When we found out we were moving to Germany, going to Christmas Markets was at the top of our list of things we couldn’t wait to experience abroad. Last December (before we knew where we were moving), we went to the Atlanta Christkindl Market that is hosted each year by the German American Cultural Association. It was a ton of fun, but it only gave us a taste of what authentic German and French Christmas Markets actually are. This year we went to three markets – one in Germany and two in France (we are so close to the French border). Keep reading for practical tips and suggestions before you go!
Trier Christmas Market
Trier was our first day trip in Germany (read post here), so it made sense to go to Trier for our first Christmas Market experience. It was absolutely beautiful! We decided to make another full day of our trip, so we got there around lunchtime when there was still daylight. The Christmas market booths were already set up with impressive decor, but we knew they would be even more impressive once the sun went down and the lights turned on. We were right.
How to get there:
Trier is a little over an hour away from Ramstein by car or two hours away by train. From Frankfurt International, it’s about two hours by car or three hours by train. There are a few Christmas market sites sprinkled around the town. A small market with about a dozen booths are set up right next to the Porta Nigra. Keep walking towards the city center, and the main market sites are set up in the Old Town and in the Cathedral square.
What to buy:
At Trier’s Christmas market, there are tons of vendor booths selling ornaments, scarves, decorations, glassware, souvenirs, gifts, and more. We bought gloves and wool socks, some home decor, and a painted porcelain house (we’re trying to start a porcelain Christmas village at home). The Old Town has a giant wooden Christmas pyramid, with an indoor Christmas ornament shop inside. We also bought some ornaments from here! I really loved the diversity of the booths at this market, and think it’s a great one to buy souvenirs and gifts.
What to eat:
There are also tons of food vendors selling bratwurst, frites, flammkuchen, sweets, gluhwein, and much more. We always get at least one bratwurst mit brot at any German festival (always so good), and we had some flammkuchen and a nutella crepe as well. Gluhwein is of course a must, but make sure to find a stand with your favorite mug! In Germany, when you buy gluhwein, you give them a Euro for the mug, and when you return the mug you’ll get the Euro back. Find your favorite mug, and it makes an easy souvenir. Gluhwein is a traditional mulled wine at Christmas markets, but my favorite drink in Trier was actually their hot chocolate and Bailey’s! You can get this at a stand in front of the Cathedral.
After our trip to Beaune (read about that here), we just couldn’t get enough of France. We decided to have a day trip to Metz to do a little shopping and check out their Christmas market. The Metz Christmas Market is spread out over several different sites across the town. There is an open-air ice skating rink at one site, and a 60m tall ferris wheel at another. There is also one area that is made up of food vendors only – it was amazing.
How to get there:
Metz is only a little over an hour away by car from Ramstein. It’s also a short train ride away from Paris, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, and Trier. See below for a map of the markets. These maps are posted up all around the city. Just a quick note: at the entrance of each market site, there are security personnel checking bags – have your purse or shopping bags open and ready for a smooth entrance.
What to buy:
Compared to Trier, there were much fewer vendor booths selling souvenirs and gifts. It was definitely underwhelming shopping-wise at the markets, but they have a much nicer mall than the one closest to us in Kaiserslautern. There are also tons of cute boutiques, wine shops, and cheese stores in Metz, so although we didn’t buy much at the markets, we did end up coming home with a few bottles of wine and some new cheese (hello truffle brie).
What to eat:
Although the shopping was underwhelming, the food booths were not! At almost every market site, there was escargot, raclettes, and champignons (mushrooms). Make sure to find Le Village Gourmand, at the Place de Chambre (#7 on the map). Foie gras, escargot, oysters, ravioli, burgers, and much much more can be found here. We got the sandwich au confit de canard + fromage fondue, and it was absolutely exquisite. Also if you haven’t tried it yet, make sure to get a raclette – potatoes covered in melted cheese – delicious!
At the Christmas Markets in France, they have white gluhwein (vin chaud blanc in French) which is arguably much better than the traditional red one. White gluhwein tastes more like cider. In Metz, there is also a Finnish village area, with a Nordic Santa, and really delicious Finnish glogi. This was my favorite red gluhwein I’ve had! It’s less sugary sweet than the traditional gluhwein, and tastes more like fresh berries. Trust me, you definitely want to try it!
Make sure to stay for the light show on the Cathedral celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Cathedral. The show starts at 7pm and is really impressive! See a video of the light show on my Instagram saved stories here. The show is on the face of the front of the Cathedral, so get there early to find a good spot towards the back of the square, so you don’t spend the whole time straining your neck to see. Additionally, if you get a chance during the day, go inside the Cathedral. It has some of the coolest stained glass windows and is very impressive.
Saving the best for last, Strasbourg was definitely my favorite of the Christmas Markets we visited this year. For starters, every single street was decorated to a T. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a competition between streets on which one could have the best decorations because every street we turned on to was more impressive than the last. Plus, Strasbourg is such a cute town, with tons of great boutiques and half-timbered styled homes.
How to get there and practical notes:
Strasbourg is less than 2 hours away by car, or 2.5 by train, from Ramstein, and a little over 2 hours by train from Paris. It’s important to note that when arriving by car, you cannot enter the city center during the market hours (11am to 9pm) without a residential sticker on your car. We parked at the Parking Halles and it was a quick 7 minute walk into the city center. Once you are about to enter the city, you also have to go through a quick security check where they check your bags.
Strasbourg also has tons of Christmas market sites – click here for a map of the Christmas markets.
What to buy:
Strasbourg’s markets, like Trier, have vendors selling ornaments, decorations, gifts and souvenirs. There were gorgeous hand painted ornaments and pottery. We bought another painted porcelain house to add to our new collection. We also did a little bit of shopping in the boutiques and shops along Grand’Rue, stopping to buy chocolates and charcuterie.
What to eat:
There are so many good food options to choose from in Strasbourg. They have beignets and bretzels (soft French pretzels), flammkuchen, crepes, but my absolute favorite must try dish was their spaetzle. Spaetzle is actually a German dish, but it was so so so good. Additionally, as I mentioned above in Metz, you must try their white mulled wine. It was my favorite of the gluhweins we had!
We’re sad we were only able to visit three this year, but we’re already looking forward to Christmas Market hop next year! Until then, Merry Christmas yall!