Instead of hunting online for the perfect Christmas gift and free shipping coupon code this year, the hubs and I opted to fill our shopping bags at the Christmas markets in Germany. Just like little Oktoberfests happen all over Germany in the fall, Christmas markets pop up throughout the country in late November/early December. A colleague helped us to decide on Dresden because of its traditional atmosphere.
After a bit of a delay, we finally made it through Munich to Dresden and arrived at our festively decorated and perfectly located hotel, the Swissotel, and rested up in preparation for a full day ahead. On Friday morning, we stumbled upon our first market, Advent at the Neumarkt, just as the stalls were opening.
I tried to pace myself, but I immediately fell in love with something at nearly every stall! There were handmade wool mittens, candles made of beeswax, specially crafted brushes for everything from your hair to mushrooms, honey flavored with lavender, and more. The hubs noted that there were 10 more markets within walking distance and that I didn’t need to buy EVERYTHING right away, but my intuitions were right and this ended up being my favorite by the end of the weekend because of its unique and high quality goods. In fact, I did visit one stall in particular four times, and made purchases each time.
After a few initial purchases, we headed to the Christmas market at the Frauenkirche. While we prepared for cold weather, we clearly forgot what 32°F felt like. Fortunately, there was no shortage of mulled wine to help us warm up!
We took the scenic route to the next market and marveled at the city’s architecture along the way. Considering that Dresden was bombed and mostly destroyed during World War II, it is remarkably breathtaking just over 50 years later. Steeples and domes line the horizon leaving you to wonder which attraction is which when looking at the tourist guide map.
More mulled wine was necessary after that frigid jaunt, and the Dresden Strietzelmarkt was next on our list. This market was first held in 1434; it is quite large and full of tradition. My shopping bug froze off, but I did really want to snuggle into this sheepskin santa sack.
A mulled wine stall with a space heater deterred me from that impulse purchase. After a few refills, we were toasty enough to check out the stalls, carousal, tree and ferris wheel as they lit up against the darkening sky.
A much needed nap followed, and we woke up slightly refreshed and ready for dinner at Advent Spectacular in the Stallhof. The market was illuminated by candles and gas lamps, and it’s atmosphere was truly unique. Walking around, we analyzed our dinner options just as quarter-sized snow flakes started to fall. Freshly baked dough stuffed with ham, cheese, and caramelized onions with hand cut chips and mulled wine with rum made for one of the best dinners I’ve ever had.Christmas carols played by a brass band filled the air- it felt like a scene from a snow globe! If that weren’t entertaining enough, we came across a stall complete with two old fashioned hot tubs where some Germans were having a blast spraying passers by with hot water. Later, three hard rock-looking guys took the stage with their bagpipes and everyone in the market crowded around for some amazing Christmas music.
We passed by a champagne lounge earlier and decided to check it out since mulled wine was only defrosting us so much. It was pretty swanky and offered a beautiful view of the platz below. A few fancy cocktails later, we bundled back up and headed to the hotel.
We started off Saturday with a breakfast of champions as we watched the Stollen Festival procession. This parade features an enormous baked stollen (Christmas bread). It is so big that as it passed by, Mark was yelling for me to get a picture and I said, “Of what!?” as it passed by a foot in front of me. We couldn’t believe how much more crowded it was- it seemed as though hordes of people had come in overnight! The stollen could have maybe fed the market goers on Friday, but wouldn’t have made a dent in Saturday’s crowd.
On a sugar high, we walked across the river to check out the Augustus market and have some lunch.
Last but not least, we visited the Christmas market on Prager Strasse. The lights are spectacular at night, and we couldn’t go home without one more visit to the Strietzelmarkt to see it properly lit up.
Despite the frigid weather, we spent nearly two entire days outside in awe of the spectacular markets. The traditional food, stalls and festivities were an unforgettable cultural experience. See ya later cyber Monday, hello Stollen Festival Saturday!