It’s no secret that Germany is the ultimate destination for Christmas markets. Before moving here, I thought I had seen some Christmas Markets living in NYC but I was sorely mistaken. Living in Frankfurt, Germany has been quite a fun time and its yearly Christmas markets in Nov/Dec are the icing on the cake.
Frankfurt is not the first place most visitors to Germany think of as there really isn’t that much as far as tourism goes. As someone that lives and works here, I’d recommend you spend 1-2 days exploring the city and that’s probably enough unless you have friends here. However, if you’re here during Christmas market season, you definitely need to add Frankfurt to the list. Thankfully, the airport is super close to the city so if you’re visiting on a layover with 4+ hours, I would definitely recommend taking the S-Bahn into the city and indulging in the festivities.
Frankfurt’s Christmas market is one of the largest and most spectacular markets in all of Germany. Initially, I thought the best Christmas markets would be in the little village towns of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, or Cochem in the Rheinland Pfalz, and while they are incredibly charming, I really enjoy Frankfurt’s rendition.
Brief history of the Frankfurt Christmas Market
For those that visit Frankfurt, the first things that come to mind are modern, skyscrapers, and industrial. These descriptors aren’t wrong as much of Frankfurt was bombed in WWII. Previous to that, Frankfurt was a very historic town that was essential to the commerce of the German empires in years past.
While many many markets in Germany claim to be the oldest or the first, Frankfurt’s Christmas markets really do have a history that goes back to the 1300s! yes that is 700 years of Christmas market tradition!
Where are Frankfurt’s Christmas Markets
Frankfurt’s festival and market game is incredibly strong. They have festivals every week in the summer and regular weekly markets rain or shine. Most of the festivals are concentrated to a specific square or street in Frankfurt. The Christmas markets are an exception.
The Christmas market is huge in Frankfurt. It starts from the Romer, or the Altstadt which is the tourist square equipped with the city hall and reconstructed traditional German “wooden” houses. It extends to the Paulsplatz across the street, before stretching into the Innenstadt all the way to the Hauptwache. It’s really like four markets combined into one.
The historic city center provides an idyllic backdrop for over 200 uniquely decorated stalls, most of them resembling half-timbered houses strung with twinkle lights. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a heady aroma of baked apples, roasting chestnuts, freshly baked ginger cookies and spicy mulled wine. Notes of traditional carols fall over the crowd as brass bands and choral singers stage performances at regular intervals. It’s a seasonal sensory overload from the first glimpse, but climb to the balcony of St. Nicholas’ Church for a panoramic view over all the action.
Additionally, there are also mini markets that are not officially part of the Frankfurt Christmas market but still in the vicinity that are totally a must do. More details on that later. For now, here are the official details for the Frankfurt Markets
Frankfurt Christmas Market
Where: Romer/Aldstadt, Paulsplatz, Hauptwache
How to get there: Take the S-Bahn to the Haupwache station
When: Nov 25 – Dec 22, 2019
Frankfurt Christmas Market Hours of Operations:
Monday to Saturday: 10am – 9pm
Sunday: 11am – 9pm
Cost of Food/Alcohol at the Market:
Gluhwein: €3.5 for 0.2L
Wurst sandwich: €3.50 – €4
To make it easier, here is a map with the locations of all the markets in the Innenstadt. As you can see, they are all very close to each other!
Frankfurt Market Locations
So now that you know the details of the Frankfurt Christmas markets, it is time to see them in action. Unlike Cologne where the Christmas markets are located all around the city, Frankfurt’s markets are all clustered together so it is possible to see everything at the same time.
As I live in Frankfurt, I’ve not been shy with my Christmas market game and have visited all of them on numerous occasions. In fact, the first week they were open, I had at least a gluhwein (or maybe 3) a day for no other reason than it just had to be done. Besides, there are so many stalls serving gluhwein and they are not all created equal so I had to go and sample the best of the best.
If you’re in Frankfurt for only a day, it is possible to do all the markets Frankfurt has to offer. Prepare to drink a lot of gluhwein on the way however!
For those coming from the Airport, get off at the Hauptwache station and you’ll be greeted immediately to cute timber houses and the smell of fresh Gluhwein. Hauptwache is the main shopping square of Frankfurt and is surrounded by big shopping centers. This may not seem like what you had in mind but don’t worry, it only gets better from here.
There are numerous stalls to buy gluhwein, hand crafted goods, and grilled German specialties. For an aerial view, head up to the top of the Galeria Kaufhaus shopping center which has a rooftop offering spectacular views of the Hauptwache and the Frankfurt skyline.
From the Hauptwache, the next market to explore is the Rosa Weihnacht, or the Pink Christmas Market. This is located in the Friedrich-Stoltze-Platz and is characterized by the all pink decorations. This is the LGBTQ market in Frankfurt which I’m not sure if it actually has anything officially to do with the gay community but it is a sweet place to hang out and drink. At night, the trees are bright pink and the vibe here is probably the most fun of all the markets in the area.
Paulsplatz Frankfurt Christmas Market
Another area of the Christmas market to explore is on Paulsplatz. (the area marked in purple on the map). Next to the St. Paul’s church is Wagner’s Honey House. It’s a traditional timber-framed (Fachwerk) house converted especially for the Christmas market. Upstairs is a variety of honey based drinks and liqueurs to buy whilst downstairs has an amazing variety of honey.
St.Paul’s church also hosts a Christmas arts fair in it’s cellar, which is worth a browse (26th Nov – 22nd Dec). Back outside the church, follow the church walls round into the Christmas market stalls. Here you will find one of my favourite hot chestnut sellers and directly opposite is the Lion’s Club Glühwein stall selling a good quality Glühwein. There is also a traditional Tiroler wood carver stall, Bachmann selling hand crafted nativity scenes and figures.
My drink of choice at these Christmas markets is the feuerzangenbowle and the stall in the Paulsplatz serves the best one in the entire market.
Frankfurt Weihnachtmarkt in the Romer
The official Weihnachmarkt (Christmas market in German) is in the Altstadt. It’s the traditional site of the market, on the Römerberg, dating all the way back to the 14th century. Prior to browsing the stalls and commencing with the drinking, peak behind the huge Christmas tree to find the entrance to the town hall and step inside to for the annual Christmas arts fair (6th – 21st December). Local artists sell their wares directly to the public and there is a lovely mix of jewellery, pottery, sculpture as well as framed pictures and photographs.
A highlight of the Christmas market on the Römerberg is the carousel. It’s not just for children so you should definitely have a quick ride before moving on. From the carousel, if you head toward the Schirn Art Gallery you’ll pass a few stalls on your right. One stall sells hand-made wooden decorations which make great mementos and can easy be packed into luggage if you’re travelling this Christmas.
For the best views, climb up to the top of St. Nicholas church in the Altstadt!
City beach Rooftop Christmas Market
As the title suggests, there is another Frankfurt christmas market in the Innenstadt that is on the rooftop of a building. City Beach is a rooftop bar that doubles as a pool bar in the summer time with German bros bumping it to beach themed day parties (hence the name City beach).
In the winters, the pool is closed and a beautiful Christmas Market is put in its place. There are numerous stalls serving gluhwein, hot apfelwein, and even Moscow mules. Expect your usual food options here as well like grilled wursts, crepes, pancakes, flammkuchen and more. As well, there is a sit down German style restaurant at the rooftop in case you wanted to avoid the cold outdoors.
In addition, the best part of this rooftop are the panoramic views of Frankfurt’s skylines. You can see it all from here. The Christmas lights, along with the cute stalls and the stunning backdrop makes this place a must visit in my opinion.
The City beach Christmas Market opens the first weekend of November, a full 3 weeks earlier than the official Christmas Markets.
This is a tiny little Christmas market near to the Jumeirah hotel. This little market is perfect for those that want a bit of an intimate setting away from the crowds. The best part of this market is that it is open 2 hours later than the main market, closing at 11pm on the weekdays and 11:30pm on the weekends!
What to eat and drink at the Frankfurt Christmas Market
Let’s make one thing clear, you will not go hungry or thirsty at the Frankfurt christmas market. Expect to see all the traditional Frankfurt market foods including numerous types of wursts, fleischstuck (meat sticks), waffles, crepes, flammkuchen, bretzels, fried kartoffeln (potatoes), and more.
One of the weekends there are even stalls that serves international fare from all around the world to reflect Frankfurt’s diversity. By no means have I visited all the food or drink stalls but these are just the foods and drinks to look out for that really stood out to me.
Gluhwein, or mulled wine is the staple German christmas market drink. This fragrant, lightly spiced warm wine will be the main drink at any Christmas market in Germany. Traditionally, it is made with red wine but I’ve seen variants including gluhwein made with Rose, white wines and various berries around the region. Each stand serves similar recipes but make no mistake that it is not all created equal. However, after 3 or 4 of them, you may not notice the difference.
The price is a consistent €3.50 for an 0.2L glass at all the stands but you can beef up the gluhwein by adding Amareto or rum for an additional price (highly recommended). Like all markets in Germany, you’ll need to pay a deposit on your glass of €2-3 per glass. If you like the glass, this can also be seen as the price to buy said glass 🙂
Feuerzangenbowle literally translates to fire-tong-bowl. I see this as the naughtier and spicier cousin of the Gluhwein. It is a mix of Gluhwein, rum, and brown suger that is melted by fire into the mix. It tastes similar to gluhwein but is stronger and has an extra kick to it. There are not as many Feuerzangenbowle stands compared to Gluhwein but make sure to visit the ones in the Paulsplatz and the Rosa weihnachtsmarkt.
Make sure to try some flammkuchen as well which is a specialty from the Alsace region in France. I call these German pizzas as they are essentially very thin pizzas with creme fraiche, green onions, ham, and cheese. The stand in the Paulsplatz is fantastic.
No market or festival is complete without stands grilling the popular German wursts and fleischspiesse (Meat sticks). You won’t be able to go many places in the Christmas markets without smelling grilled wursts. For the best meats, go to the Drexler meat stands in the Hauptwache. Wursts are €4 and meat sticks are €7.
Kurtos Kalacs (Chimney Cake) dessert
Definitely one of my favorite desserts are the chimney cakes from Hungary. They are very popular now in the rest of Europe and for good reason. Flaky pastry slow cooked over coals and served with a coating of sweet cinnamon and topped off with Nutella or other dips.
There are two of these at the markets, one in the Romer/Aldstadt, and the other in the Haupwache. It is €5 per pasty but you can easily share this with one or two other people.
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