There are Christmas markets all over Europe, but some of the best are in Germany. No surprise, since so many of our holiday traditions were born there: advent wreaths with their candles, and decorated Christmas trees, to name just two. I was delighted to be invited for the beginning of the Christmas season in Düsseldorf, where the market opens a few days before others in the region.
After several days exploring the Rhineland city, my parting memory was the scent of honey and fresh waffles that wafted over me as I stepped from a taxi at the main station. For travelers just arriving here by train with Deutsche Bahn, it’s a mellow greeting that promises a great holiday experience.
As it happens, there are multiple Christmas markets scattered around the heart of Düsseldorf, each with a different character. Won’t you join me in a holiday market ramble through the Altstadt (Old Town)?
The holiday season officially begins at the Town Hall, with lighting of a large tree, sent to the Rhineland by the city of Lillehammer, Norway.
The Marktplatz is a magical backdrop for a Christmas market village with huts and cabins modeled on the style of the brick Renaissance city hall in the heart of Düsseldorf’s Old Town.
Here, glassblowers and wood turners, painters and tinsmiths offer their wares, and demonstrate their crafts. Another attraction is a life-sized manger hand-carved of olive wood from Bethlehem.
And of course, there is plenty to buy, eat and drink!
For the past 35 years, the large Christmas tree in Düsseldorf’s Marktplatz has been sent to Germany by the Norwegian city of Lillehammer. After songs by a school choir and remarks from officials of both countries, bells rang, tree lights were lit and Christmas season was officially underway!
If you go
Düsseldorf Tourismus makes it easy to experience a Rhineland Christmas:
- Düsseldorf Old Town is just one square kilometer in size, and very pedestrian-friendly. For a self-guided tour, pick up a Christmas guide and shopping map from any tourist information office.
- Join a “Jingle bells, jingle bells” tour and enjoy Christmas stories and a mulled wine or hot chocolate (approximately 2 hours)
- Tour the city on the HopOnHopOff bus and learn about landmarks in a variety of languages (approximately 1-1/2 hours)
- Take a panorama excursion on the Rhine (1 hour)
At any time of year, a DüsseldorfCard provides unlimited use of trams and buses, as well as free or reduced-price entry to museums and other attractions. I found it very helpful for seeing a lot of the city in a short time.
Christmas markets are just a season opener. Here, from Deutsche Welle, are some handy things to know before celebrating Christmas in Germany.
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Many thanks to Düsseldorf Tourismus and city guide Renate Morton for giving me an in-depth look at the city and its wonderful Christmas market, and to Deutsche Bahn for bringing me to the Rhineland! Great accommodation in Düsseldorf was provided by Hotel Nikko Düsseldorf.
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To see all our travel stories from Germany, click here. To see all of our Christmas stories, click here.