If you want to travel back in time to when the festive season felt more magical than commercial, then a trip to Germany’s traditional Christmas markets might just be the way to re-kindle childhood memories.
Cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart all have traditional markets, but Munich, Bavaria’s impressive capital, is home to Germany’s oldest and original Christkindlmarkt, dating back to the 14th Century.
Held on the Marienplatz in the heart of the city from November 27 – December 24 below a twinkling, 100-foot-high Christmas tree, the flamboyant, Gothic architecture also looks straight out of a fairy-tale when lit up at night. Stalls sell traditional Bavarian Christmas gifts such as wood carvings, tree decorations, music boxes or festive figurines with incense smoking from their pipes. The Bavarian Forest glassware is smashing, though you’ll need extra padding to get it home safely!
Every evening from 5.30 pm, carol singers put shoppers in the festive spirit, singing from the balcony of the Neue Rathaus (New Town Hall). Crowds also gather to watch the Glockenspiel’s jaunty clockwork procession when it strikes at 11am and noon (as well as 5pm in summer).
Inside the Town Hall, children are given wings in the ‘Heavenly Workshop’, dressing up as angels, making Christmas cards or baking cakes. It’s heavenly for adults, too, as the popular craft sessions are free!
The Krampus Runs on December 9 and 23 are fun, when devil-like masked creatures create havoc scaring shoppers by rattling chains and ringing cowbells. The Krumpus, with huge horns, is the scary assistant of kind Saint Nicholas, who doesn’t put up with naughty children as patiently as his boss!
The nearby Kripperlmarkt or Manger Market on Neuhauser Strasse is where you find everything to do with the nativity scene from cribs to figurines. Although Christmas Eve is the most important festive day in Germany, it’s the night before St Nicholas’ Day on December 6 that children leave a shoe out in the hope that it will be filled with goodies by the Santa-like Saint.
Christmas trams rattle around the city from December 1 -23 with mulled wine, children’s punch and gingerbread on board. I’d recommend the scenic 90-minute train ride to Nuremberg to visit another of Germany’s most historic markets set in the picturesque old town below Kaiserburg Castle. The nostalgic Children’s Market has a steam railway and visits from St Nik.
Yet in Munich alone, there are over 20 different Christmas markets, all with their own specialities and atmosphere. The Sterenplatzl market is known for its arts and crafts and home-made Bavarian goodies, while the predominantly pink Stephansplatz market is gay-friendly.
In the English Gardens, one of the largest public parks in the world, the Christmas Market found under the Chinese Tower offers horse and carriage rides, a curling rink and a carousel. You’ll even find Christmas stalls as well as an ice rink at the airport!
Follow your nose to Viktualienmarkt, a food market, where irresistible aromas of sizzling Bratwurst sausages and mulled Glühwein will tempt you to stop for a warming snack. Gingerbread (Lebkuchen) and marzipan-filled stollen are also festive favourites as are chimney sweep figures made from plums and almonds that are said to bring good luck.
You’ll need good luck finding any bargain buys at the Maximilianstrasse, one of the world’s grandest boulevards. Nicknamed the Golden Mile, this is the address for luxury hotels and designer stores as well as the Opera House/ National Theatre and Residenz Palace. For night life, head to the Feierbanane (Party Banana), a curved strip of clubs and bars between Maximiliansplatz and Sendlinger Tor.
The plethora of breweries and beer houses might provide better luck in making the idea of Christmas shopping palatable to the menfolk. Don’t miss the rowdy Hofbräuhaus with its dirndl-dressed waitresses and oompah bands in lederhosen! Tours, liquid lunches and hearty Bavarian meals can be enjoyed at Der Pschorr, Munich’s oldest brewery on the Viktualienmarkt. “Prost” and “Frohe Weihnachten”!
Eurowings (eurowings.com) and easyJet (easyjet.com) fly direct from Edinburgh to Munich while Lufthansa (Lufthansa.com) flies direct from Glasgow. Visit germany.travel or muenchen.de for more.
Photos courtesy of München Tourismus (www.muenchen.de)
Loganair (loganair.co.uk) has introduced a discount fare for members of the armed forces, veterans and the armed forces community. Teaming up with Poppyscotland and The Royal British Legion, the Armed Forces Fare will give eligible passengers a 10% reduction in their core ticket price – launched to coincide with the final year of the WW1 centenary. Book at defencediscountservice.co.uk
Award-winning Cucina Restaurant and the Royal Mile’s only five-star hotel, Radisson Collection Hotel, Edinburgh (radissoncollection.com) has a new Head Chef Andy McQueen. Andy has introduced Scottish brasserie dining to the restaurant designed by style duo Timrous Beasties, with a new menu including a vegan afternoon tea – one of the first in the capital.
Lonely Planet’s Epic Hikes of the World (shop.lonelyplanet.com, £24.99) walks readers step-by-step through a choice of incredible routes from New Zealand to Peru, with stunning photographs en route. From one-day jaunts to mountain expeditions, each journey is truly epic and inspirational.
Seven nights in Cyprus costs from £484 pp (a saving of up to £151 pp) staying at the four-star Louis Imperial in Paphos on a half-board basis from Edinburgh on December 12 2018. Visit loveholidays.com or call 0203 870 6844.