Christmas markets have a long tradition in Germany, stretching as far back as the late Middle Ages when stallholders would have mainly sold meat and winter necessities.
Arguably Germany’s most famous Christmas market is the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt (November 30 – December 24), which attracted over two million visitors last year, while Cologne’s ever-popular festive gathering at Cologne Cathedral (November 26 – December 23) attracts more than four million people a year.
Here’s a selection of three alternative markets where visitors can find good fine, wine, crafts and even a little romance.
Detmold (December 7-9)
This old-style festive treat takes place at the Open Air Museum in Detmold. It’s unique for its storytelling patrons and plenty of music, crafts and art who enjoy painting a picture of how Christmas was celebrated in years gone by in North-Rhine Westphalia.
Visitors can find out how to make festive decorations, bake traditional Christmas cookies and learn how the custom of giving gifts has changed over the years. Storytelling and puppet theatre provide entertainment for the children, while the grown-ups can browse the open-air Christmas market with more than 30 stalls.
Port Westfalica (December 14-16)
This unique celebration takes place in the Kleinenbremen visitor mine in Porta Westfalica, North-Rhine Westphalia. Adorned with illuminations for the underground Christmas market, the mine is filled with stalls bathed in the soft glow of candlelight, and the aroma of roasted almonds and glühwein.
Visitors can stroll through the abandoned tunnels – where miners were still extracting iron ore until into the 1960s – enjoying hot rum punch and buying handmade Christmas gifts. One of the highlights of the Christmas market is the laser and music show, which sees the underground caverns illuminated by abstract patterns of light.
Bavarian Christmas Forest, Upper Bavaria (November 30 – December 16)
The magic of the Christmas Forest in Halsbach near Altötting in Upper Bavaria in the run-up to Christmas never fails to impress its visitors. The clearing around the forest theatre is transformed into a festive village with wooden huts illuminated by torch and candlelight, creating a romanic wintery backdrop. Alpine horn players and choirs provide the music, the teahouse serves glühwein and hot rum punch, and artisans sell handicrafts and regional wares at market stalls. Little ones can watch pixies dance or listen to the shepherds telling stories in the barn.
For information on all of Germany's Christmas markets, visit: www.germany.travel