The pre-Christmas season is approaching, and in Germany that means festively decorated wooden huts will soon move onto the historical town squares across the country and enchant visitors with mulled wine, freshly roast almonds, handcrafted trinkets and cheerful song. What if you could experience an authentic German Christmas market in a castle? Well, you can. Several castles and palaces across the country open their doors for such festive events. Here is a list of 11 magical Christmas markets to add to your list.
Satzvey Castle, Mechernich
The moated Satzvey Castle was first documented in 1396 and over the course of time served as an aristocratic residence and knights’ estate. Today, regular events take place within the historical walls, including a Christmas market. Thousands of twinkling lights illuminate the castle to put you in a festive mood as you arrive. Actors in authentic medieval costumes tell the nativity story, while local artisans sell handmade products, from wood-carved toys to glass art. Take your time to browse the stalls and soak up the atmosphere.
Dates: November 26 – December 18
Saturdays: 12pm – 8pm
Sundays: 12pm – 7pm
Bensberg Palace, Bensberg
Just outside of Cologne, the large 18th-century hunting lodge turned hotel puts on a palatial Christmas market. White pagoda tents and half-timbered huts move into the courtyard of Bensberg Palace, surrounded by light-entwined fir trees and festive decorations. The products are a mix of regional, handmade products and unique design objects. Foodies will also get their money’s worth with stalls offering the all-time favourites from waffles and roast chestnuts to Bratwurst and Glühwein. Hip additions to the food menu are the pulled pork brioche and tarte flambée.
Dates: November 15 – December 17
Katzenstein Castle, Dischingen
As one of the oldest and remaining castles of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, Katzenstein Castle stands proudly atop a hill in Dischingen, approximately 150 kilometres northeast of Munich. The medieval walls hold stories of a turbulent history full of wars, intrigue and a fire started by French soldiers in 1648 that burned the whole place to the ground. It was rebuilt right away and today is open to the public. On two Advent weekends, actors slip into the roles of former inhabitants of the castle and guide visitors through a Yuletide experience with fire shows, songs, poems and a nativity play. Exhibitors set up stalls and present their handcrafted good and culinary treats in the historic courtyard.
Dates: December 9 – 10, 16 – 17
Saturdays: 2pm – 9pm
Sundays: 11am – 6pm
Hohenzollern Castle, Bisingen
The Christmas market on the grounds of the Hohenzollern Castle is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in Germany. As the ancestral seat of the Prussian Royal family, the castle still wows visitors with an ostentatious interior of gold, antiques, murals and frescos. In the midst of this splendour, vendors present handmade crafts, gifts and souvenirs as well as some culinary treats. Guided tours are not available, but make sure not to miss out on the treasure room and the chapel when you’re there.
Dates: December 1 – 3, 8 – 10
Fridays: 2pm – 8pm
Saturdays: 11am – 8pm
Sundays: 11am – 7pm
Cochem Castle, Cochem
Cochem is a picturesque town in the Moselle valley known for beautiful day hikes, excellent wine and cultural sights. The riverside town is overlooked by the charming castle of the same name which, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, opens its gates for a guided nativity play with actors in authentic costumes and live animals. At the end of each tour, you can stop at the small Christmas market in the courtyard. For more festive flair, head to the market square in the old town centres below and end the day with a wine tasting and fresh waffles.
Dates: December 9 – 10
Saturday and Sunday: 1pm – 6pm
The Wartburg Castle is real gem built in the Middle Ages and sits atop a 410-metre-high cliff overtowering Eisenach in Thuringia. The historic castle with its characteristic half-timbered curtain wall was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. In the Advent season, stonemasons, candlemakers, pewterers, glass-blowers and other artists move into the castle grounds and set up shop for the weekend Christmas market. While they present their almost forgotten crafts, minstrels and gleemen add to the festive atmosphere with their songs.
Dates: December 2 – 17
Saturdays and Sundays: 10am – 7pm
Bückeburg Castle dates back to 1304 when a smaller moated castle stood in its place and has been in possession of the family of the Counts of Holstein-Schaumburg and then the Princes of Schaumburg-Lippe, for more than 700 years. The family developed the building into the grand and ornate palace it is now. Lavishly decorated rooms filled with impressive wood carvings, elaborate frescos and almost blinding golden ornaments will leave you in awe. For the annual Weihnachtszauber Christmas market, the family goes all out and festively decorates the castle with thousands of lights and evergreen garlands. Plan for a whole day full of concerts, lectures, whisky tastings, cooking workshops and late-night shopping events.
Dates: November 30 – December 10
Daily: 10am – 7pm
The construction of the Renaissance-style Merseburg Castle was completed in 1265 and over the course of history was used as a residence for kings, bishops and dukes. A visit is well worth considering all year, but for one week in December, the courtyard stages a magical Christmas market. Seeing the imposing facade of both the castle and the adjacent cathedral illuminated by Christmas lights and the subtle organ music in the background will sure put you in high spirits. If you need to pick up gifts for friends and family, take some time browsing the stalls of folkloric jewellery and decor, Christmas tree ornaments and handmade toys.
Dates: December 8 – December 17
Dec 8: 3pm – 8pm
Dec 9 -10, 15 – 16: 11am – 8pm
Dec 11 – 14: 12pm – 8pm
Dec 17: 11am – 6pm
Drachenburg Castle, Königswinter
Each Saturday and Sunday during the pre-Christmas season, the 19th-century Drachenburg Castle near Bonn is ablaze with fairy lights. Storytellers and actors pull visitors back into the era with a live play of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and approximately 40 exhibitors offer their handmade products and culinary treats. Soak up the unique magical atmosphere while browse for souvenirs and gifts, sample local foods and warm up with mulled wine and hot chocolate. The entrance allows you to stroll over the market and peek inside the pompous rooms of the castle.
Dates: December 2 – 18
Saturdays: 12pm – 9pm
Sundays: 12pm – 8pm
Bad Homburg Castle, Bad Homburg
The white tower of Bad Homburg is a relic of the ancient Hohenberg castle which once stood in place of Bad Homburg castle. On the weekends of the pre-Christmas season, the remnant tower marks the centre of the romantic Christmas market. Approximately 60 vendors move into festively-decorated wooden huts that are scattered across the courtyard and sell crafty things and delicious food.
Dates: December 2 – 23
Saturdays, Sundays and Friday December 23: 12 pm – 7 pm
Guteneck Castle, Guteneck
Guteneck Castle near Nabburg celebrates the festive season with a medieval-themed Christmas experience. Actors in knight’s armour stroll around the castle grounds and show what the historic camp life once looked like. In the courtyards, some 120 exhibitors gather to showcase their traditional and half-forgotten handicrafts. Browse the market stalls for handmade gifts and decor and peek over the shoulder pillow lace makers, tapestry weavers, pewterers, candle makers, glassblowers and other artists. The cosy and heated rooms of the castle offer refuge from the cold outside with wine, beer and culinary treats.
Dates: November 25 – December 17
Fridays: 4pm – 9pm
Saturdays: 2pm – 9pm
Sundays: 11am – 8pm
Do you need more inspiration on how to spend the festive season? Check out our guide to Germany’s Top 11 Christmas Markets