Germany is the home of the Christmas tree and, during the festive season, a veritable winter wonderland. Every year across Germany, tiny villages and cities alike, light up with the warmth of the traditional Christmas markets.

Cologne

27th November - 23rd December 2017

This ancient city on the Rhine is famous for its towering Gothic cathedral, and there's a lively holiday market right at the foot of this spectacular building. But venture further afield to find the town's best Christmas hot spot, in Neumarkt Square. The Market of the Angels, is where the locals go to sip cups of glühwein (hot mulled wine) and browse the stalls, which are blazing with colour and decorated to look as if they're deep in a forest. Follow the locals... They know best!

Cologne Christmas market, the Market of Angels, benefits from its heavenly setting at the foot of the cathedral.

Aachen

24th November - 23rd December 2017

This spa town on the border with Belgium and the Netherlands was once the seat of Charlemagne. If you visit the Christmas market around the ancient cathedral, be sure to sample reibekuchen, an enormous potato pancake served with apple sauce. Then treat yourself to a pint or two - accompanied by the local speciality which are thin, ginger-laced Christmas cookies.

Visitors to Aachen's Christmas Market can warm their winter-chilled bones in the town's spas, after a day's foraging around the many market stalls.

The delicious local dishes in Aachen are every bit as tasty as the market stalls. Who could resist this hot potato pancake layered with apple sauce? Just ask for a reibekuchen.

Lubeck

27th November - 29th December 2017

The narrow cobblestone streets, pedestrian plazas and green copper roofs of this northern city's downtown have a fairy tale enchantment about them. Opening in late November, the market square, which is close to the town hall, hosts the Lubeck Christmas Market and bustles with more than 200 stalls. Once the Lubeck Christmas Market is in full swing, its stalls and surrounding shops are festooned with brightly twinkling lights and filled with traditional handmade toys and Christmas tree ornaments that will take you right back to this winter wonderland each time you see them shining out on your tree at home.

You really can 'trip the lights fantastic' at Lubeck Christmas Market, with its twinkling canopy stretched like a giant winter web across its market square.

Trier

27th November - 22nd December 2017

Germany's oldest city is set along the banks of the Moselle River, close to the border with Luxembourg. At the Christmas market on Trier's main square the entertainment comes in many forms. You can sit and watch a puppet show, your hands warming around a mug of hot mulled wine; shop for pretty old-fashioned wooden toys to add a touch of tradition to your gift opening on Christmas morning; watch the crowning of the Mulled Wine Queen. If you miss the coronation, the winner makes herself available for autographs on weekend evenings from 18:00 to 20:00, for the duration of the market.

The German Christmas markets offer gifts and seasonal decorations that are often hand-crafted and have a wonderful traditional authenticity about them. The Nutcracker, pictured, was first seen on the markets in 1870 and remains one of the most popular German gifts.

Hot mulled wine, or glühwein, warms you up from the inside, as well as out! What better way to warm up your hands while browsing the stalls and taking in the festival fresco surrounding you than to cup your hands around a hot Christmas toddy?

Dresden

30th November - 24th December 2017

Dresden Striezelmarkt gets its name from the traditional Christmas cake known as stollen, or striezel in the local dialect. Every year, a fruit-laden stollen weighing nearly three tons is paraded through town to the market, where it is sliced by an army of workers and distributed to the Christmas revellers. This is a time honoured tradition, since this is said to be Germany's oldest Christmas market, dating back to 1434! You'll find this market in Altmarkt Square, at Dresden's historic heart, though this Christmas market refuses to be contained by the buildings around the centre, stretching out with lots of seasonal-themed smaller markets to the railway station and the Albertplatz. See the Dresden Christmas Market in all is sparkling glory in the lead picture at the top of this blog page. All Germany's Christmas toys and decorations were made originally, hundreds of years ago, in the Erzgebirge or the Ore Mountains, just a few miles outside Dresden. Still today, most of Germany's Christmas markets are supplied from this same region.

Dresden Striezelmarkt takes its name from striezel or stollen - Germany's traditional Chrstmas cake. Stollen features largely at this market today - three-ton of stollen to be precise, is paraded through the Christmas crowds and dished out for them to eat as they stroll about the stalls. The cake is said to represent the baby Jesus, wrapped in white swaddling cloth, which would explain Stollen's unusual shape.

Freiburg

27th November - 23rd December 2017

This university town in the heart of the Black Forest overflows with what Germans call gemutlichkeit (cosiness). The Freiburg Christmas Market is centrally located in the Town Hall square and spills into Franziskaner Street. Don't miss the candle workshop at the eastern end. You can have candles made to order or try making your own from bees' wax. Freiburg is a town of magnificent squares, both grand and intimate in scale, which are something of a bonus for the seasonal shopper with a love of tracing history through a town's architecture. Meanwhile, back at the market, look out for the straw shoes - a speciality of the Black Forest region and which must surely rate as one of the most unique Christmas gifts anyone could receive!

The earliest Christmas trees in Germany were decorated with apples, star- and heart-shaped pastries and white candy canes. Beautiful dazzling glass baubles were first introduced, in this region, 400 years ago. Today glass blowers compete on their market stalls to see who can make the largest and most interestingly decorated hand-blown baubles like you will not be able to buy anywhere else.

Munich

27th November - 24th December 2017

To many, the Bavarian capital is synonymous with the annual Oktoberfest. But Munich also shines at this time of year, especially on the idyllic Marienplatz, where nearly three million visitors go every year to hear the lively fold bands and shop at 160+ stalls at the Munich Christmas Market. A 23-metre high Christmas tree, lit with 2,500 lights, stands by the famous Glockenspiel, a clock tower with 43 bells and 32 life-size mechanical figures that enact historic events. The 15-minute shows draw the crowds every day at 11:00. Munich's Sternenplatzl at Rindermarkt is the most romantic setting, with lights strewn among the tree branches giving rise to it becoming known as the 'Square of Stars'. Bavarian dishes abound, from bratwurst and gingerbread to flamed salmon and hot beer, there is something to warm every Christmas market heart. The setting in itself, in one of the world's most iconic cities, is a treat. As a setting for this seasonal event, it is sensational. It is worth making whole days - and nights - of it, as when darkness draws in festive music fills the market square adding to the Advent ambience.

The local delicacies are every bit as much of a draw for visitors as the hand crafts, incense, baubles and gifts spilling from the Christmas stalls at the Munich Christmas Market.

Munich Christmas Market is famous for its Glockenspiel Tower Clock, which features 32 animated life-size mechanical figures enacting a story from days gone by.

Berlin

23rd November - 31st December

'Christmas Magic', or Weihnachtszauber, is held on the capital's famous Gendarmenmarkt - a spectacular square complete with German and French cathedrals, a concert hall and a huge statue of the poet Friedrich Schiller. You'll find stalls filled with hand-blown glass, rare antiques, handmade leather goods, homespun-woollen sweaters, as well as such treats as marzipan, roast goose - even braised ox cheek. There are many different markets at this time of year in and around Berlin, but the Berliner Weihnachtszeit has its own, special, Christmas magic which lies in its location, between Rotes Rathaus and the Marienkirche, set against the old Berlin market streets. Its characteristic brightly-lit wooden pavilions are a nostalgic nod to an old Berlin of bygone days. Barrel organ music provides the sound track, bread baked medieval-style comes hot from the ovens, while hot mead is served in clay jars, and an ice skating rink at the market's centre supplies some of the fun here, of which there is plenty for all ages. Historic carousel rides, pony rides, visits from Santa himself, and a 50-foot-high Ferris wheel affording panoramic views of the Brandenburg Gate and beyond are just some of the delights awaiting you in this romantic and historic city throughout the season of goodwill.

Christmas markets can be a real treat for all the family. Berlin Christmas Market is known for its family entertainment, including carousel rides, traditional Bavarian music and a giant Ferris wheel giving visitors the best views of the Brandenburg Gate and beyond.

The Berlin Christmas Market cannot be outshone by the imposing architecture that surrounds the market square.

Christmas markets have grown in popularity as a seasonal break for all the family. With their colour, festive treats, carousel rides, twinkling lights warming the frosty nights and traditional gifts of every kind, a visit to the Christmas markets in Europe's historic centres is the perfect way to kick off your Christmas. RCI members take this opportunity, at Christmas, to enjoy a two-centre break. Starting out on their getaway with a few days browsing around the historic city and town squares, which come alive at this time of year with the Christmas market tradition. They then head off to a rustic and rural timeshare retreat, using their RCI membership, for a week of rest and relaxation to prepare for the run up to the big day itself!

Why not visit the RCI Resort Directory to see where our members get away from it all at Christmas time? Using the button below, you can see the resorts which have joined the RCI holiday exchange or holiday swap programme in Germany.

Many countries attract winter visitors with their festive markets, as well as the many other wonderful experiences to be enjoyed while visiting in the winter months. Check out what Germany has to offer, then why not browse some other great winter destinations in our Resort Directory, such as Austria, Finland and Hungary, using the search filter?

Click here to visit the RCI Resort Directory

If you own timeshare and are bored with returning to your home resort each year, then you can become an RCI member and start planning holidays the world over, using your timeshare with RCI membership. It may be that you hadn't even realised that you could swap your timeshare for others, while always being able to return to your home resort whenever you wish. There is a world of amazing holidays waiting to be discovered and timeshare is a very comfortable and great value way of doing it.

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