottled kind and reheat it. Many stalls sell speciality gluhwein or even gluhbeer, in a variety of flavours. Just be aware that this stuff packs a punch. You can get drunk very easily on gluhwein, especially if you’re a lightweight like me. 🙂 Don’t worry, most of the drink stalls also sell hot chocolate, eggnog and a variety of other beverages too, so there’s bound to be something you’d like if gluhwein doesn’t do it for you.
* Don’t forget to keep your possessions close. Some people will advise you to secure the zips on your handbag / backpack with locks, because of the presence of pickpockets. We’ve been lucky so far, though someone has tried to open my bag before. I realised what was happening (hello, I’m from South-Africa) and nothing was stolen, but this is just something to be aware of.
The more tourists at a particular market, the higher the chance of pickpockets.
* Take cash. Some stalls do have card facilities, but most don’t. Also, try to break your bigger notes before you go, as most things cost under 10 Euro.
* Take a shopping bag that’s easy to carry and waterproof. You don’t want to buy your great gifts, just to have them ruined by the rain.
And that’s about all I can think of!
Have a good day. 🙂