With Oktoberfest now a distant memory, Germany’s flavour of the month again as the Christmas market season gets into full swing. Boasting sixteen markets, Hamburg’s festive cheer is guaranteed to warm the cockles long after the haze of the office Christmas party. If you still have a few days leave left before the New Year, grab a gluhwein and delve into Germany’s most diverse festive markets on a mini break to Hamburg.
With so much to fit in, head first to the bright lights of the town hall, the city’s most distinctive landmark, where you’ll find the largest congregation of stalls. To keep energy levels up, indulge in some sweet and spicy gingerbread biscuits from the bakeries of Aachen and Nuremberg before bracing the stalls. Brimming with artisans, must-have items include hand-crafted silver jewellery and colourful ceramics all the way from Lausitz. If you’re looking for gifts for little people, head to Spielzeuggasse – a whole street dedicated to quality hand-crafted toys guaranteed to make My Friend Cayla green with envy.
Meanwhile toys of a different type can be found in the St Pauli district. Formerly the saucy part of town, St Pauli’s cleaning up its act with a wave of swish bars, restaurants and theatres sweeping out the old sailors haunts. The market here is open till 1.00am on weekends and amongst the glass baubles, you’ll uncover a few surprising gift ideas that would raise a blush if they found their way into the Secret Santa sack.
To cool down after the racy delights of the market, enjoy a refreshing Astra beer while taking in some live music in the main square in the very district where The Beatles first found fame.
From red lights to pink doors, Winter Pride, located on the corner of Kirchenallee offers an equally alternative market scene with music, entertainment and flamboyant stalls loaded with eye-catching art works and jewellery. Of particular note here is the Schrottwichtein or Rubbish Secret Santa where dubious offerings from colleagues can finally be discreetly offloaded and exchanged.
Other markets of note include Fleetinsel nestled in a renovated square a stone’s throw from the town hall. This one’s perfect for those looking for somewhere quieter to browse with mouth-watering food and quality crafts. For a touch of class, head to the elegant white pagoda tents of Jungfernstieg on the banks of the Alster lake, where you’ll find an exclusive range of gifts at a price for those impossible-to-buy-for family members.
After exhausting the markets, no trip to Hamburg would be complete without a trip on board the St George steamer. As you chug round the Alster with a warming glass of obligatory gluhwein in hand you can finally leave the crowds behind, relax, unwind and drink in the dazzling lights shimmering on the lake.
Offering one of Europe’s largest and most diverse range of markets, a mini break to Hamburg will indulge every seasonal whim, creating memories that are guaranteed to last a whole lot longer than the office Christmas party.
The Hamburg Christmas markets run from 24th November until 31 December 2014. (Closing dates for each market vary, check website for details).
What’s your favourite Christmas market?