The Christmas season is celebrated in different ways throughout the world, so I was excited to experience something new during my first full winter in Germany. Here towards the end of November, Christmas markets start popping up nearly everywhere from large cities to tiny villages. Since Andy and I are going on a long stretch without traveling, we decided to check out some of the Christmas markets outside of Freiburg. First on our list was Frankfurt!
Frankfurt’s Christmas markets date back to 1393, and for a long time only local merchants were allowed to sell their goods there. Today you can still find many local specialties. It also used to be tradition to do all your Christmas shopping at the markets. Many stalls still sell gifts for children, winter hats and gloves, handmade crafts, and local souvenirs.
Glühwein, Sausages and More
One of the most popular treats at any Christmas market is Glühwein, which is hot mulled wine, and it comes in red and white. Frankfurt’s specialty is hot apple wine. It turned out to be my favorite variety of hot wine, not quite as sweet as cider, but noticeably different from standard wine. Some places also sell Glühwein with liquor in it as well.
Aside from the many variations of Glühwein and other alcoholic beverages, you can also find lots of food. It’s Germany, so of course you’ll find sausages, but you can also get fries (pommes), schnitzel, steaks, soup, and lots of different sweets.
Sweet and Spicy
One of the local sweets we tried are marzipan and almond cookies. They were really tasty, but the stall we went to also sold countless varieties of these cookies in different flavors.
After the marzipan cookies, we wandered over to a stall selling almonds. You’d think that would be pretty straightforward, but it turns out they sell 50 different flavors of almonds. One of the owners told us a little about their business and let us try about a dozen kinds, including chocolate, Red Bull, Bacardi Gold, cinnamon, cookies and cream, strawberry vanilla, and balsamic raspberry.
Then we noticed the Chili Tower. Almonds flavored with several different levels of hotness from chili peppers. Germans aren’t known for spicy food, so we had to try this. Before we had a chance to ask for them, Andy overheard someone ask for the hottest ones they had. The woman told him, “I don’t think you can handle it. I’ll give you what you can handle.” She gave us one of the mid-range chili almonds, and it was perfect. We bought a cone of those, plus some of the Bacardi ones.
Before we arrived in Frankfurt, we read that there were chocolate covered chili peppers somewhere. Again, when there’s something potentially spicy, we seek it out. We did find the stall with the chocolate covered chili peppers and bought one. We had chili chocolate in Brussels and loved it, but this didn’t work out quite so well. The chili was definitely hot, but it was too much chili and not enough chocolate. The chocolate melted while we were still chewing the pepper, so it was hard to get both flavors together. Interesting, but the almonds were better.
The food and drinks are obviously a big part of the experience. But I also really enjoyed all the creative ways different venders decorated their stalls. Besides the traditional Christmas decorations, we also saw lots of things that made me laugh a little.
Andy and I had a great time during our two days at the Frankfurt Christmas Markets. I’m not a fan of cold weather, but this is a great way to have some fun and try to forget that winter has just begun. When you go, just be prepared for crowds since everyone else has the same idea.
Visiting Information and a Great Hotel Deal
The Christmas Markets run from November 26, 2012 to December 23, 2012. The market stretches from the banks of the River Main across the Roemerberg old town centre, St. Paul’s Square and Liebfrauenberg to Hauptwache. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm.
The Frankfurt Tourism Board is currently offering a weekend hotel package that includes coupons for free Glühwein, mugs, the marzipan almond cookies, and a Frankfurt card valid for public transportation. They also have a one and a half hour tour of the Christmas Markets. Unfortunately Andy and I didn’t get a chance to take the tour, but it sounds really fun and includes a view of the markets from the balcony of St. Nicholas Church.
The Frankfurt Tourism Board provided us with a complimentary hotel package for our stay in Frankfurt. All opinions are my own. The last photo was also provided by Frankfurt Tourism.