The Christmas Markets of Germany
MANNHEIM, Germany - As Christmas approaches, thoughts turn to Christmas markets. And, nowhere are they more beautiful than in SouthWest Germany. From the Black Forest region and Karlsruhe to Heidelberg, Mannheim and Stuttgart, SouthWest Germany's Christmas markets are magical.
And not to forget Tripsdrill, Germany's oldest theme park, where the Christmas season starts off with a unique Christmas event for the entire family.
Karlsruhe - the fairy tale Christmas town
At Christmas time, Karlsruhe is transformed into a fairy tale landscape. In what is often called the "gateway to the Black Forest", streets and shops are adorned with enchanting Christmas decorations, trees gleam with thousands of ice crystals, and large sculptures of glass and light illuminate the town center.
The Christmas market around the town's landmark, the pyramid on Market Place, offers a unique atmosphere with its wide range of arts and crafts products and splendidly decorated wooden cabins. From November 24 to December 23, 2011, the Christmas market offers a busy program for both young and old with concerts, nativity plays and lots of culinary delights. Close by is one of the largest open-air ice-rinks in Germany; it is also lit at night for ice-skating and curling.
Only a short drive away in a romantic horse-drawn carriage is Durlach, the oldest district of Karlsruhe. Here, at the Karlsburg imperial palace, the Medieval Christmas market features jugglers, court jesters and musicians.
Karlsruhe | Tourismus offers special Christmas Weekend Packages for one to three nights in Karlsruhe including a Welcome Card offering a Christmas market voucher, free public transport as well as attractive discounts.
Twinkling lights and gingerbread houses at Heidelberg Palace
Brightly-lit marquees set against the backdrop of an illuminated palace and the tempting aroma of Lebkuchen (German gingerbread): That's what awaits visitors to the Heidelberger Schlossweihnacht (Heidelberg Palace Christmas). For the second year in a row, the Heidelberg Palace gardens host a small market with hand-made crafts, from textiles to wood and glass (December 1 to 6, 2011).
The decorated tents offer tasty treats, such as freshly grilled salmon and Flammkuchen (a local take on pizza).
Listen to the organ and trumpet music drifting from the palace chapel; watch as costumed tour guides show how the court once celebrated Christmas. At a workshop, children can also make their own small gifts by candlelight. The Altan terrace offers delightful views of Heidelberg's historic city center, brought to life with a festive Christmas market and skating rink, providing fun for young and old alike. A walk in the snowy palace gardens is equally inviting.
And the best way to warm up afterwards? A mug of Glühwein (mulled wine) from the palace's own cellars!
Mannheim: 'Tis the season
Christmas markets are one of Germany's most beautiful traditions. With their unique atmosphere, the markets capture the Christmas spirit more than any other event. And, there is no better place to experience this 700-year-old tradition than in Mannheim, SouthWest Germany's second largest city. With its two Christmas markets, "the quadrate city" really knows how to ring in the holiday season.
Starting at the end of November, the Water Tower, Mannheim's landmark, sets the stage for one of Germany's most charming Christmas markets. Mannheim's Art Nouveau square, the Friedrichsplatz, is converted into a festive and cheerful meeting point for everyone who wants to celebrate the holidays. The wide range of market stalls tempt visitors to "taste" the season with delicious specialties such as Glühwein (mulled wine) and Lebkuchen (German gingerbread).
Those still looking for that special present for their loved ones should not miss the Christmas market in Mannheim's Kapuzinerplanken. This market, which offers unique gifts, is located on the square behind Engelhorn, Mannheim's famous department store. Eighty vendors display an extraordinary array of arts and crafts gifts.
Stuttgart - Fairy Lights and Christmas Magic
Stuttgart Christmas market is set in the heart of town against the backdrop of the old palace. First mentioned in documents in 1692, this is one of Germany's oldest festive markets. And, with its 280 beautifully-decorated stalls, it is also one of the largest and loveliest Christmas markets in the whole of Europe.
The festive illuminations, the scent of cinnamon and vanilla, the wooden chalets, adorned with angels, pine branches and Christmas ornaments, all create a nostalgic Christmas ambience which enthralls millions of visitors each year. During Advent, daily Christmas music concerts take place in the Renaissance inner courtyard of the old palace - perfect for visitors from far and wide to get into the Christmas spirit. All around the old palace, on Schiller Square and the Market Place, the stallholders have an overwhelming range of Christmas items and gifts on sale, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 1 1 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
There's no shortage of culinary delights, either: Roasted chestnuts, gingerbread, candied almonds, Swabian specialties, sausages, and mulled wine. The Stuttgart Christmas market takes place from November 23 to December 23, 2011.
The Black Forest's traditional Christmas markets
Imagine Christmas lights strung across cobbled streets and Christmas tree ornaments sparkling in the crisp winter sunshine. The scent of roasting chestnuts fills the air: The Christmas season is even cozier and more inviting in the villages and towns of the Black Forest than elsewhere.
The farmers' market held year-round in the shadow of the elaborate Münster (cathedral) expands between November 21 and December 23, 2011. Spilling out into the surrounding streets of the old city, stands sell traditional Christmas delicacies, crafts, and Glühwein (mulled wine).
In the medieval town of Gengenbach the 200-year-old town hall is transformed into the biggest "Advent calendar" of the Black Forest region. Every evening a new window is opened. The Advent market runs from November 26 to December 23.
For natural beauty, look no further than the Ravennaschlucht gorge, east of Freiburg. Picturesque Christmas market stalls cluster beneath the stone railway viaduct. Nearby the historic manor house visitors can find crafts and cuckoo clocks. The Triberger Weihnachtszauber event starts on December 25 and continues until the New Year. In the evening, more than 800,000 lighted candles transform Germany's tallest waterfalls into a magical setting.
Theme Park Tripsdrill - Christmas spirit in the wildlife park
With more than 100 attractions, Tripsdrill in SouthWest Germany is the country's first theme park. The biggest attraction is "Mammut," a wooden roller coaster that races through a huge saw mill.
Only a hop away from the theme park is the Tripsdrill wildlife park. In contrast to the theme park, the wildlife park is open on weekends and holidays in winter. The park is home for some 40 different species in outdoor enclosures, where animal lovers can get really close to the animals, pet them, and feed them by hand. Exciting shows include feeding time for the wolves, lynx, and bears (daily at 2.30 p.m.) and the "flying show" of birds of prey (3.30 p.m. daily except Fridays.)
Visitors can also explore the Forest Experience Path, the Barefoot Path, and the Adventure Playground.
On three Sundays in December (4th, 11th and 18th), the "Animal Christmas" event is celebrated in the wildlife park. This is a family affair. Children make Christmas ornaments, enjoy punch and barbecued sausages, and attend a children's church service in the late afternoon.
Parents can warm up by the log fire or with Glühwein (mulled wine), a popular German winter drink. Everyone loves it when dusk approaches and Santa Claus arrives to hand out candies for the children.
Visitors traveling long distances can arrive on Saturday and spend the night in a shepherd's wagon, deep in the countryside.