The snow arrived in Munich a few weeks ago, which means that the city looks like a traditional Christmas Card: the roofs, windowsills and sidewalks are covered in white and besides the Christmas markets opened doors on November 26th and with them Munich is brimming with Christmas spirit.
Germans (and foreigners) love the Christmas market! (In German: “Weihnachtsmarkt” or “Christkindlmarkt”). It is one of those sweet and cozy traditions that make the sometimes-unbearable German cold and the wintertime darkness tolerable.
Apparently the origin of the first Christmas market goes back to the Middle Age in Dresden, where traders and storekeepers set up a street market during the Advent time and it became so popular that other German cities replicated the idea.
In Munich there is at least one market in every city district. On November 23rd the German newspaper TZ published an article listing the most popular Christmas markets of Munich:
- In Marienplatz: this one is a “must” if you are new to the city or just visiting Munich. The Christmas tree is beautiful at night. However it is always so crowed and it is so tourist-oriented that if I were you, I would also try to visit one other more local market to compare and get the full feeling of the German Christmas market tradition;
- Middle Age market in Wittelsbacher Plazt (1 minute from Odeonplatz): this one is fun and different, see pictures below;
- Sendlinger Tor: in my opinion this one is similar to the one in Marienplatz very tourist-oriented;
- Chinesischer Turm: located in the middle of the beautiful Englischer Garten;
- the small market inside the Residenz Hof (Patio) is worth a visit;
- the “Kripperlmarkt”: the place to buy all kind of stuff for the crib, located around the fountain of Richard-Strauss in Neuhauser street;
- the one in Haidhausen in Weißenburger Platz (my favorite) and finally
- the one in Schwabing (Freiheit): I need to go and check this one out but they say it is also a must.
Of course there are many more. A list of all Christmas markets in Munich can be found at the official city website (with description of what to find and why to go).
But if you asked me and I had to pick one I would probably say: the Christmas market in Haidhausen. Why? It is quiet, almost hidden: two minutes walk from Rosenheimer Platz (so still very central and well connected by tram and S-Bahn) but away enough from all the hustle and bustle of the city center and the tourists.
A very good friend of mine that lived in Germany for many years and she is now relocated to NYC told me that the one thing she misses more from Germany is gathering together with friends after work at the local Christmas market and enjoying a glass of “Glühwein”. I agree and starting with the "Glühwein", here there are a few tips for you to enjoy the Christmas market the way it should be:
1.- “Glühwein”: Germans mainly go to a Christmas market to enjoy a glass (or two) of “Glühwein”. The “Glühwein” is just warm (hot) spiced mullet red wine that no matter how bad/well it tastes, it will help you to keep warm even if you are outside and in minus zero temperatures. It is a tradition in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the French Alsace. When you order a “Glühwein”: you pay for the wine and also for a deposit (that varies from 2-4€) that you get back when you return the cup.
2.- Shopping: at the Christmas markets there are also stalls that sell winter clothing (pullover, home shoes, hats, gloves, etc.); small gifts, knickknacks; craftworks and Christmas decorations , but as I understand these shops target visitors and tourists. My friend from Augsburg explains that locals do not buy any of these at the Christmas markets (unless they have had too much “Glühwein”…). Besides prices are usually inflated.
3.- Food: there are usually food stalls that sell roasted nuts, the German gingerbread (“Lebkuchen” and “Magenbrot”), sweet crepes, fruit pieces dipped in hot chocolate, potato pancakes with apple puree, the usual German sausages, etc. They sometimes prepare stuff to take away, but mainly the food is served to be eaten at one of the market outdoor-areas. No worries! There are always patio heaters that will (should) keep you warm.
4.- Kids: some Christmas markets also have carrousels for kids.
5.- Music: some have small stages where local music is played live.
The Christmas markets are open until December 23rd/ 24th. One exception is the one in Stachus with the ice skating area that is opened until after New Years. But aside from this one, on Christmas Day the Christmas market’s magic is gone... so enjoy them before... you still have time!
Which Christmas market do you prefer?