Approximately 180 vendors set up their huts and stalls in Bonn’s city centre for the annual Christmas market, framed by the historic Minster and the Bottlerplatz. The culinary treats here range from all-time classics such as Glühwein, roast chestnuts and battered cod, to more exotic foods and drinks including honey mead and Hungarian pastries. The handcrafted gifts, souvenirs and decor are just as varied – glass and timber Christmas tree ornaments, beeswax candles, alpaca knitwear, handmade jewellery and lanterns, leather purses and wooden kids’ toys are just the tip of what’s to be discovered.
In the first two weeks of the advent season, an Erzgebirge-themed Christmas market sets up camp in Bonn’s Bad Godesberg district. The Erzgebirge region in eastern Germany is known to have a soft spot for the holidays. Some 30 vendors move into festively decorated wooden huts and bring their best Christmassy goodies to Bonn to share some of their traditional craftsmanship. The hand-carved and painted nutcrackers, incense burners and candle holders in the shape of angels and miners here make great gifts, while you can also watch artisans at work including glass-blowers, cotton spinners and Spanbaum carvers, a local craft which results in delicate wooden tree sculptures.
Halfway between Bonn and Cologne, the city of Brühl celebrates Christmas with its delightful market. Fairy lights, evergreen garlands and Christmas carols sung by choirs create a festive atmosphere and get visitors in the right mood for the upcoming holidays. The huts and stalls line up along Brühl’s pedestrianised main shopping streets and offer regional specialities, including Reibekuchen, roast almonds and, of course, Glühwein, as well as arts and craft items. On one of the advent Sundays, the regular shops in town also open their doors and join in the festivities.
A trip to Siegburg’s Christmas market takes you right back into the Middle Ages. You’ll be greeted by entertainers and jesters who tell stories and sing songs, alongside vendors selling traditional products from gemstones, beaded jewellery, and Indian silk scarfs, through to spices and wooden instruments. You could stop to have your palm read, or head straight to sample the delicious food. On the menu are a suckling pig, flatbread and soup, all accompanied by mead, beer and wine.
The wooden huts and stalls of Neuwied’s Christmas market were redesigned in 2013 to look like small gingerbread houses. Their resemblance to the witch’s house in the Brothers Grimm fairytale Hansel and Gretel inspired the name Knuspermarkt. Vendors focus on handmade product and typical foods, and kids can challenge their parents to a round of curling on the ice rink, while the stage hosts an entertainment programme for both grown-ups and kids.
Thirty km (18.6 miles) south of Bonn, the small village of Kasbach-Ohlenberg doesn’t usually attract many tourists – apart from at Christmas time. The local brewery has taken it upon itself to organise a nostalgic Christmas market for the past 12 years, featuring historical circus carriages, roaring fires, and an old merry-go-round that makes kids’ eyes light up with excitement. Mulled wine and Christmassy foods are a given, but you can also indulge in homemade liqueurs and cakes.