Fun things to do at Christmas time in Germany

June 15, 2017 (Last Updated: August 6, 2022)
by Carolyn
Christmas lebkuchen

Ask anyone who is visiting Germany at Christmas what they plan to do, they’re bound to tell you that they’ll visit a German Christmas market.  With over 150 Christmas markets in Germany there are plenty to choose from, but there are many other unique and fun things to enjoy in Germany at Christmas time, too. 

If you’re planning a pre-Christmas visit to Germany, I know you’ll visit at least one Christmas market but why not try some of these other fun experiences, too?  

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Christmas in Germany – Fun things to do

Here are just a few of the fun things to do in Germany at Christmas time.  I’ve also included details on some of the best Christmas markets in Germany.

Visit the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village and the German Christmas Museum at Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The Christmas Village photo Kathe Wohlfahrt Get in the Christmas spirit at one of the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas Villages in Germany. Image courtesy Kathe Wohlfahrt.

Christmas-lovers will be blown away by a visit to any of the seven Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shops in Germany. What started with the gift of a wooden music box to an American friend over 50 years ago has now become a thriving business that attracts visitors from all over the world.

Specialising in traditional German Christmas items, the stores are chock-full of gorgeous decorations to suit every taste and budget.  Christmas baubles, nativity scenes, music boxes and Santa Claus figures are just some of the many Christmas items on display – and everything is for sale.

Adjoining the Kathe Wohlfahrt store, known as the Christmas Village, in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, is the German Christmas Museum which traces the history of Germany’s Christmas traditions.  It provides a fascinating look into how Christmas in Germany was celebrated in years gone by.

In my opinion, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the best places to visit in Germany for Christmas. Not only is it a real fairytale town, there are also various Christmas stores, a huge Christmas market and plenty of festive activities to enjoy. Click here to read more about Rothenburg.

All Kathe Wohlfahrt shops (and the Museum) are open year round and you can also find the company’s wares at many of Germany’s Christmas markets.

If you are in the vicinity of one of the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shops, I highly recommend a visit.

Location: You’ll find Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas stores in the following German towns – Berlin, Heidelberg, Rüdesheim, Nürnberg, Bamberg, Oberammergau and Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber.

Click here to search hotels in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Attend the Kugelmarkt in Lauscha

Glass blower at Kugelmarkt in Lauscha Watch glass blowers at work at the Kugelmarkt in Lauscha. Photo courtesy of Touristinformation Lauscha.

The town of Lauscha is well known for its glass blowing, particularly Christmas baubles which are thought to have originated here, and every year the glass balls are on show at the Lauscha Kugelmarkt (ball market), held in December.

Lauscha’s first glass Christmas baubles – in the shape of fruits and nuts – were produced by one of the town’s glassblowers in 1847.  Shortly after, the American company Woolworth began exporting the glass balls and a German Christmas tradition began.

During the market, the town is transformed into a large pedestrian zone with stallholders offering a large selection of glass baubles for sale directly from the maker.  You can even watch the glassblowers at work.

Today’s Christmas ornaments come in an assortment of shapes and colours and many feature intricate filigree hand decoration, paying homage to the traditional craftsmanship of years gone by.

Location: Lauscha is situated in the German state of Thuringia, in the centre of the country.  It is 148 kilometres north of Nuremberg and 174 kilometres south west of Leipzig.

Click here to search hotels in Lauscha

Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride from Oberammergau

Horse drawn sleigh rides in Oberammergau What could be more romantic than a horse drawn sleigh ride across the snowy fields around Oberammergau? Image: © Ammergauer Alpen GmbH, Oberammergau Tourismus.

Thoughts of Christmas in Germany usually involve plenty of snow and a really unique experience, especially for those of us from the southern hemisphere, is a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow.

In the Bavarian village of Oberammergau, there are plenty of options to enjoy either a horse-drawn sleigh or carriage ride, with winter routes chosen depending on the amount of snow.

Wrapped in thick blankets, you can enjoy idyllic scenery as your sleigh glides across the snowy landscape of the area, such as Graswang and Linderhof, where King Ludwig II built his castle.

Nowhere else can the peace and beauty of a German winter be enjoyed so perfectly.

Location: Oberammergau is in the southern German region of Bavaria, 91 kilometres from Munich.  Driving time is around one hour. Train and bus services are also available.

Click here to search hotels in Oberammergau

You might also like: Best Places to Spend Christmas in Austria 

See the Stuttgart Town Hall Advent calendar

Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt Rathaus Thomas Niedermueller Count down to Christmas with the giant Stuttgart Advent calendar. Photo: © in.Stuttgart / Thomas Niedermueller

Stuttgart boasts one of the oldest German Christmas markets (the Stuttgart Christmas Market was officially mentioned for the first time in 1692) and it’s also home to another Christmas delight.

Each year during Advent, the Stuttgart Town Hall is transformed into a giant Advent calendar. From December 1, one of the windows is opened each day to reveal the coat of arms of one of the 23 Stuttgart districts.

At 6pm each evening, a free concert is held on the steps of the town hall where visitors can enjoy live Christmassy music.

More info is available on the official website.

Location: Stuttgart is the capital and largest city of the German state of Baden-Württemberg.  It is just over 200 kilometres from both Frankfurt and Munich (around 2 hours driving time).  Regular train and bus services operate on both routes.

Click here to search hotels in Stuttgart

Traditional German Christmas foods to try

You won’t visit a Christmas market in Germany without smelling the aroma of roasting chestnuts or seeing a stall selling glühwein, a warm, spiced wine.  

These are just two of the traditional specialties enjoyed in Germany at Christmas but the country also hosts a number of food-themed festivals in December in honour of some other Christmas delights, as you’ll see below.

Click here to read more posts about Christmas in Europe

Taste lebkuchen at Nuremburg

Traditional German gingerbread cookies known as lebkuchen. Traditional German gingerbread cookies known as lebkuchen.

Ginger and spice biscuits, known as Lebkuchen, are traditional German Christmas biscuits and the finest examples are made by Lebkuchen Schmidt in Nuremberg. The company employs over 800 people, and during the production season makes 3 million biscuits a day!

There’s no doubt that eating lebkuchen is one of the most-loved traditions in Germany at Christmas – they are delicious!

Whilst the Schmidt brand of lebkuchen are for sale in many German cities throughout the festive season, the best place to sample them is at the Nuremberg Christmas market. The company has two stalls, one in the main market building and the other known as the Witch House.

Location: 170 kilometres north of Munich, Nuremberg is in the southern German state of Bavaria and is serviced by frequent bus and train services.

Take part in the Dresden Stollenfest

Dresden Christmas market The Dresden Stollenfest is held at the same time as the city’s Christmas market.

Another festive food worth trying is the Stollen, the German version of a Christmas cake. Believed to have originated in Dresden over 500 years ago, the shape of the Stollen is said to symbolise the baby Jesus.

On the Saturday before the second Sunday of Advent, Dresden hosts an annual fair to celebrate this popular Christmas delicacy.

The fair features a colourful parade of over 500 people winding their way through the city’s Old Town, with the festive Stollen, weighing several tonnes, taking pride of place.

The cake is then cut into thousands of pieces and sold to festival goers, with most of the proceeds going to charity. What a great accompaniment to your German Christmas dinner!

More info on the official website

Location: Dresden is in the far east of Germany in the state of Saxony.  It is situated 190 kilometres south of Berlin and 150 kilometres north west of Prague (Czech Republic).  It is serviced by regular bus and train services.

Indulge at chocolART in Tubingen

ChocolART festival in Tubingen Germany Indulge in all things chocolate at the chocolART festival in Tubingen, Germany. Photo © Alexander Gonschior

Each year the town of Tubingen stages chocolART, Germany’s biggest chocolate festival, during December.

The festival is a must for chocolate lovers with a range of activities on offer including tastings, cooking courses, chocolate art, chocolate exhibitions and much more.

A ‘shopping night’ on the Saturday evening is a great opportunity to purchase some last-minute Christmas gifts, or perhaps treat yourself.

Location: Tubingen is a university town in central Baden-Wurttemberg, just 50 kilometres south of Stuttgart.

Best Christmas Markets in Germany

Below you’ll find a small selection of some of the best German Christmas Markets that are worth visiting.  This list is by no means complete – it simply offers you a glimpse at the many varied markets that you can visit in Germany.

Munich Christmas Market

Munich Christmas market

Wooden chalets fill Marienplatz offering everything from intricate Christmas ornaments to gingerbread cookies and wooden toys to mulled wine.  Beneath the Town Hall, a giant Christmas tree takes pride of place and brass bands and carol singers add to the festive ambiance.

Dusseldorf Christmas Market

Consisting of seven different themed markets, all within walking distance of each other, Dusseldorf’s Christmas Market offers something for everyone.  Aside from the market stalls, other attractions include an ice rink, ferris wheel and the Dome of Lights.

Why not combine sightseeing during the morning in Dusseldorf, then head to the Christmas market in the afternoon?

Berlin Christmas Market

There are over 70 Christmas markets in Berlin with the largest taking place in the old town of Spandau.  No matter which district of Berlin you visit, you’ll find German Christmas festivals and markets.  There’s even a Christmas market for dogs!

Berchtesgaden Christmas Market

Wander amongst the decorated houses in the Old Town, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride and purchase German Christmas decorations that have been handmade according to the folk art traditions of the region.  Click here to read more about Berchtesgaden.

Constance Christmas Market

Held on the shore of Lake Constance (Bodensee), the Constance Christmas Market (or Konstanz Christmas Market in German) is the largest on the lake. With more than 170 stalls, twinkling lights, festive music and the beautiful aromas of Christmas treats, the atmosphere is not to be missed.

Uberlingen Christmas Market

Centred around an open fire, Uberlingen’s Christmas market resembles a village with a nativity scene, a cosy inn, merry-go-round and lots of stalls.  The market, which is also on Lake Constance, takes place over eleven days in the second and third weeks of December.

Other Christmas markets on Lake Constance include those at Lindau and Friedrichshafen.

When do Germany’s Christmas markets open?

Most Christmas Markets in Germany open around November 23.  Some close on December 24 whilst others remain open until just prior to New Year’s Eve.

German Christmas Traditions

If you’re wondering how is Christmas celebrated in Germany or looking for a delicious meal to enjoy on your Christmas Day in Germany, the festivals and celebrations mentioned above should be helpful.

No matter where you choose to spend Christmas in Germany, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do.  Merry Christmas – or Frohe Weihnachten as they say in German!

For more Germany travel inspiration, read our Germany travel guide.


7 Fun things to do in Germany at Christmas