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Germany's Christmas Market Season About to BeginNovember 16, 2011
Verena Wolff, DPA, November 16, 2011
Christmas markets are common all over Germany and each region has its own specialities for visitors to savour as they browse for gifts.
In Nuremberg, home of the famous Christkindelmarkt, the favoured snack consists of short bratwursts in a bread bun, in Hamburg it's sugar-coated Schmalzkuchen and in Dresden it's Stollen, a type of German fruitcake.
The biggest Christmas markets attract thousands of people in the four-week run-up to Christmas and the northern city of Lubeck is one of those markets.
During the holiday season its medieval centre of narrow streets are packed with mulled wine and Christmas tree decoration stalls. The Christmas market season begins in Lubeck this year on 21 November and continues until 30 December.
The northern city of Munster has a handful of markets that are all within walking distance of each other. For Christmas atmosphere the best one to visit is the Giebelhuuskes market in front of the city's Uberwasser church. Aegidii and the Weihnachtsdorf markets are great for trying delicious food.
In Cologne there are usually about 150 seasonally decorated wooden huts surrounding the city's famous cathedral. Many of the stalls sell regional organic specialities. The products on sale are of an especially high quality and there are lots of things to buy as presents or to decorate your home with.
Perhaps Germany's most traditional Christmas market is the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg. "On the Friday before the first Advent the market is officially opened by the Christ child," says Thomas Meiler from the city's tourist information office.
Every year about 400 traders apply to sell their wares but only about half are chosen.
The market's rules are very strict: only traders selling Christmas-related items are allowed to decorate their stalls.
This year the market opens on 25 November and runs until 24 December. It can look back on over 400 years of history and yet it is not Germany's oldest Christmas market.
That title goes to Dresden's Striezel market which dates back to 1434.
It's named after a local speciality: the Dresden Christ Stollen cake, which is called Striezel in old German. The market opens for the 577th time on 24 November and closes on 24 December. It's famous for its Stollen and for locally produced handmade toys and Christmas gifts.
An especially romantic Christmas market can be found in the Bavarian town of Regensburg in the grounds of the Thurn and Taxis castle.
"It's a traditional market where handmade goods are sold. You can try Bavarian food and there's plenty for the kids to do," says Olivia Hernandez, spokeswoman for the city's tourist office. Regensburg's market opens on 27 November and closes on 23 December.
Regensburg is an old city and there are several other Christmas markets dotted around its narrow streets.
Beside the 500-year-old Neupfarr church and in front of the former city police headquarters can be found row upon row of huts and stalls selling colourful Christmas decorations, cribs and wooden figures.
To get to the Kohlen and Haidplatz markets you will need to navigate your way along narrow alleyways and through hidden passageways and courtyards.
Germany's capital city, Berlin, has a very broad range of Christmas markets. The markets on the central shopping boulevard of the Kudamm, at Gendarmen Platz, the Rathaus and in front of Charlottenburg Palace are four of the biggest.
Meanwhile, in the near-by city of Potsdam the atmosphere is distinctly more traditional: every year Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas) pays a visit to the market in the city's old Dutch quarter.
Sinterklaas will arrive this year riding upon a horse on 10 and 11 December.