‘Tis the Season! Everywhere I look there are signs up for the opening of the Christmas markets all over Germany; I’m so excited! There’s nothing better than grabbing some friends, getting all bundled up, and heading out to the nearest market square to wander among the little brown wooden huts filled with the sights and smells of the holidays. As we know, Christmas is for kids, all kids, yet taking them to a crowded marketplace can be a daunting task. Here are some of our tips for really enjoying a German Christmas Market with kids in tow.
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Tip 1 – How To Get to A German Christmas Market
Getting to a Christmas market in Germany is pretty easy. Every large city hosts at least one, and many of the small towns do as well. Taking public transportation from your lodging would be best, because the metro or tram will invariably drop you right in the thick of things, but if you are driving then plan your parking ahead of time. There will be parking along the streets, and it may even be free, but I would highly recommend parking in an underground garage where it’s warm and lit. Plus after walking in the rain, snow, sleet, and cold for a few hours the last thing you are going to want to do is clean off your car. And at some of the larger markets, finding parking might be a challenge; knowing where the parking areas are ahead of time may be crucial.
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Tip 2 – Plan Ahead
Depending on the size of the Christmas market it never hurts to have a plan. Children of all ages love to have a voice about what they want to do. Have a chat on the way. What does everyone want to eat? What rides are they interested in? Is St. Nick making a showing? What time will he be there? Having a short checklist of what everyone wants to do makes it easier to say to Junior, “Right now we’re getting Daddy a cup of gluhwein, but we’ll head over to the cotton candy next!” No problem.
Also while you’re planning, tell the older children how much they have to spend. It’s a great lesson on budgeting your money or not spending it all in one place, and they’ll be much pickier about what they buy, too.
Tip 3 – Baby Carry or Stroller?
Don’t forget the stroller. Even though some smaller, quainter Christmas markets will be along narrow winding roads, probably on cobblestones, for the most part a stroller will serve you well. For one thing, you can carry a blanket or umbrella to keep warm, but also it will give you some room when it’s really crowded. Additionally, what a great place to stash all of those new handicrafts or ornaments that you’ve just bought.
Tip 4 – What to Wear
German weather is notoriously rainy or snowy or, worse, both during Christmas market time. Other times it’s a balmy 14 degrees Celsius or sometimes it’s down around the zero mark. It’s hard to tell just how cold it will feel, and no one likes to get cold toes, fingers, or ears. The first thing you need to do is be careful bundling up. With all the running from one charming booth to another, you could warm up very quickly so the trick is to layer. Wearing a fleece under the jacket will give you and the kids a little flexibility. Warm socks in boots, mitten, and hats are a must. Even if the jacket is off, they will keep those little ones happy and warm.
Tip 5 – Plan on the Carnival
The larger Christmas markets can help you while away the hours, but meantime the kids need a break. Most have a fairground complete with games and rides for children that only cost about one Euro per ride. There are always gluhwein and bratwurst stands nearby, so you can give the children a break to have fun while you’re sipping a hot drink. Notice where the fast food restaurants are as well. You will want a warm place to maybe get a drink and go to the bathroom for a sit down break for the whole family as well.
Tip 6 – Advent Calendar
The whole family will enjoy seeing all the uniquely German Christmas decorations, and there are a couple of things you shouldn’t miss. There is usually a very large Advent Calendar with doors that open each day before Christmas to show a traditional seasonal object. Additionally, no Christmas market would be complete without its own giant pyramid. Some are only one level high, but some have two or three levels. Thirdly, you will be able to find a manger scene. Sometimes there will even be live animals which the kids can pet or even feed.
Tip 7 – Photography Tip
You will certainly want photos of the family gobbling up a huge bratwurst, or talking to St. Nick so make sure your camera battery is fully charged and you have an extra memory card available. Hand the camera to the kids and let them take a few of their own shots or some Mommy and Daddy shots. Also, take advantage of a Ferris wheel and get a few shots looking down on the whole market!
Have fun! Christmas markets are definitely an activity that fits all ages and budgets and you will love the German festival atmosphere.
What Christmas market tips do you have? What is your child’s favorite market activity?