Immersive Christmas experiences in Saxony and Thuringia
London, October 2018. From palaces and castles to a wine-growing estate, a park and even a university – Christmas markets in Saxony and Thuringia go way beyond the usual setting and even better; the festive spirit runs well into the New Year, offering visitors the chance for a more relaxed, post-Christmas mug of Glühwein.
Festive spirit galore in Thuringia’s castles
Thuringia has more than 400 palaces and castles and many of them offer particularly romantic settings for Christmas markets. Baroque, Renaissance and medieval structures transport visitors back in time and make for a welcome change to our over-accelerated age. Think wooden stalls, handmade Christmas decorations, lots of local arts and crafts and traditional food and drink. Here are our three top tips:
The historical Christmas market at Wartburg Castle (1/2, 8/9 & 15/16 Dec 2018) brings old crafts and trades back to life, from candlemakers and glassblowers to stonemasons and herbalists. It is a highly atmospheric event, taking place on the first three weekends of Advent and set against the magnificent backdrop of the UNESCO World Heritage site Wartburg Castle. There are also Advent concerts in the castle’s ornate halls and medieval-style entertainment. And don’t forget to keep warm with a nice mug of hot apple-cinnamon wine!
Make your Christmas wishes come true at Leuchtenburg Castle’s very special Christmas market: Located about 40 miles south-east of Erfurt in a region with a long tradition of porcelain production, it hosts a porcelain museum and its charming Christmas market (8/9 & 15/16 Dec 2018) offers the chance to buy some exquisite porcelain Christmas presents as well as honey and wine produced at the castle. Christmas shopping done, stop by the porcelain exhibition where you can write your wishes on a porcelain plate and then throw it down from the open-air “Skywalk of Wishes”. This spectacular 20-metre long structure also provides stunning views of the surrounding Saale valley region.
The medieval Christmas market at Wilhelmsburg Castle (about 40 miles south-west of Erfurt) is a visitor favourite: Beside traditional food and crafts, a historical spectacle reenacts medieval combat with knights demonstrating their sword fight and other skills. Musicians in medieval costumes and instruments, including the German version of a bagpipe, complement the historic experiences. Don’t miss peaking inside the Renaissance castle which is open to visitors during the Christmas market weekends (1/2 & 8/9 Dec 2018) to marvel at its splendid murals.
If you’re more the modern type, make sure to be in Weimar on 8 December for the special Bauhaus Christmas market at Bauhaus University: Students and graduates offer handcrafted Bauhaus-inspired pieces – a great chance to find your own exclusive piece that nobody else has and to start celebrating next year’s 100th anniversary of the design school early!
Saxony surprises: of old Christmas favourites & new kids on the block
We cannot talk about Christmas without mentioning Germany’s oldest Christmas market in Dresden (28 Nov to 24 Dec 2018): The so-called Striezelmarkt in the heart of the city’s Baroque centre is a sight for the eyes and delight for the senses. Time your visit to coincide with the Stollen festival on the second Advent weekend (8/9 December 2018) where a giant version of this special Christmas cake that was invented in Dresden is paraded through the streets. For a more intimate experience, check out the medieval Christmas market in Dresden’s Stallhof with 50 stalls in a charming courtyard. The “back to the roots” market does without singing and illluminations and instead has craftsmen, such as potters, leather workers or carvers, demonstrating their skills. It is on until 6 January so you can enjoy your mulled wine even after Christmas in a more relaxed mood. Over in nearby Leipzig the Christmas market (27 Nov to 23 Dec 2018) on and around the market square not only features a giant spruce tree but also a special Scandinavian section where visitors can sample a selection of Scandi delicacies, from roasted salmon to Glögi mulled wine.
Among the many delightful smaller Christmas markets in Saxony’s historic towns, Seiffen is a particular highlight. The town in the Ore Mountains is at the centre of the region’s famous wooden toy and Christmas decoration industry which goes back to the 17th century when impoverished miners turned to toy making. Wooden candle arches, pyramids, nutcrackers and candlesticks can be bought here directly from the makers. During Advent, Seiffen turns into a veritable Christmas town including a picture-perfect market (30 Nov to 23 Dec 2018) and some unique Christmas traditions, such as the Miners’ Parade on 15 December. These spectacular parades take place throughout the Ore Mountains in former mining strongholds, including Freiberg and Annaberg.
For something a bit different, try the new Christmas Garden Pillnitz (14 Nov 2018 to 6 Jan 2019), taking place for the first time this year on the grounds of Schloss & Park Pillnitz outside Dresden. On a 1.25-mile walk, the park is transformed into a fairy tale inspired landscape with light effects and special architectural features for visitors to enjoy an immersive experience full of light and sparkle. For more winter fairy tale moments, try the market at Königstein Fortress south of Dresden where an illuminated fairy tale path takes centre stage alongside traditional crafts, Saxon folk art and Christmas carol singing (1/2, 8/9, 15/16 & 22/23 Dec 2018). Heading north towards Meissen, the delightful Schloss Proschwitz, also Saxony’s oldest privately run wine-growing estate, hosts the Proschwitzer Weihnacht (29 Nov to 2 Dec 2018) market where the vineyard’s wines can be tasted in a suitable Christmassy atmosphere.
Note to the Editor
– For more information on Christmas markets in Saxony, see here
– For more information on palaces and castles hosting Christmas markets in Saxony, see here
– Updated version of the “Christmas Wonderland Saxony” app by Saxony Tourism, with information about over 50 Christmas markets, selected seasonal events and specific Saxon Christmas traditions, from mid-October on Google’s play store and the App store
– For more information on Christmas markets in Thuringia, see here.
Easy access to Saxony: All major airlines to Berlin and Ryanair to Leipzig
New: ICE high-speed rail link cutting travel times from Munich and Nuremberg – Munich-Erfurt 2 hrs 15 min, Nuremberg-Erfurt 1 hr, Munich-Leipzig 3 hrs 15 min, Nuremberg-Leipzig 2 hrs
The Cultural Heart of Germany is a tourism initiative of Saxony Tourism and Thuringia Tourism. The neighbouring states of Saxony and Thuringia feature a unique cultural heritage and rich musical tradition that the Cultural Heart of Germany promotes in the UK.