Christmas Markets in Munich
I can recommend a trip to Munich at all seasons. The most obvious reason would be the famous Oktoberfest, taking place every year from mid September until the beginning of October. And yes, it IS as spectacular as rumored!
But as we get near to Christmas, there are several other good reasons to come and stay in Munich, at least for an extended weekend. One (or many) of them would be the Christmas Markets (Christkindl Märkte). You can find these over most of Germany from end November until Christmas, but I find the Bavarian ones particularly nice and cozy. And Munich has several Christmas Markets that are well worth a visit or two.
The basic concept is a mix of small shops offering various kinds of art and hand-crafted souvenirs, lanterns, candles, jewellery, Christmas ornaments etc etc. And then there are shops offering food and beverages.
First a word about the art and hand-craft shops. I have been trying to figure out whether or not this is actually a profitable concept for the shop owners. There are hardly ever any paying customers present (they tend to hang out by the shops offering food and beverages - more about those in a minute), so I take it this is a kind of “promotion event” for them, when they are not working in their workshops, which I believe they do throughout the rest of the year. I do hope they have other ways of selling their work though. Some of it is actually quite nice, but you will also find stuff that you wouldn’t believe anyone would buy. On the bigger Christmas Markets you find shops with cheap Christmas merchandise manufactured somewhere in Asia. The kind of stuff you shouldn’t pay more than a few cents for. But here it’s quite overpriced, so be careful. That is, unless you really, really need that Santa Claus-in-a-Snow Dome for your mantelpiece.
Apart from the shops offering the cheapest trash, you can find many really good shops offering high quality hand-crafted products, like gloves, scarfs, boots, indoor shoes etc. Products that can be hard to find anywhere else. But before you just go ahead and pay whatever the slip says, make sure you bargain! It is expected on the Christmas Markets, and the shop owners know their own limits. So do not hesitate! You will both get a good deal!
Once you have shopped art, ornaments and marcipan you may want to have a bite to eat. Sausages of all kinds are offered on every market. In various qualities and variations. Hotdogs, Sandwiches and Fries are the most common “dishes”. It is not easy to distinguish the good guys from the bad, so here you will just have to try it out. The same goes for the shops offering Mulled Wine. Glühwein. There are quite a few variations of this. The more spicy ones are my personal favourites. But also the “classic” red or white Glühweins are good. Another good one would be the “Feuerzangen Bowle” offering a higher alcohol percentage. It is served “flamed” - hence its name. (The Feuerzangen Bowle-concept is a lot more than just this, but I’ll save that for another time). For most Glühweins the shops offer an extra shot of brandy, whiskey or the like, for a couple of extra Euros, just to keep the cold away, or to soothe your already deep-frozen toes.
One of my favourite Christmas Markets in Munich is the “Mittelalter Markt” - the Medieval Christmas Market. This is a cozy and thoroughly built place, where you find all the previously mentioned products and food offerings - albeit in the Medieval variation. After a few minutes you get into the “historic” feeling, and the only thing that reminds you of present times is the Christmas Tree on the central square decorated with modern LED-lights and the occasional Smartphone hidden on a shelf in the back of some of the shops. All the staff working there even wear Medieval(ish) clothing. Cool!
The shops are thoroughly built with extensive carvings in the massive wooden beams, and the details are impressive. It clearly shows the passion for the concept, and that it most likely pays off to be present at the market. Anyway, a nice place to visit and meet friends for a chat and a Medieval Glühwein.
There are 23(!) official Christmas Markets in and around Munich as of 2012. I have only visited a fraction of these, but look forward to see more of them. They are spread well out, so no matter where you are located you should be able to get to one pretty fast and easy.
Christmas Markets are a nice and cozy addition to the German culture, and in Munich you can experience some of the finest Christmas Markets the country has to offer! Meet with friends, colleagues or other travellers and get into the spirit of Christmas. Because once you are there you can’t help being taken by its charm.