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For the past month, people across Germany (along with a fine few tourists) have been gathering in chilly town squares across the country to connect with friends, enjoy a mug of glüwein or a hearty traditional dish, and celebrate the holidays. This is Christmas market season. And while the social atmosphere they provide is undoubtably the major draw for tens of millions of visitors each December, Christmas markets also serve a very practical function: they’re markets.

Whether you’re in a small town market with tens of stalls, or an urban hub with hundreds, Christmas market vendors sell anything you could possibly need to kickstart the holidays – from glittery gifts and ornaments, to the very broom you’ll use to both tidy up before your family Christmas, and to shoe your least appealing relative out the door after they’ve overstayed their Christmas welcome.

After spending a week visiting some of Germany’s iconic Christmas markets, we wanted to highlight a few of our favorite German Christmas market gifts and gift ideas.

German Christmas Market Gifts 24

Christmas Ornaments

Most German’s don’t decorate and reveal their Christmas tree until the 24th of December so ornaments are a big seller across the country’s Christmas markets. In each and every market you will find rows of stalls offering up different types of Christmas tree flair, with the most popular and unique being the hand-carved and individually painted wood ornaments from Eastern Germany.


German Christmas Market Gifts 10

Retro Toys

Toys these days are elaborate and complicated. Traditional toys and games found across Germany’s Christmas markets can provide a refreshing break – allowing kids to just be kids and adults to linger in nostalgia as they sip their glühwein.


German Christmas Market Bowtie

Hipster Fashion Accessories

While many of the booths across Germany’s Christmas markets sell similar items from city to city, you can always find a few vendors that offer up some really unique gifts. These bowties from the Wiesbaden Sternschnuppenmarkt were a big hit with fashion forward market-goers and interesting wooden iPhone cases from Frankfurt’s Christmas Market provided an opportunity for market visitors individualize their gadgets.


German Christmas Market Gifts Candy

Candy and Chocolate

If Christmas markets are any indications, German’s love their sweets. Dozens of stalls at each market are dedicated to treats in all forms: chocolate dipped fruits and marshmallows; Nutella crepes; every type of gummy imaginable, and lozenges made from natural ingredients to soothe winter’s sore throats. This stall at the Darmstadt Christmas Market was a personal favourite with the traditional jars and throwback candy tins.


German Christmas Market Gifts Schnapps

Alcohol

While abundant exist at every market to enjoy a drink (another glüwein please!), most provide little you can bring home with you. Most Christmas markets offer a selection of alcohol-related gifts, however, that are not only beautifully packaged but delicious too. Some of the highlights we encountered included an absinthe booth at Cologne’s medieval Christmas market, mead and a number of honey based liquors in Mainz, and at the above pictured stall in Düsseldorf, a seemingly endless selection of schnapps.


Christmas Market Gifts Honey

Everything made of Honey

Honey is a big draw at German Christmas markets, with every market we visited featuring an extensive range of honey-related goods. From honey soaps, figurines, liquors, food spreads, health products, tree ornaments, and beeswax candles in every iconic shape imaginable, Christmas markets are the best spot to load up on honey.


German Christmas Market Gifts 14

Christmas Cards

The Christmas cards at German Christmas markets are truly unique, as opposed to the generic versions we send to our grandmother every year. We encountered cards carved from wood, ones that were hand-illustrated, and a number of 3D pop-up cards like the one shown above featuring intricate structures like ships, Christmas trees, and a miniature version of the Kölner Dom. To personalize your cards even further, choose one of 1,000+ unique stamps from the Stuttgart Christmas Market.


German Christmas Market Gifts 8

Handmade Crafts

Shopping at Christmas markets in Germany can provide a nice change from what you’d find in other tourist-dominated cities as many of the items for sale are one of a kind pieces. Intricate German-style ceramic model houses, linens and doilies, quirky incense burners, bird houses, and wonderful piggybanks like the ones above from Darmstadt line the stalls at Germany’s many Christmas markets.

German Christmas Market Gifts 26


German Christmas Market Gifts Brushes

Kitchen Stuff

Christmas may feel more like a time when you want to buy lavish and extravagant items, but one recurring theme we encountered across Germany’s Christmas markets was a very local love for kitchen and cleaning-related items (one we didn’t particularly share). Like the stall above in Stuttgart, many Germans load up on handmade brushes. Brushes for shoes. Brushes for bathing. Brushes for hair. Brushes for brushes. We even overheard one particularly enthusiastic shopper talk about her love of handmade brooms. In addition to brushes and brooms, many stalls also sell a broader range of kitchen items like pots, pans, and wooden utensils.


German Christmas Market Gifts Cookies

Christmas Cookies

While you’ll find the heartshaped Lebkuchen everywhere, a type of gingerbread with writing on it that’s typical at Bavarian festivals such as Oktoberfest, each region in Germany seems to have their own version of the Christmas cookie. Printen, zimtsterne, and vanillekipferl are all regional specialties to indulge in when walking from stall to stall. The above photo are springerle cookies from Stuttgart, made only during the Christmas season of egg, flour, anise, and powdered sugar and embossed with ornately festive designs.


Christmas Market Gifts Photography courtesy of Departful, JP Bervoets.