Two of my favorite Christmas markets in Germany are located near Frankfurt along the Rhine River. One is in the university town of Mainz, which is fun for all ages and is very relaxing to walk around because of its very large pedestrian zone. The second is in Rüdesheim am Rhein, an enchanting village with narrow winding streets, located on a hill that slopes up from the river, which make it a major summer tourist destination.
Mainzer Weihnachtmarkt (Mainz Christmas Market)
In Mainz, you will find the Christmas Market centered in front of the majestic St. Martin’s Cathedral in a sea of festive lights. The stands are spread out in all directions, and there’s a carousel for kids and an opera house and statues to admire. Some of my best purchases were felt slippers, a wool hat, Handcreme aus Bienenwachs (beeswax hand creme), delicious Lebkuchen (gingerbread), and painted ornaments.
Rüdesheimer Weihnactmarkt der Nationen (Rüdeshiem’s Christmas Market of Nations)
In Rüdesheim, they host a Christmas Market of Nations, which showcases the distinctive wares and specialties of 17 countries from six continents in charming cobblestone streets of the old quarter.
Consider going on 20 December – the shortest night of the year – for the traditional St. Thomas Night parade, with jugglers and masked people above the market area.
One of my most beloved purchases in Rüdesheim was a fold-up green wooden Christmas tree with its own little ornaments. Rüdesheim, nestled among some vineyards, is farther away from Frankfurt than Mainz, but worth a visit because of its old-world charm. It’s been on the map for almost 1,000 years and was a famous wine region in Roman times.
Have something hot to drink, such as heiße Schokolade (hot chocolate) or Glühwein (mulled wine). Cold makes me hungry, too, so fortunately there are many things to eat, such as wurst (sausages), pommes frites (fries), kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) and gebrannte mandeln (roasted almonds).
One thing to note: When you buy a beverage, you will have to pay ein Pfand (a deposit), which you will get back when you return your mug or glass. If you don’t return the item, it is an inexpensive souvenir. Certain stands have simple mugs with the name of the city and the market on them. Others have fancier ones in different colors, which are true collector’s items.
If you keep moving, you will stay warmer but know that there are many places to escape the cold; the nearby shops, warming huts and, of course, cafés. Living in Mainz, I would go out every night for an hour or so after work. It was wonderful–lights, decorations, unique booths, and more.
Christmas Markets are a way to survive the cold, dark days of winter.
If you’re like me, the short winter days bring me down. The cure for that is a nightly walk to take in the twinkling lights, beautifully decorated shop windows, and, naturally, stroll through the Christmas Markets and stands.
It is a perfect reason to get outside, meet some people, and buy some gifts or souvenirs.
Dates: Now thru 23 December for 2023.
Hours: Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Dates: Now thru 23 December 2023
Hours: Monday to Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Rüdesheim gets crowded and there are ferries and shuttles to parking areas in nearby towns.
(For whatever reason, the Rüdesheim Christmas Market website is the slowest on earth. Have a snack while you wait for pages to open.)
Christmas Markets across Germany:
I have just told you about two Christmas Markets in Germany, but there are markets all over Germany. Small ones in Saarbruchen, Cochem, Traben-Trarbach, and Bernkastel-Kues, as well as larger ones in Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Heidelberg, Leipzig, Nuremberg and elsewhere.
You can see more about Christmas Markets across Europe here in Dispatches’ archives.
More on Mainz and traveling in Germany by train:
For travel by train in Germany, check out my post on 49 euro tickets here.
For more about sightseeing in Mainz, see my previous post here.
Mary Porcella is a Europhile who has lived in Germany, Norway, Italy, and the U.S. She is a writer, editor, and photographer. She loves seeing new places, returning to old haunts, and meeting up with family and friends. As of today, her travels have taken her to 20 European countries, and she hopes to visit the rest.