When it comes to Christmas, I’m usually the Grinch. But this year I’m making a conscious effort to get into the Christmas spirit. For me, the festivities kicked off in November with a trip to the Hamburg Christmas Markets. It was yet another spontaneous trip (much like my solo-trip to Brussels last month!) all due to a flash £2 sale at Ryan Air. Thanks to the sale, I ended up booking a 4-day Hamburg trip within my first hour at work. When return flights are £12, it’s rude not to really.
This Grinch has opened her heart to Christmas this year. I’ve had my share of bad Christmases, including a couple of years spending Christmas alone. Pair that with being emotionally unavailable and a cynicism about Christmas being commercialised and you’ve got yourself a Scrooge. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also had my fair share of great Christmases too. I’ve just always been a bit of a Scrooge and I’m not entirely sure why. But much like the Grinch by the end of his self-titled movie, I’m planning to put an end to my bah humbug attitude. I’m determined to embrace all things festive.
In preparation for 4 full days in Hamburg, I filled my carry-on case with festive jumpers and chunky knits. As we visited solely for the Christmas markets, I can’t tell you about any of the must-visit sights of Hamburg. But I can tell you about all the different Christmas markets and how wonderfully incredible each and every one was.
The first Hamburg Christmas market on my list is Weihnachtsmarkt at the Rathaus – that’s the Christmas Market at the Town hall for us English folk. Located at the impressive Town Hall, Weihnachtsmarkt is the most noticeable and most famous (or at least second famous after Santa Pauli) markets of Hamburg. It’s the ultimate festive environment filled with rows and rows of christmas stalls. We visited Weihnachtsmarkt every day without fail.
This is one of the prettiest markets with a truly traditional festive feel. I mean it even had a toy train running around the top of the markets?! If that’s not the most festive little touch ever, I don’t know what is. It definitely had me feeling super giddy for Christmas. Maybe the secret for defeating my inner-scrooge is to just plan trips to Christmas markets all around the world!
At 4pm, 6pm and 8pm you can watch Santa Claus and his reindeer fly over the markets and off towards the sparkly christmas tree. It was such a sweet touch. I just wish I understood what German Santa was saying! Whatever it was, I’m sure he was spreading festive cheer.
The Weihnachtsmarkt were filled with traditional German food, sweet treats, handmade decorations and trinkets. There was a christmas decoration shop where I picked up a couple of small gifts. Some things in the christmas shop were seriously expensive. But I managed to pick up some really cute decorations that sat comfortably in my price range. I also grabbed a handmade christmas tree decoration from a craftsman and a traditional wooden nutcracker decoration from a wooden crafts stall.
Obviously we can’t forget the Glühwein and Bratwurst!
This had to be my favourite christmas market in Hamburg. Just a couple of streets away from Rathaus, laid the Winterwald (Winter forest) markets. It wasn’t the stalls that captured my heart at Winterwald. It was the forest itself, which I liked to name the Glühwein Garden. This was my favourite place to head to in the evening for a few mugs of Glühwein (read: Kinderpunsch). It warmed my soul and I promise that wasn’t just because of all the cozy cups of hot fruit punch. Sitting on a little wooden bench, next to a working water wheel and surrounded by countless christmas trees covered in twinkly lights was my absolute favourite. I was ultimately content.
The lovely Lily who blogs at Jolihouse also joined us for a day – yay for blogger friends and meeting in foreign cities! Lily grabbed a Bratwurst at Winterwald, which looked seriously disappointing (sorry Lily!). The sausage to bread ratio was waaay off. I actually put my money away and slinked away from the stall. If you want a tasty Bratwurst, in order of preference, I recommend heading to the stall outside St. Petri church or to the stall inside Weihnachtsmarkt.
Welcome to Santa Pauli Christmas Markets. If you aren’t aware, Santa Pauli is the red light district of Hamburg and the St. Pauli christmas markets set on the Reeperbahn are the x-rated erotica themed markets. They’re not quite your traditional festive market. Here’s a funny story. It took us two attempts to visit the Santa Pauli christmas markets. We first turned up to the markets at 2pm to discover they weren’t even open, much to our dismay. Apparently not a single one of us thought to check that they would be open, oops! Top tip: if you want to visit St. Pauli markets Mon-Thurs, they open at 4pm.
My friend and I headed back to Santa Pauli markets in the evening for what we hoped would be a night of cheeky festivities. We both admitted that Santa Pauli markets were a little bit tame. After doing my research, it seems the ‘wilder’ side of St. Pauli markets are hidden in a closed off tent, which may explain why things were so calm. Oops! As you can see my organisation skills aren’t the best. Nethertheless, I had a great time at St. Pauli markets. I even caught sight of a Drag Queen walking tour, the kind of tour that I’ll 100% booking myself on to if I visit Hamburg again.
Next up, we have the classier Weisser Zauber (which is German for white magic) markets on Jungfernsteig. These markets run along the large inner-city lake of Binnenalster. The market stalls are enclosed in white tents, with a white wonderland theme offering a more sophisticated alternative to the traditional christmas markets.
On our first night in Hamburg, we ate at the Alex restaurant. I happily tucked into a hearty Italian dish (sorry Germany!) whilst watching people wander through the christmas markets. For the remaining 3 nights we simply ate at the christmas markets, where the food was always cheap and cheerful.
FLEET CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Similar to Weisser Zauber on Jungfernsteig, The Fleet christmas markets also had a slightly more elegant feel to them. We headed to the Fleet markets on our last full day. The markets here are much smaller and it tended to be more food-oriented. It was actually the first place that I saw an actual hog roast! Naturally, I treated myself to a hot roast sandwich. Alas, I was left feeling slightly underwhelmed by it’s lack of stuffing and apple sauce. Maybe that’s just a British thing?!
As well as a hog roast, I tucked into some truly scrumptious champignons whilst at the Fleet Markets. Feasting on a bowl of mushrooms whilst drinking Früchtenpunsch out of a boot and listening to christmas songs left me grinning from ear to ear.
ST PETRI MARKETS
If you were paying attention earlier, you’ll notice that I listed St Petri Markets as my favourite place to get a Bratwurst in Hamburg. My first true Bratwurst experience was at the St Petri Markets and it was incredible. The sausage was cooked to perfection and the bread was the perfect softness. Knowing that it was our number 1 Bratwurst spot, we made sure to pay one last visit here on our final night in Hamburg.
The St Petri markets are really tiny and you can have a quick scout around them before crossing the road to head to the markets outside the Rathaus. Alternatively, you can walk a little bit further and visit the markets along Mönckebergstrasse.
The christmas markets along Mönckebergstrasse actually ran along a few other streets. These markets kept up with the traditional theme and were seriously sweet. At the top of the street stood a wooden nativity scene and further along there was the cutest traditional carousel.
We headed to Mönckebergstrasse one morning to start our day with Churros and hot chocolates. The perfect way to start a day if you ask me. The hot chocolates were sooo tasty. I could easily drink one of those right now. Whilst here, we picked up a couple of small gifts for friends and I may have stumbled into Pimkie and bought myself a new coat. To be fair though, it is the dreamiest winter coat ever and it even has fleece-lined pockets (!!!) so it’s allowed. As well as getting decorations from various market stalls, I also picked up a few teeny-tiny decorations from Depot.
ALLE JAHRE WIEDER
With a white and blue snowy look, these markets were a cross between the traditional and the modern markets. Alle Jahre Wieder stands for Returning Every Year and I would gleefully return to the Hamburg christmas markets again. We happened to find these markets by chance on our first day, much to our delight. We grabbed a Glühwein (or kinderpunsche for me!) and relaxed by the fireburner as we chatted excitedly about our festive adventure. I adored hearing christmas songs playing in the background along with the quiet murmur of festivities. Whilst here, I also grabbed a nutella and banana crepe. It wasn’t the most photogenic of foods but my gosh, was it tasty!
The Altona/Ottensen christmas markets are a lot further to travel to so we hopped on a train to continue our christmassy quest. I’ll admit once we arrived at the Ottensen markets we were seriously underwhelmed. Having researched the markets, they were described as one of the most authentic christmas markets in Hamburg. But I just didn’t get the festive feels whilst I was there. I’m hoping that’s due to us visiting in November. Maybe they come into full festive force when December hits! We didn’t stay long before jumping back on the train to freshen up at the hotel before heading back out to the Christmas markets in the evening.
Much like Ottensen, there wasn’t much to see at Hafencity christmas markets. But they did have a giant christmas tree and a little ice skating rink! I’d say it’s worth a visit for those two attractions alone. Plus, Hafencity is a beautiful area of Hamburg. Hafencity lies in the warehouse district, which is currently undergoing renovation. Because of it’s warehouse roots, it has a gorgeous industrial, rustic charm to it.
Okay so Hamburger Dom isn’t a christmas market. But it is a giant fun fair! The Dom only exists three times a year for 4 weeks at a time. We struck lucky visiting in November during the Dom’s winter season. Hamburger Dom has been running since 1337, with it residing in it’s current location since the 1800s. Talk about a fun fair with history!
The giant ferris wheel is the landmark of Hamburger Dom. I love ferris wheels so cheerfully paid my €3 and bounced over to enjoy a ride above the fun fair. Unluckily for us, we got to share our ferris wheel with a couple. A couple who liked PDA a little too much for my liking. Nontheless I tried to make the most of being stuck mid-air in a tightly confined space with two people sucking face.
The sheer size of the fun fair is jaw dropping! We had so much fun wandering around, absorbing all the fun fair nostalgia.
There it is! My account of the many christmas markets across Hamburg. Whilst I happened to visit a lot of christmas markets, there is still so many that I missed!
Getting around Hamburg was really straight forward thanks to their well-connected rail/subway system. When we grew tired of walking between places, we would simply hop on and off the train between our desired destinations. With that said, we still managed to walk over 20,000 steps each day. A good way to work off all that market food!
Hope you enjoyed your read and I hope it has inspired you to book a trip to Hamburg for the christmas markets next year.