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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Visit To A German Christmas Market

In case you haven't heard, I now live in a German Christmas market. Ok, not quite but it often feels like it! I find myself aimlessly wandering into town most days under the pretence of running errands solely to soak up a bit of that festive goodness (and a mug of hot chocolate or two). And, I have to admit, nothing quite compares. Back home in the UK, we sure do put on a good show but Germany truly does remain the king of all things Christmas.

And, of course, all this festive cheer draws in thousands of tourists each year from across the globe. And the region I live in is no exception - especially since we boast some big cities like Cologne, Dortmund, and Dusseldorf. The streets are brimming with visitors (and people trying to sell Ava balloons - and people staring at Ava as she has a balloon-related tantrum) and my diet has been solely roasted chestnuts and mulled wine for at least a month now. So, what better time to put my newfound expertise to use and write up a little post detailing my German Christmas market hacks. Even if it is just so I can justify the amount of money I have spent this month on chocolate covered fruit.

Go early
Admittedly, the markets are the most beautiful during the evening when all the lights are on and everyone is eating, drinking, and being merry. But, if you actually want to do some shopping/walk without feeling like you are just being carried along by a wave of people/get them insta shots, then I suggest going just after the market opens. This is especially important if you have additional needs in terms of accessibility, get overwhelmed by crowds or noise, or are going with young children. During the evening, the market will be really quite busy and it is not unheard of to get an elbow to the ribs here and there. Ultimately, I would suggest going a bit earlier in the day to do the shopping and mooch around at your own pace then return later on for a shorter visit just to see the lights and have a glass of mulled wine (or three!).

Similarly, if you have a baby or young child, consider babywearing rather than trying to use a pushchair. The markets can get quite crowded at peak time and aren't always mega accessible. Babywearing will free you up to go wherever you want (even on a ferris wheel if you so fancy) and not have to worry about traversing wires and mowing people down with your pushchair.

Learn some key German phrases
When we visited the Christmas markets in Berlin, we got by on my very limited German. But, even then, we struggled to communicate with some of the stall holders (which one time resulted in us purchasing the most colossal mountain of chips you will ever see). Outside of Berlin, don't expect anyone to know English past the very basics. And I have found in my city that many people dislike speaking English - even if they do know some. So, learning a few German phrases will help your trip go a lot smoother and minimise the risk of reaching a very awkward impasse with the stall holder where neither of you understand each other.

Pfand system
When you buy a drink at a German Christmas market, it is likely that you will be given it in ceramic or glass cup or mug which you have to pay a deposit for. You will also be given a token - this is so you can return the cup with the token and get your deposit back. You can also choose not to return it and keep the cup as a souvenir but make sure you double check with the stall holder first (the last thing you want is an angry German chasing you down the road as you pocket your mug).

Take cash
In Germany, cash is still super widely used. I mean, hardly anywhere takes card (unless maybe you're somewhere like Berlin or a bigger city). Markets especially don't accept card so be sure you go with a bit of cash. Preferably, exchange your money before you arrive in Germany because most ATMs will charge you up to five euros withdrawal fee (even from a German bank account if you aren't withdrawing from the bank itself!).

Things are closed on Sundays
One thing I am still getting used to about life here in Germany is that all the shops are closed on Sundays. Most cafes and restaurants (and the Christmas markets!) remain open but convenience shops are all closed. Trust me, I have been in the position of having to pay two euros for a pint of milk from the petrol station before. So, forward plan. If you know you need snacks or a bottle of water or nappies or anything - make sure you don't leave it so they run out on a Sunday.

Where is your dream destination to spend Christmas?

You may also enjoy:
Bochum Christmas Market
Berlin Travel Guide
Everything We Ate In Berlin
We've Moved To Germany
First Impressions Of Life In Germany

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