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While Germany is probably best known for its beer and castles, Christmas Markets aren’t far behind on that list. While planning a winter holiday in Europe, it is highly unlikely that a visit to at least one German town isn’t a top priority on your list of things to do. Markets big and small, spread across the country during the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, and Nürnberg is one of the most popular and my personal favorite.
Situated on the Southwest border of Germany and France, Stuttgart plays host to one of Germany’s oldest winter traditions. Home to 287 stalls, this Christmas Market has been around for more than 300 years. As one of the biggest Christmas Markets in all of Europe, people travel from all over the world to take part in the tradition. The Old Town commands the scene with its advent calendars and wreaths hanging from castles and clock towers. The market is beautiful, but keep in mind that it can become extremely busy at times and is located in the middle of a 6.5 billion Euro project that will not finish until 2025. Although the ongoing renovations can make for a bit of a mess in certain spots, Stuttgart should absolutely be on your list of must see destinations in Germany and European Christmas Markets.
November 25th – December 23rd, 2020
Monday – Thursday: 10am – 9pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am – 10pm
Sunday: 11am – 9pm
The stalls are sprawled out across the city, but you can find most of them directly in the Old Town. Luckily enough for the majority of travelers, the markets are just a few steps away from the central train station. This makes it very easy to get to even if you’re backpacking or taking a pit stop en route to another destination.
The most beautiful stalls lie within the Schillerplatz, a cobblestone square at the base of the Stiftskirche, a gorgeous old church dating back to the 1300’s. The impressive clock tower is worth multiple photos. This charming spot is where you should spend most of your time as there are plenty of views to take in as well as gifts to buy.
You will find the biggest market in Marktplatz, just a few steps away from Schillerplatz. There are countless stalls here to keep you busy for hours, but this location can become overwhelming with visitors. For the prettier and better overall experience, Schillerplatz is the spot, but that shouldn’t keep you away from exploring Marktplatz for a gift or two.
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.
Stuttgart is a little bit different from other German Markets with a few specialties of their own. Being so close to the French border, Stuttgart served up a lot of cheese through out its stalls. Poutine is seemingly the most popular item through out the market as you can find it anywhere. The dish might be best known in the French province of Quebec in Canada, but Stuttgart’s take on the extremely fat, cheese covered potatoes definitely gives the French Canadians a run for their money. You can order many varieties of the popular delicacy.
Through out German markets, 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 trees all over the city, but the prettiest sits in the Schillerplatz, at the base of the Stiftskirche. This location is perfect as it offers plenty of angles for some nice photos. The tree is glittering in lights and ornaments as the church displays a charming backdrop. It is surrounded by vendors, so there is no way you could possibly go hungry while enjoying the scenery.
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 Stuttgart surely doesn’t disappoint. However, this market was not my favorite in Germany. The city is charming and the old town is beautiful, but the atmosphere of the market itself was a bit underwhelming. It is not as lively as other markets, but is still a very nice spot to stop for a couple of hours.
Looking back, timing was a huge factor of when I visited Stuttgart. Currently, there is a 6.5 billion Euro project going on in the city center and train station that left the area of the Christmas Market a bit unorganized and messy. I’m sure that if I had visited Stuttgart at another date, my overall experience would have been better. I am not saying that Stuttgart is not worth visiting, because it absolutely is, but maybe wait until 2025 when the project is finished.
The most valuable part of this market is its close proximity to the train station. A short walk makes it a perfect pit stop for a couple of hours to walk around and grab some food before taking another train ride to a different destination.
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