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Munich’s Amazing Christmas Markets
Munich’s Amazing Christmas Markets

December in Munich is truly the most festive time of the year. It’s time for twinkling lights, cozy wooden huts, mulled wine, gingerbread cookies, and roasted chestnuts at the world-famous Munich Christmas markets. While there are many Christmas markets all over Germany, Munich’s Christmas markets are special. After all, Munich is where this beloved holiday tradition began.

Munich, Germany Christmas Markets

 

What is the history of German Christmas markets?

German Christmas markets, also known as Christkindlmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt,  have been going on for centuries, with the first and oldest dating back to to 1310 in Munich. The first ever Christmas market in Munich was known as the Nikolausmarkt, which is today better known as the Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz.

Back in the day, Christmas markets were built outside of churches during the advent. Churchgoers would stop by on their way to and from mass to trade with the farmers and merchants doing business there. While Christmas markets in Germany were once an annual place of trade, where farmers would come into town and offer their goods in exchange for something different, today they are a weeks-long production adored by locals and tourists alike.

Munich, Germany Christmas Markets

What are German Christmas markets like today?

Today, Christmas markets in Germany are an important holiday tradition. Starting in early December, hundreds of wooden huts are erected in city-squares across Germany. Just about every German city has some variation on a Christmas market, and big cities like Munich and Berlin even have several Christmas markets. These outdoor markets go on through Christmas and often include events like concerts, kids’ shows, and Christmas tree lightings. The Christmas market at Marienplatz in Munich today consists of more than 140 stands and draws over 3 million visitors each year.

Munich, Germany Christmas Markets

What can you buy at a German Christmas market?

Christmas markets in Germany are an amazing place to buy Christmas gifts. The different wooden huts offer delightful wares like handmade Christmas ornaments, warm alpaca socks, glowing lanterns, old-timey toys, traditionally crafted clothing, carved wooden bowls and cutlery, original artwork from local artists, and plenty more.

But even if you’ve already gotten a gift for everyone on your list, you’ll still want to head to the market for the food. German Christmas markets offer an incredible variety of delicious, warm food and drink. From freshly roasted chestnuts and almonds, to Nutella pancakes and waffles, to bratwurst and fried potato pancakes, to mulled wine (Glühwein) and hot chocolate, to freshly baked cookies of all kinds, Christmas Markets are the ultimate place to stop by for a warm snack.

We recommend adding an extra shot of rum, amaretto or any other liquor to your mulled wine! Why not? We all have to keep warm on cold winter days!

And don’t forget to bring your own mug if you have one handy! In order to keep trash off the streets and curb waste, there is a two euro deposit on the mugs that Glühwein is served in. But this also means that you can forfeit your two euros and keep the mug as a souvenir, if you so please.

Munich, Germany Christmas Markets

Mulled wine is best enjoyed in a Bucket List Events mug.

 

Which Christmas market in Munich has the biggest tree?

The biggest Christmas tree in Munich is always at Marienplatz. What makes that tree so special, besides its tremendous size, is that since 1977 the yearly tree is donated to Munich City Hall each year by communities from the Bavarian and Alpine regions. In return for sending their largest tree to Munich, these small towns get to represent their community during the market.  You’ll always find these giant tree illuminated in front of City Hall (it’s hard to miss!). After the tree is taken down (usually on January 6th), it is used as a maypole.

munich christmas markets

The Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz in Munich.

 

How many Christmas markets are there in Munich?

Munich is a very popular travel destination when it comes to Christmas markets. And for good reason! The Bavarian capital offers over 20 different markets and bazaars, all spread across the city.

Some of the most popular Munich Christmas markets are:

  • The Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz
  • Tollwood at Theresienwiese
  • At the Chinese Tower in the English Gardens
  • The Medieval Market at Wittelsbacherplatz
  • The Christmas Village at Residenz
  • The Schwabing Christmas Market
  • At Viktualienmarkt
  • At Sendlingertor
  • The Magic Forest at Bogenhausen
  • The Pink Christmas Market at Glockenbach

Each Christmas market in Munich has a different feel and appeal. Here are a few of our favorite Munich Christmas markets, and why they make the cut:

 

The Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz

The biggest, oldest, and most famous Christmas market in Munich is the one at Marienplatz. Covering an area of 20,000 square meters, the roots of this market date all the way to the 14th century.

Today the market still caries its traditional Bavarian character. It offers a lot of stands with handmade items, sheepskin clothing and accessories, hand painted glass baubles etc. While you walk down the market and explore the beautifully decorated huts, all your senses will be awoken. The smell of freshly roasted caramelized almonds, cakes, grilled sausages, spiced mulled wine will make you want to taste all the goodness that is offered. So grab a bite and a glass of mulled wine and continue your exploration through the city.

If you are around Marienplatz on a late afternoon, you can also enjoy the live Advent music every day at 5:30 PM in front of City Hall.

Munich, Germany Christmas Markets

 

The Christmas Village at Residenz

From Marienplatz you can walk towards the Munich Residenz – the former Bavarian seat of government. This market is built to represent an old farming village. Walking through the market you will spot the windmill, a stage with performing musicians, and many small barns with miniature animals inside. It is a very cozy and intimate market as it is located just in the courtyard of the residence. But as every other market, this one also offers all the delicious foods and drinks that Christmas markets are famous for.

 

Tollwood at Theresienwise

What happens when Oktoberfest ends? You guessed it! They turn the Theresienwiese into a Christmas market known as Tollwood. The market is way smaller than Oktoberfest, but it provides both tents and outdoor huts. Tollwood is not a traditional Bavarian market, but is instead much more hip and alternative. You can find cuisines from around the world, as well as clothing and decorations – from the hippie-esque Thai-style pants, to wooden elephants and Argentinian mate tea. The tent with the beverages does remind one of the Oktoberfest atmosphere in a way: lots of wooden benches and live music, but with mulled wine instead of beer!

Munich Christmas Market

If you’re looking to party, the Tollwood Christmas market is open until early in the morning!

 

The Medieval Market at Wittelsbacherplatz

If you are looking for a truly one of a kind and authentic experience, you have to check out the Medieval Market. Just a few minutes walk from the Residenz, this is a full-blown renaissance festival that celebrates the medieval roots of the Christmas market tradition. Its historical character brings for the special atmosphere, as well as handmade stalls, mugs, and people dressed in costumes from the medieval times. It may be one of the youngest Christmas markets in Munich (founded in 2007), but it is a popular meeting place and completely unique from rest of the markets.

 

The Christmas Market at the Chinese Tower

Another Christmas market that is a nod to the German knack for efficiently using space is found in the second largest beer garden in the world – at the Chinese Tower in the English Gardens. Yes, they turn the most popular place in summer for both tourists and locals into a beautiful market in winter. However, this is one of the few places within the Munich Christmas markets that offers beer as well. If you have ever been to a beer garden in Munich, you probably noticed all the playgrounds. This same playful atmosphere persists through winter at the Chinese Tower. The built-in curling ring provides great entertainment for both kids and adults! They also offer some small rides for the kids.

 

The Pink Market at Glockenbach

The Pink Christmas Market was newly established by Munich’s gay and lesbian community. It is a welcome, warm, and wild place for people from all walks of life. Unlike the traditional Christmas tree at Marienplatz, at this market the trees are pink and fluffy and covered in fairy lights. Among the more typical Christmas stalls you’ll find some more unique and quirky items like political pins and costumes. Don’t miss the drag shows, cabaret acts and DJs that contribute to the lively atmosphere.

Munich, Germany Christmas Markets

The Pink Market

 

The Schwabing Christmas Market

If you are an admirer of art, you should definitely make your way towards the Schwabing Christmas Market. This market is located in a funky neighborhood favored by Munich’s youngest and hippest residents thanks to all the bars, clubs and restaurants in the area. The Schwabing Christmas market is a great platform for artists from all over Germany to show their work, as they would usually do in a gallery. The place is famous for its “sculpture path”, which includes 35 different works made from metal, plastic, stone. You can find international cuisines as well as typical Bavarian dishes.

 

Isn’t it a bit cold out for spending the whole day outside at a Christmas Market?

If it happens that you turn up in Munich on a cold and rainy day, spending hours outdoors walking through the city may seem like a terrible idea. But fret not! First of all, there is Glühwein to drink at every Christmas market in Munich. But secondly, there’s also a Christmas Tram that cruises around town, in which you can sit comfortably, see plenty of sights, and sip your mulled wine from inside. The trip last about 30 minutes and includes lots of great snacks and drinks. While it’s not the same as visiting a Munich Christmas market, it can make for a nice substitute on a particularly cold day.

 

What else is there to do during Christmas in Munich?

When in Munich, make sure to check if the Krampus Run overlaps with your trip. The Krampus are the scary assistants of Saint Nicholas, the German version of Santa Claus.

krampus run munich

The run is popular parade for young people, in which the paraders are dressed as Krampus. They wear elaborate masks which usually have two horns, but can have as many as ten. The costumes are very heavy to wear themselves, due to all the decorations they have on them. Just the mask itself can be up to ten kilograms… which explains why all the runners are out of puff by the end of the parade.

 

Read our Oktoberfest Guide