Vine adventures: the Christmas markets of Hamburg

Hamburg at night ©Kaare Bak/Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet Pathfinder, Abigail King of Inside the Travel Lab recently took a trip to Germany to tour the Christmas markets and get in the festive spirit. Here she shares some of her favourite Vines.

‘Hamburg’s twinkling December lights and wooden chalets mask an interesting fact: their Christmas markets only arrived here 30 or so years ago.

While Bavaria celebrated with markets for centuries, a largely Protestant influence kept Christmas fairly quiet around Germany’s largest port. Not anymore. Today, Hamburg hosts as many as 17 Christmas markets each year, each one complete with handcrafted wooden toys and cinnamon-scented wine. A giant Christmas tree floats in the Alster lake, which the locals call their ‘living room’, and even the red light district of Reeperbahn hangs up its stockings with festive cheer.’

‘I found this colossal Christmas bauble hanging from the ceiling in the Hauptbahnhof (central station). Hamburg thrives on its reputation as an international transport and trading hub, even earning UNESCO World Heritage site status for its 20th century warehouses. And, yes, people from Hamburg are called Hamburgers. And, no, they don’t find it funny…’

‘Hamburg’s oldest Christmas market sprinkles mistletoe and carol singers beneath the ornate Rathaus (town hall) while Father Christmas can be seen zip lining overhead. Chalets sell glühwein: piping hot red wine flavoured with cinnamon, star anise, citrus and sugar. You can keep the mug afterwards as a unique souvenir, which is decorated with Hamburg’s annual Christmas theme.’

‘Forget synthetic Santas; Hamburg’s markets embrace the more tasteful side of Christmas. I found hand-carved angels and glinting candle holders that span in the heat of the flame. And when the weather turned hostile, the Mutterland Delicatessen offered chocolate herrings, organic cheese and slow food from the comfort of being indoors.’

‘Once upon a time, Lebkuchen in Germany was a ‘Christmas only’ treat. Now you can find it all year round. Often described as gingerbread, Lebkuchen has a softer, spongier texture with a lighter taste of ginger too. Watch out, though. Those sweetly-iced words sometimes spell out something quite saucy.’

Do you have some Vine adventures of your own? Tag your posts with #lonelyplanet for the chance of a revine from our official feed, @lonelyplanet. For more information about our Pathfinders programme visit

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