Christkindlmarket Chicago

Going to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago was definitely an enjoyable experience. This is the second Christmas market that we have attended here in the States and, although there are some differences compared to those that we experienced in Germany, they have both been very authentic. It was extremely cold during our visit to Chicago with wind chill temperatures well below zero, so having a warm glass of Gluhwein was a definite must. We visited the market on Saturday, two days before Christmas, and to say that it was crowded would be an understatement. It seemed that half of the city had shown up to squeeze their way through the maze of stalls.

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Making Our Way Through the Crowds
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Plenty of Food and Gluhwein
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People Everywhere

There was a wide variety of food available, including traditional German favorites such as Currywurst and Bratwurst, but there were options to fit any desire from sweet to savory. There was a pancake house, candy stalls, roasted nuts, cotton candy, ginger bread, hot chocolate, and hot cider. And for those that craved something different that Gluhwein, there was authentic German beer and Riesling wine. For those that wanted to get out of the cold, there was a beer tent with benches and heat lamps for people to relax while they enjoyed a festive drink. There is definitely no excuse for leaving the market thirsty or hungry.

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Stuffed Pretzels
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Pancake House
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Varieties of Sausage

Obviously, beyond the food, there were stalls selling a variety of goods. Some of them were authentic German items, but there were items from around the world. We even saw a stall selling hats and scarves from Ecuador. The most popular stalls were those that sold Christmas ornaments and decorations. One of the more unique stalls that we came across was one which celebrated Krampus, who is supposed to punish children that have misbehaved.

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Krampus Stall
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Ornaments and Decorations from Bethlehem
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Traditional Christmas Items

It goes to show that you don’t have to fly over to Europe to find a good Christmas Market. Next holiday season, check out the cities near where you live to see if there is one in your area. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit the Christmas markets of Europe, they are truly magical.

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Beer Tent
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Entrance to the Market

 

 

Christmas Markets in Europe

We were told by many people about how wonderful the Christmas markets in Germany and other places would be and they were certainly right. Whether in our home town at the time, Frankfurt, or some of the places we visited during the holiday season like Prague, Vienna, Strasbourg, Cologne, and others, we were fortunate to go to several different Christmas markets. We had made the assumption that each city would have one central market that everyone would visit, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Each city has several different markets, usually one near the main cathedral, but then there are a half dozen or so more markets at different popular areas as well.

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Christmas Market in Frankfurt
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Market in Prague, Czech Republic
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Festive Stall in Strasbourg, France

In today’s world, unfortunately, any event that brings a large number of people together also means that it becomes a target for those who wish to harm people. That means that a common sight at most of the markets that we visited were armed police and plenty of barricades. Fortunately, that doesn’t stop most people from going out and having a good time, shopping, drinking, and eating at the various stalls in the markets. The Christmas markets are truly wonderful and it would be a shame if people didn’t bring their families out to enjoy them. For children, the markets can be a wonderland with all of the decorations, candy, music, and general merriment. They are a playground for adults as well with the gluhwein, sausages, and gift stalls for shopping.

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Stuffed Animals in Hochheim, Germany
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The Second of Four Christmas Markets in Vienna
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A Little of Everything in Cologne

You might ask us what our favorite Christmas market was, but we couldn’t choose a favorite as they were all great in their own ways. Perhaps one of the most unique might have been the one in Vienna, Austria, where they turned the sidewalks into skating rinks. Although the market at the harbor in Cologne was also pretty interesting with its nautical theme. Of course Frankfurt has a special place in our heart since it was our home for a time.

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Nautical Market in Cologne
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Skating at the Market in Vienna, Austria
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Gluhwein in Frankfurt

Obviously there were plenty of beautiful Christmas trees at each of the markets and they are beautiful both during the day when you can see the ornaments as well as at night when the lights shine brightly. One of the biggest trees that we might have seen was actually in Brasov, Romania, which we visited just shortly after Christmas and the markets had just completed. There is nothing like a beautiful Christmas tree to get you in the mood for the holidays.

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Christmas Tree in Brasov, Romania
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Christmas Tree in the Old Town Square of Prague
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Christmas Tree Frankfurt, Germany

So, the advice that we would give to anyone traveling in Europe during the holiday season is to get out and enjoy the Christmas markets wherever you can. We have even gone to a wonderful Christmas market here in Denver, Colorado, and intend to visit one in Chicago over this holiday as we visit our youngest daughter. Our very first Christmas market was in Stratford-Upon-Avon in England, but the tented stalls were nothing in comparison to the wooden stalls with their ornate decorations that we saw in Germany. If you do go, have a gluhwein for us, but be careful, sometimes they add rum to them and the alcohol can sneak up on you.

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Christmas Market in Stratford-Upon-Avon
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Christmas Ornaments in Denver, Colorado
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Christmas Market in Würzburg, Germany

Christmas Markets and Traveling in Germany

Christmas Market in Cologne
Christmas Market in Cologne

We had heard a lot about how wonderful the Christmas markets would be before we ever left the United States to spend some time here in Germany. Even though the markets are just now being put together in Frankfurt and will be opening this Wednesday, we have already been to several Christmas markets as we have travelled the past couple of weeks. Obviously we will share posts on all of the food, wine, Glühwein, and various souvenirs, but we thought that we would share some things that we have observed that we were not told about and were not prepared for.

  1. The markets seem to be around all of the major attractions in the various cities and towns. While this can be awfully convenient in some respects, it does detract from the ability to truly absorb the sight that you are trying to see and photograph. Having all of the stalls in front of a cathedral or palace doesn’t make for ideal picture taking and sometimes one of the giant Christmas trees blocks the view completely. Add to it the extra crowds that come to the market on top of those visiting the attraction and it can feel quite claustrophobic.

    Market outside of the Dom in Cologne
    Market outside of the Dom in Cologne
  2. There can be multiple Christmas markets all going on at the same time in various parts of the city. It probably isn’t true of some of the smaller villages, but in the larger cities there can be many different Christmas markets. At this point, we have seen up to eight markets in one city, Köln (Cologne) and are not sure how many we will have in Frankfurt, but we have walked past two getting set up just in the old town area. In theory, it should keep down the crowds because they have multiple to choose from, but as far as we can tell, people go from one market to the next, so it doesn’t keep down the number of people you have to traverse through.

    Setting up the Market in Old Town, Frankfurt
    Setting up the Market in Old Town, Frankfurt
  3. The items sold are not often unique, hand-made, items, but tend to be the same items sold at each of the various markets. Obviously the markets are commercial, so it isn’t too surprising, but if you are hoping to find that perfect gift that can’t be found anyplace else, you will have to do some searching. It isn’t that there aren’t some truly special items that you can’t find anyplace else, but you will just have to take some time to figure out what is from a local artist and what is mass-produced.

    Market outside Cathedral in Vienna
    Market outside Cathedral in Vienna
  4. Not all Glühwein is the same. You have to be careful, some places will add rum or other liquor to the delicious, warming treat, making it even more likely to take you to a happy place. Often you can ask to have something added, but other times it is just added for you. Be careful, it can sneak up on you if you have a couple of glasses, but it will definitely put you in the holiday spirit.

    Glühwein Mugs
    Glühwein Mugs
  5. People don’t pay any attention to where they are walking. We see the same effect in airports and train stations, where people walk without looking where they are going, but they are especially bad in the markets. Perhaps it is all of the shiny lights making them look anywhere but in front of them, so don’t be surprised to have several people walk right into you as you make your way through the crowds. Don’t get us started about the parents with strollers who fall into this category, it is as though they use their children as battering rams to move through the crowds.

    View from inside Alten Limpurg
    View from inside Alten Limpurg

As we mentioned, we have already enjoyed some wonderful markets and are definitely looking forward to ones that are about to start here in Frankfurt. We will likely avoid them on the weekends, when the crowds will be even worse, and we wouldn’t be surprised if by the time Christmas actually gets here, we are a little tired of having to walk through the markets to get to some of the places we like to go. Unfortunately, the market in the town square is directly outside of our favorite watering hole, Alten Limpurg, and you can no longer even see the fountain and buildings from within restaurant.