It’s the season! For me, that means Glühwein, hot chocolate and all kinds of delicious treats on the many Christmas Markets in Hamburg. If you’re in the city and you need an overview of which one you should go to, here are my favourites.
The Jungfernstieg is one of the most beautiful parts of Hamburg, directly in the city centre and next to the Alster lake. The market, called “Winter Wonderland”, is right on the waterfront. So you can look out at the Christmas tree in the middle of the lake while drinking your Glühwein. Besides all the usual Christmas Market foods like Bratwurst, Crepes or Schmalzgebäck (little balls of yeast dough with icing sugar), you also find one of my personal favourites: Kaminbrot. It’s bread cooked over an open flame, served either pure, with sour creme, or filled with different ingredients like ham or tomato. It’s delicious! I never pass a Christmas season without having Kaminbrot at least once!
Christmas Market at Rathausmarkt
Probably the most popular Christmas Market in Hamburg is right in front of the majestic town hall. Unfortunately, most popular also means most crowded. On weekends it’s so densely packed you only squeeze through the throngs of people with difficulties. Which is why I would recommend going on a weekday when there’s more space and you actually get to look at the many stalls. And trust me, there’s a lot to see.
The market is divided into several “Gassen” (streets) designated to certain topics. There’s the Spielzeuggasse (toy street), the Goldgasse (gold street) where jewellery is sold, or the Handwerkergasse (artisan street) for all kinds of handcrafted articles. There is of course also streets dedicated to food. Another favourite of mine besides the Kaminbrot is Pfaffenglück: a flat cake made of yeast dough, filled with either mushrooms or ham. Delicious!
The city centre Christmas Markets
If you’re downtown Hamburg you can walk straight on from Jungfernstieg or Rathausmarkt to the Christmas Markets at Gerhardt-Hauptmann-Platz, Petrikirche, and Spitaler Straße. They’re all in the city centre and only a short way from each other. While you stroll from one Christmas Market to the next you get a chance to watch all the beautiful Christmas decorations that light up the city.
Because all these markets are so close together you can easily cover them in one evening. On my annual Christmas Market stroll with friends, we always visit all of these markets, with a stop at each for a drink or something to eat. I already mentioned the savoury foods. My favourite sweet treats are Schmalzgebäck, Crepes, and Poffertjes (basically, they’re mini-pancakes). But there’s so much to choose from, no one needs to go hungry.
Then, of course, there are the drinks. Glühwein is the most typical beverage on German Christmas Markets. You can get it in different variations and flavours if you feel like swaying from the standard. Another famous one is Feuerzangenbowle: mulled wine with a rum-soaked sugarloaf lit above it. Then there’s hot chocolate with a shot of alcohol of your choosing. My personal favourite is Amaretto because it makes it taste like Marzipan!
Hafencity is the harbour area and a favourite spot for tourists. They come to see the historic Speicherstadt alongside the newly built harbourfront and the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg’s recently opened concert hall. The Christmas Market in the Hafencity is not very big, but it offers all the essentials, most importantly food and drinks. There’s a small ice-skating ring as well, mostly populated by kids. When you’re in the Hafencity it’s worth having a stop here to enjoy some Christmas spirit.
If you leave Jungfernstieg down the beautifully decorated street Neuer Wall, you end up straight at this Christmas Market. Fleetinsel is the area between the Alster lake and the river Elbe. It’s shot through with lots of canals and bridges, side by side with the many hotels and restaurants. And, in December, this Christmas Market. While not quite as huge as those at Jungfernstieg or Rathausmarkt, it’s still bigger than many others with a wide array of different stalls. There are lots of tables to gather around with your Glühwein or Feuerzangenbowle, and also a big tent in case the weather should be wet. Which, let’s face it, is not that improbable in Hamburg. For food, you can choose between Spanferkel (suckling pig), the obligatory Bratwurst, Crepes, or Schmalzgebäck and other baked goodies.
The Christmas Market on Hamburg’s (in)famous Reeperbahn, the heart of the city’s nightlife and main tourist attraction. The stalls are decorated with naked Santas, but other than that you find all the typical Christmas Market goodies, foods and drinks. There is a stage with live music on one end, and the atmosphere is usually very relaxed. So why not combine your visit of the Reeperbahn with a break at this unique Christmas Market?
Which Christmas Markets in Hamburg would you like to visit? Are there any others you like that I haven’t mentioned? And which Christmas treat is the one you can’t go without? Share in the comments!