Wow, it's been quite a while between blog posts, hasn't it? I've been so busy with tours, and anyone who's ever started a blog knows how easy it is to fall behind. But it's a very exciting time of the year for us at Stuttgart Steps so I figured I'd share some of my hard-earned tips from my six seasons of Christmas Market-ing!
1. Not all Markets are created equal!
I've visited, by my count, nearly 50 markets throughout Germany, Austria, and France, but that doesn't mean they're all the same or equally worth your time and travel! Some of the most-visited markets can seem like carbon copies of each other, while other, less famous markets are unique and distinct.
Luckily for us in Stuttgart, some of the most unique markets are right in our backyard - such as Esslingen's "middle ages market" and the beautiful baroque market of Ludwigsburg. In the nearby Black Forest, you can even experience a market in the beautiful Ravenna gorge. And don't forget that Stuttgart's market, with it's elaborately decorated booths, is considered to be one of the very best in Germany.
2. When possible, take public transit
Stuttgart's "staus" or traffic jams, are actually rated the worst in Germany, and with high numbers of visitors, Christmas markets make an already bad problem worse. Then there's trying to find parking or navigating a car into the tiny spaces of German parking garages. With an excellent public transportation network, there's no reason to drive! Plus drinking "gluhwein" (mulled wine) to warm up is one of the great pleasures of these markets, and no one wants to risk a DUI.
Just go to the English-language trip planner of the Stuttgart's regional transit authority (VVS) or better yet, download the app on your smartphone! For long-distance trips, consult the Bahn.com.
3. Speaking of Gluhwein...
Gluhwein is a real highlight of my visits to the markets, but like the markets themselves, not all Gluhwein is created equal. Some booths simply take pre-spiced bottled gluhwein and dump it in a cauldron. These tend to be sweeter and not as delicious as booths that make the gluhwein from scratch with their own special recipes of spices. If you come on one of my tours, I'll sure and point out my personal favorite gluhwein stands, as well as point out other options, like hot apple cider or the famous (and hard to pronounce) "feuerzangenbowle" a special alcoholic punch.
Because it's so warming, it is easy to overindulge in gluhwein, so do take it easy and keep in mind the high sugar content tends to lead to nasty hangovers if you have too much. Don't forget to drink water or switch to equally cozy glasses of "kinderpunsch" if needed.
4. Check the dates!
Larger cities have markets that run the entire advent season, usually until the 22rd or 23rd, but smaller markets may only run on weekends, or in certain cases, only one weekend. So be sure and check the dates before you go! Booklets (in German) with information on all the Christmas markets in Baden-Wurttemberg are available at many local kiosks (the stores that sell tobacco proucts and lottery tickets) and there are many websites that also contain this information.
Keep in mind that some markets in Alsace, France stay open through the New Year, making for an ideal day trip when much of the businesses in Germany are shut down. Strasbourg and Colmar are especially worth visiting for a day trip!
5. Overwhelmed? We can help!
For the first time ever, Stuttgart Steps has created a tour to help you visit 3 of the best markets Southern Germany has to offer in one fun-filled day. No need to worry about dates or how to navigate public transit or how to find the best food and drink - I've done the legwork, all you have to do is sign up, show up, and follow me.
And as always, if you have any questions, want recommendations, just drop me a line!