‘Tis the season
Year after year the twinkling lights and sumptuous smells of Glühwein and gingerbread spark a kind joy on the grey and damp days of December that can only be described as pure bliss. Ever since I was a child Christmas markets have been my favourite part of the festive season. Strolling the Weihnachtsmarkt with family and friends is a beloved yuletide tradition deeply anchored in my Germanic heritage. With countless markets dotting the towns and villages across the country, there is no escaping this jolly good time. You’d have to be a real grinch to not be charmed.
Traditionally Christmas markets run from late November until the early afternoon hours of December 24, giving vendors just enough time to pack up and rush home in time to spend Christmas Eve and the holidays with their loved ones. Nowadays, select markets keep their wooden stalls open until the New Year and beyond, but this is something to keep in mind when planning your trip. The majority of Christmas markets actually take place before the holidays!
Larger towns tend to have a number of markets scattered about them, and each has its own unique atmosphere. My hometown Dresden is no exception.
The vast Striezelmarkt is Dresden’s most popular Christmas market and it just so happens to be one of Germany’s oldest documented markets dating back to the mid-15th century. It gets its name from the traditional Christmas cake called Stollen, which is consumed in large quantities at this time of year. Although these days you can buy the good stuff around the world, only the original made in Dresden following a specific recipe and distinguished by a quality seal depicting August the Strong can in earnest be called Dresdner Stollen. It’s a thing of local pride, really.
A snowball’s throw from the Striezelmarkt, right by the rebuilt Church of Our Lady and within the Castle grounds, sits the quaint Stallhof Weihnachtsmarkt im Mittelalter, Dresden’s medieval market. Being in the midst of the historic buildings that inspired Bellotto’s Canaletto-Blick only adds to the feeling that you’ve travelled back in time. Here local craftsmen show off their skills and the focus is on handmade items from dainty pottery and medieval apparel to freshly candied almonds and mulled met (honey wine).
Across the bridge lies Dresden’s New Town – using the term new loosely here, this neighbourhood has indeed been around for hundreds of years – with its distinctly artsy and alternative vibe. Hardly surprising that the Christmas market here follows a slightly different concept. Fairer Weihnachtsmarkt is a relatively new indoor market, bringing together local and sustainable vendors that place the environment and working conditions at the forefront of everything they do.
The early bird gets the glühwein – forget about the soaring temperatures outside, and drop Claudia a line for her advice on a trip this December.