Writer Thomas Wolfe once noted that the city of Munich is “a German dream translated into life.” Nothing captures this sentiment more clearly than the Christkindlmarkt in Munich each holiday season. Munich’s Christkindlmarkt is its annual Christmas market, where travelers from around the world come to enjoy the tastes, sounds and joys of the season by buying handmade Christmas treasures to be shared later with friends and family around the tree.
With thousands of tiny fairy lights, a huge Christmas tree, the smell of roasting chestnuts and just-made gingerbread, this market with its colorful stalls takes place at Munich’s centrally located square, Marienplatz, near the city’s town hall and glockenspiel (which are always tourist favorites).
Getting to Munich’s Christkindlmarkt
With its central location, Munich’s Christkindlmarkt is easy to access via public transportation from anywhere in the city. Just steps from the Marienplatz u-bahn (Munich’s subway system), the Christmas market is in the heart of the city. Visitors can also arrive via tram (No. 19) or by bus (No. 52 or 131). Driving is not recommended due to heavy city traffic overloaded by holiday shoppers.
Dates and Hours for the Munich Christmas Market
The Munich, Germany, Christkindlmarkt runs from November 27 to December 24, the Advent season. The market is open from 10:00 am to 8:30 pm each day, except Saturday when the market opens an hour earlier. On Holy Night (December 24), the Christkindlmarkt is open from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, the only day it closes early.
Adding to the joyous atmosphere is the festive Christmas music, which is performed live from the balcony of Town Hall each day at 5:30 pm.
What to Buy, What to Eat
Shopping amidst the cheerfully decorated stalls is sure to put shoppers into the holiday spirit. More than 160 stalls offer a wide array of ornaments (many traditionally made from straw and wood), children’s toys, ceramics, holiday decorations, jewelry, candles, wax figurines, and other handicrafts, making this a very special place to shop for Christmas treasures. Popular items include “nussknacker” (nutcrackers), “weihnahtspyramiden” (a Christmas pyramid merry-go-round powered by candles), and “crèches” (nativity scene with figurines).
Among the special foods served at Christkindlmarkt in Munich are roasted nuts (including chestnuts and almonds), baked apples, delicious bratwurst, “stollen” (a German cake made with candied fruit for the holidays), “reiberdatschi” (potato pancakes), “lebkouchen” (gingerbread), as well as many other specialties (including organic goods). A special treat is “Zwetschgamännla,” figures made from dried plums. Mulled wine (“gluhwein”), often with a shot of brandy, and an eggnog-type drink (“eierpunsch”) are typically served during Christkindlmarkt.
Christmas Post Office
Those who enter the Town Hall’s courtyard though the porter’s lodge will find a special Christmas Post Office operating during Christkindlmarkt. All mail sent from this special place, the “Prunkhof” (Court of Ceremonies) will be marked “Christkindl.” By using a special mailbox (“sonderbriefkasten”), mail will be labeled “Muenhner Christkindlmarkt.” This post office operates from noon to 6:00 pm daily and from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm on the weekends.
History of the Christkindlmarkt
As Christmas approaches, countless markets spring up around Germany, the most famous of which is the one in Nuremberg, dating back to the 16th century, which is known for its gingerbread houses and spice ornaments. The Dresden Christkindmarkt is thought to be even older, dating to 1434. There are even rumors that the concept of the Christmas market actually dates to the Middle Ages (Vienna in 1294), but there isn’t any solid evidence. What is known is that the modern-day Munich Christkindlmarkt is the 1972 brainchild of the Munich Tourist Office. Yet, no matter what its historical (or modern) origins, Christkindlmarkt (whether in Munich, Germany, or elsewhere) is truly a wonderful part of the Christmas season.
Other Munich Christmas Markets
While the Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz is the largest and most popular Christmas market in Munich, Germany, there any number of other Christmas markets scattered throughout the city. These include Tollwood, the Winter festival (u-bahn: Theresienwiese); a Medieval Christmas market at Wittelsbacher Platz, near Odeonsplatz; a market at Sendlinger Tor (u-bahn: Sendlinger Tor); one at Schwabing (u-bahn: Munchner Freiheit); another at the Munich Airport (u-bahn: Flughafen Terminal); and even a gay Christmas market called Pink Christmas at Stephansplatz (u-bahn: Sendlinger Tor). There are even more not listed here that can be easily located by accessing the Munich Tourist Board’s site.
In short, no matter where in Munich, Germany, a traveler might be during the Advent season, there is sure to be a Christmas market near by. Replacing the flea markets that are held at other times of the year, these Christkindlmarkts fill the air with holiday cheer and welcome all to a celebration of the season!
Schultz, Patricia “!,000 Places to See Before You Die” (Workman Publishing, 2004)