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While Germany is probably best known for its beer and castles, Christmas Markets aren’t far behind on that list. When you plan a winter holiday in Europe, it is highly unlikely that a visit to at least one German Market isn’t on your list of things to do. Markets big and small, spread across the country during the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, but Dresden is one of, if not the most popular.
Being the oldest consistent Christmas Market in Germany, Dresden garners a lot of attention around the holiday season. The tradition has been on display since 1434 and is not stopping anytime soon. Not only is it the oldest, but one of the biggest. Different markets stretch across the city, each offering plenty of food and hot wine to keep you satisfied. Although the markets may be big, they can be difficult to navigate as the crowds are a bit overwhelming. To be honest, Dresden during the holiday season feels more crowded than Oktoberfest in Munich or The Vatican during summer. But hey, its Christmas, and its still worth it.
The market stalls are decked from top to bottom with beautiful decorations and displays. One thing that truly sets the Dresden Market scene apart are the Christmas displays on top of each stall. You will find the most extravagant characters within the Strietzelmarkt in the center of town. Each is unique and never repeated throughout the city.
November 26th, 2020 to December 24th, 2020
Everyday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
There are multiple markets that stretch across the city. It truly is one of the biggest Christmas Markets out there and you will have no problem feeling it in the busy atmosphere. All of the markets seem to connect in some way, just about a block from one another. Each market provides different Glühwein mugs based on the name of the location. Hot wine hopping from market to market and collecting mugs is a popular activity.
The biggest and oldest market is the Strietzelmarkt, located at Altmarkt. The festival has been annually held in this location since 1434. Expect the largest crowds here. Once you step into the maze of stalls, it is difficult to get out
The Augustusmarkt at Neumarkt is perhaps the prettiest at night as the surrounding area is covered with glowing stars. The location is very nice as it is positioned directly next to the Frauenkirche, one of the most popular and impressive buildings in Dresden.
The Weihnachtsmarkt market is one of the smallest, but most busy. It starts on the other side of the Frauenkirche and heads down Münzgasse Street towards the river. Food, wine and souvenir stalls are lined up the sides which make the walk way tight. Do not expect to move fast. You will spend a lot of time standing still and watching other people eat and shop.
German specialties are the name of the game here. If you love German food, then these stalls are right up your alley. You will find bratwurst in every direction as well as some different kinds of sausages. The amount of people walking around with a brat in one hand and hot wine in the other actually becomes kind of comical.
For traditional foods from the Saxony region, you will find a lot of Dresden Handbrot. This pastry is baked in a brick fire oven, like a mini calzone. You can watch as they make them all across the food stalls. The bread is handmade, then stuffed with meat and cheese before being covered in a bit of cream.
Another popular option during the holiday season that you cannot pass by is Dresdner Christollen . This bread is very popular to this region and is stuffed with nuts and raisins that have been soaking for days in rum. The thick and heavy bread is covered with a dusting of powdered sugar on top. It goes perfect in the morning with a cup of coffee or for dessert with some Gluhwein.
Mushrooms, or champignons, are very popular through out the German Markets. The mushrooms are fried in a lot of garlic and butter in massive pans or cauldrons, on an open flame. They are then served with a gigantic dollop of a heavy, garlic cream with a piece of bread or meat. They smell delicious and will only cost you about 4 euros in every direction.
You will also find plenty of other Christmas specialties such as gingerbread and chestnuts. Chestnuts truly do roast on open fires in Germany, that is not just a song. The Germans also love their chocolates, so if you’re a chocoholic, this is a good place to be. These markets are about snacking, not having a meal, so it is best to not explore them on an empty stomach.
There are multiple trees through out the city. The two most impressive are in the Strietzelmarkt and the Augustusmarkt. The tree in Strietzelmarkt is massive and commands the scene, while the tree in Augustusmarkt is covered in beautiful, twinkling stars.
If there is one thing that the Germans excel in with their markets, it is handmade souvenirs. Each market has their own specialty, but the Germans truly do it the best. You will find everything handmade from wooden toys, to glass orbs and even ceramic mugs being cooked before your eyes. The souvenir stalls are a bit overwhelming, which makes it difficult to find the exact item that you want, but the expedition of a gift is always fun.
When in Germany, it is hard to go wrong with a handmade, wooden Santa, creature or troll. There are thousands of different varieties, each awesome in their own manner. Have an idea in your head before going in or you might leave without anything at all. The most common themes around the season include nutcrackers, snowmen and Santas, but the traditional German figures are awesome as well.
One of the most unique items that you will find in every German Market is a Rauchmannherstellung (good luck saying that). These are handmade people, trolls and creatures created from German wood. They come apart at the waste, where there is a spot for incense. They are commonly seen with their mouths wide open to allow the smoke to escape. Some may only have an open mouth while others have a pipe in hand to add to the release of smoke. They are all fun to look at, have fun choosing the perfect one for you.
Other items that are often seen throughout Germany whether it is during the holiday season or not are cuckoo clocks and Wiehnachtspyramide (Christmas Pyramid). These items are priceless and absolutely stunning. The woodcarvings are an absolute work of art and the movement of each is unique on their own. However, these items are very delicate and may not be the best thing to take home on a plane. Shipping is always an option for anything too delicate. The last thing you want to do is break your one-of-a-kind souvenir on your journey back home to your own Christmas Tree.
A Glühwein mug collection is another great option for a souvenir. You can find many different mugs through out the different markets, each providing the name of the market in which you bought and drank the wine at. A wine, including the mug, goes for about 6 euros on average. If you just want the wine, you can return the mug after to receive euros back, or you can just continue recycling the mug while using it again and again for each wine you purchase.
There is no doubt, the German souvenirs are a bit pricey. However, you can definitely budget yourself and get something small like a wooden star for 2 euros, but where is the fun in that? Most items range anywhere from 20 to 150 euros, depending on size and overall quality. A 30 euro purchase is a good budget as anything in this price range will have very good quality. Remember, these souvenirs will last for life, so don’t be too stingy, you are in Germany after all.
The atmosphere of any German market is incredible, and Dresden does not disappoint. However, you need to expect massive crowds. I am not lying when I say that these crowds feel more tight than that of the Vatican. The walkways between the market stalls are very small which makes it very difficult to walk through. Have the expectation that you won’t be moving anywhere too fast while exploring the Dresden Markets. Just make sure you have a Gluhwein or beer in hand.
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