There's nowhere better than the Frankfurt Christmas Market to get into the holiday spirit. One of the oldest and most popular festive markets in Europe, this German spectacle should go straight to the top of your travel bucket list!
The sprawling scene that takes over Frankfurt's Römerberg, Paulsplatz and Mainkai each year has become so iconic that Christmas markets throughout Europe now use it as their model. (One of the most notable imitations is Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market - the UK city is twinned with the German metropolis and enjoys a wealth of authentic festive delights.) The storybook scene is, as the saying goes, "often imitated, never replicated," so plan your trip to the Frankfurt original to see what all the fuss is about.
Germany's most iconic Christmas market
It's no wonder the Frankfurt Christmas Market is brimming with old world charm - this festival has been held in the heart of the Altstadt for more than 600 years. 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.
Carol of the bells
Frankfurt's famous Pealing of the Bells takes place four times each year, and two of these half hour performances are perfectly timed for visitors during the festive season. This year, the bells of Frankfurt's downtown churches will ring out in harmony for half an hour on 30 November - the day before the first Sunday of Advent - and on 24 December - Christmas Eve. Time your visit to the Christmas Market to coincide with this symphonic soundtrack - and keep your fingers crossed for snowflakes!
Be sure to visit the market after dark, when thousands of fairy lights cast an atmospheric glow over the square. Late afternoon sees a lull between the day and evening crowds - this is the most magical time for grown-ups to ride the nostalgic merry-go-round and take in the towering 30 meter high Christmas tree. Bring a good camera to capture twinkle-lit close ups of traditional decorations and wide panoramas of the whole market.
Taste the season
Germany may not have the most universally beloved national cuisine, but whether you're a liverwurst lover or a sauerbraten skeptic, it's hard to find fault with the country's Christmas treats. Stock up on Stollen, Lebkuchen and Springerle to bring home, and sample Frankfurt specialty Bethmännchen, a marzipan pastry that pairs perfectly with warm local Apfelwein. Traditional Glühwein is also in plentiful supply - make sure to top up your glass before returning to the comfort of our Radisson Blu Hotel, Frankfurt.