Happy holiday season everyone!
December will be an easy one to write. The Christmas markets have opened and the jolly season of Glühwein on empty stomachs is upon us! Every night you aren’t spending your time outside the lab at the market is a night wasted.
There are many experts who claim that Göttingen has one of the nicest Christmas markets in Germany (and I have to agree). Here are a few reasons why: first of all, our city center is gorgeous during the Christmas season. With all the glittering lights and decorations, and the rustic market stalls surrounding the old townhall, Gänseliesel and St. Johannis church, it looks like a scene straight out of a hallmark Christmas movie. Second of all, our Christmas market is the perfect size! You can finish all of the stalls in one turn, and by the end of it you are just cold enough to go back home. Which brings me to my third point: all of the important stalls are represented in our market. You have your variety of Glühwein places (obviously). You have a good amount of food variety, from Reibekuchen (deep fried potato cakes), crepes, fries, Raclette, and the standard sausages to salmon or Flammkuchen fresh out of the oven. You also have your traditional craft stalls offering Christmas ornaments, the candle house that people use for warming up while pretending to browse, the random brush place that has more brushes than you could ever imagine anyone needing but surprisingly have real functions, and even a stall which makes overpriced but nonetheless impressive constructions out of paper. Lastly, the density of people is just right. It is always crowded but never packed to the point that you have to fear for your life (though last Saturday came close). I also have to admit that our Christmas market offers some more questionable sights (the nativity scene is something out of a nightmare, and the singing moose they added last year is also very interesting to say the least).
However, if you have lived here for some years now and have eaten your share of crepes at the Christmas market, then you might want to explore some other markets outside the city.
Goslar is a great destination. Besides having a very cute old city centre, Goslar’s Christmas market is definitely worth a visit. It is quite a bit larger than Göttingen’s and even has a fake forest for you to explore and drink your Glühwein in. You can take the regional train there (free with your student ID) and, if you like, climb the tower to get a nice view from above. I highly recommend going there relatively early in the day since the masses arrive around 18:00 (at least last year they did). Once the crowds arrive, there is no getting through and you’ll be more frustrated by the people than your are jolly from Glühwein.
Another good option is taking a weekend trip to Hamburg. Unfortunately, the most prominent feature of the market, a huge flying Santa, is currently not appearing due to construction work. However, there is still a lot more to enjoy. If you do decide to go to Hamburg, you can start by getting off at the Central Station and walking up Mönkebergstraße towards the townhall. Mönkebergstraße is the main shopping street in Hamburg and there is a long Christmas market running throughout. Last year, we even ran into a creepy Christmas parade here. You can slowly wander from one stand to the next all the way to Gerhard-Hauptmann-Platz, where a whole ‘nother Christmas market awaits.
After walking around the Gerhard-Hauptmann-Platz, you can make your way to the main Christmas market in front of Hamburg’s town hall. It has a giant, very iconic Adventskranz hanging near the entrance, so it’s hard to miss.
*Fun fact: the Adventskranz was created in Hamburg in 1839 by Johann Hinrich Wichern who used it to show the children in the orphanage how many days were left until Christmas. The original Adventskranz has four big red candles for the Advents before Christmas and tiny white ones for the other days.
Be ready for some crowds because it is usually quite packed here. However, every alley has a theme and a street sign so you can always know where you are. Also, make sure to check out the toy alley that has a tiny train running above your head. Afterwards, you can slowly make your way towards the Jungfernstieg, where you’ll find a more modern Christmas market. After all the Christmas market overload you should then take a nice stroll along the Binnenalster to get back to the Central station for your trip home.
I hope I could spark your joy for Christmas markets this season. If you end up going to other Christmas markets like in Hannover, Kassel, Dresden or Hildesheim, let me know how you liked it! However, if you hate Christmas markets because you don’t like Glühwein and are always cold, you can always stay home with some friends and bake Gingerbread castles 😉