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Packing List for Germany: Spring Edition

Packing List for Germany: Spring Edition

Different cities have different styles, but if you’re looking for what to wear in Germany, this post will get you started so you’re prepared for our variable spring weather, and don’t immediately stand out as a tourist.

Spring is a tough season to pack for when you’re heading on a multi-city trip through Germany. I find it hard to dress for and I live here! Go for layering and be realistic about your planned activities. Above all, be ready to walk

This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on one, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Don’t wear yoga pants

Gym clothes are for the gym – you won’t find people wearing yoga trousers unless they have literally just finished a class, and even then, they will change before going out on the street. This goes triply so for sweatpants. Try a relaxed pair of flowy trousers or more structured yet stretchy ponte if you’re looking for comfort. A dark pair of slim or skinny jeans, a nice top and a cardigan, with a scarf thrown over the top, will do well in any German city. I have joked with my husband there is a German Dad uniform on the weekends: chinos in a dark colour, t-shirt or collared shirt, and a v-neck jumper on top. Seriously, I saw every single dad dressed like this in a Frankfurt museum the other day. 

Outerwear

Spring is a changeable season everywhere, and if you’re planning on visiting Berlin or Munich, be ready for wind. A good trench coat, ideally with a water resistant or waterproof coating, will be your best friend, and it works well layered with a sweater or cardigan. It looks equally nice on top of jeans as a nice dress when you’re heading out for dinner. This is where I find more technical rain coats fall down – you want to go to a nice restaurant, but Gortex just doesn’t fit the bill. Unless you’re planning a serious hiking holiday (in which case you’ll need other clothes anyway), bring a trench or another nice wind and rain resistant jacket. 

Universal Standard Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Guess Trench Coat
Guess Trench Coat
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Guess Trench Coat
Guess Trench Coat
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Guess Trench Coat
Guess Trench Coat
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench

Scarves

A few good scarfs, from silk to lightweight knit, will fill in the gaps when the weathers takes you by surprise. They take up practically no space in your luggage (I like to shove mine into my shoes) and it makes any outfit that bit more sophisticated. Wear it in your hair, pull it around your shoulders when you’re on an open-top bus tour, tie it to your bag for a pop of colour, sleep under it on a long train journey – I love a good scarf or three when traveling. You will see everyone in Germany wearing scarves in all weathers – men and women.

Wrap scarf
Wrap scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Wrap scarf
Wrap scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Wrap scarf
Wrap scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Mulberry silk scarf

Shoes

You will be walking everywhere, so bring sensible shoes, everyone says. Yes well, sensible doesn’t have to mean ginormous gym shoes. You’re in luck, because The Thing over here for several seasons has been crisp white trainers with anything. I personally love my Italian Supergra hightops, but any low-profile white trainer will do the trick. The second most ubiquitous shoe choice are sleek ankle boots, and these are also easy to find in seriously comfortable options. I love my Blundstones, and wear them everywhere… they are fully waterproof, slip on easily, and with a little polish look good as new no matter what I throw at them. 

Blundstones heeled
Blundstones Chelsea boot fancy
Blundstones Chelsea boot
Supergra hightop trainer
Supergra low-rise trainer
Blundstones heeled
Blundstones Chelsea boot fancy
Blundstones Chelsea boot
Supergra hightop trainer
Supergra low-rise trainer
Blundstones heeled
Blundstones Chelsea boot fancy
Blundstones Chelsea boot
Supergra hightop trainer
Supergra low-rise trainer
Tübingen
The picturesque riverside in Tübingen

Dresses

I am a dress and cardigan woman through and through, but I truly believe it’s one of the easiest travel outfits ever. Even in spring. From March to June, spring in Europe can be variable, so be pack for cooler temperatures and a few warm days too. Bring several pairs of leggings to wear underneath and you’ll be fine. I personally prefer leggings to tights for daytime wear, as I find them more breathable and forgiving over a long day. I just tuck a pair of black socks on under black leggings, and with ankle boots, honestly no one notices. A good midi dress with a cardigan, leggings, ankle boots, trench coat, and scarf can take you pretty much anywhere looking put together and feeling super comfortable. It turns hot in the afternoon? Whip off those leggings or the cardigan. The wind picks up? Do up your cardigan and coat, wrap the scarf around your shoulders for an extra layer. 

Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Bomber Jacket
Bomber Jacket
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Tshirt dress
Tshirt dress
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Bomber Jacket
Bomber Jacket
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Tshirt dress
Tshirt dress
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Bomber Jacket
Bomber Jacket
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Tshirt dress
Tshirt dress

Bags

I am not a fan of daypacks. I know they are practical, but they look huge, and when you’re going in and out of museums, squeezing onto busy public transport, and walking down small streets, they are a pain to you and to everyone else around you. Stick with a practical crossbody bag or messenger bag. It’s easier to keep it in eyesight in case of pick-pockets, and easier to access. Honestly, a small water bottle you can refill, your camera, your phone, your wallet, tissues, a snack bar, a lipstick, keys, plasters – there’s not much else you need for a day out. Take advantage of my search for stylish camera bags right here.

Shoulder camera bag
Vintage looking camera bag
Johansen Siena Camera Bag
Cambridge Satchel Company Traveller Bag
Jo Totes Camera backpack
Shoulder camera bag
Vintage looking camera bag
Johansen Siena Camera Bag
Cambridge Satchel Company Traveller Bag
Jo Totes Camera backpack
Shoulder camera bag
Vintage looking camera bag
Johansen Siena Camera Bag
Cambridge Satchel Company Traveller Bag
Jo Totes Camera backpack

One-week Spring Germany packing list

  • One shirtdress
  • One super easy jersey dress
  • One sweater dress
  • One midi skirt
  • One pair of stretchy skinny jeans
  • Two cardigans
  • One turtleneck sweater
  • Two t-shirts (I like H&M for these basics)
  • Two pairs of leggings
  • Trench coat
  • Three scarves
  • Two pairs of earrings
  • Two necklaces
  • Cotton underwear
  • Bras
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera bag/cross-body bag
  • One pair ankle boots
  • One pair trainers

Cosmetics and toiletries

I keep my cosmetics pretty streamlined in general, so when I travel there’s nothing really different than my usual routine. I do often opt for make-up remover wipes, and throw a bunch of cotton pads in a zip-top bag with my favourite exfoliator squirted all over them. But that’s it! It’s worth noting that in Germany, most women go for a fresh-faced look with minimal eye makeup and neutral lip colour.

  • Make up (foundation, concealer, mascara, eyeliner, brow pencil)
  • Make-up remover wipes like these
  • Ziptop bag with cotton pads soaked in Pixi Glow Tonic
  • Medicines

Charging infrastructure

This is our family name for all the cables, chargers, and whatnot required to keep everything plugged in and charged while we’re away. Mine is a bit different as I have to bring my CPAP machine with me when I travel, so I bring a surge-protected power bar with built-in USB ports for plugging in my devices. But my husband brings just a plug-in USB charging block, that has the brightest light on it ever, so it functions as a nightlight as well. We’re also adding a couple of universal plug adapters to our infrastructure as well.

Multi-port plug adaptorMulti-port USB plug in blockSurge protected power bar

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Heading to Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, or Cologne? I've got you covered with a practical packing list for spring time in Germany.

This post was originally published in January 2019, updated in March 2021

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Can’t travel? Visit a new country with Atlas Crates

Can’t travel? Visit a new country with Atlas Crates

I don’t normally dedicate an entire post to any kind of product, but I’m making an exception for Atlas Crates and KiwiCo because it has saved my sanity over the past year in and out of lockdowns. The links in this post are affiliate links, but other than that I have received no compensation to write this post.

Here’s a bit more about what KiwiCo does, if you’ve never seen their crates

My son is now 11 and a half, and we have been subscribing to Kiwi Crates since he was about five. KiwiCo is a company that creates subscription boxes with projects for kids (and now adults) for learning and creating. I love these boxes because everything you need to do the project is in the box (except scissors). Glue, paint, sticky things, paper clips, bits of metal, pieces of lightweight balsa wood – it’s all in there. The instructions are clear and written for kids to follow, and they provide videos on their website if that’s easier. From about eight years old my son could follow the directions on his own. My son has never been a sit and do crafts kind of child, he’s not even been all that into building LEGO for hours or anything – but he will sit and work on a project from KiwiCo for a good 90 minutes. The crates come in different age ranges, and even different subject areas – from a slime volcano to sewing a plushie, there’s something for every kid.

Atlas Crate Explore Italy Geography Kit

New Atlas Crates

When KiwiCo launched their new Atlas Crates last year, I was really interested to try them because we travel so much, but everything had shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. The Atlas Crate is pitched for ages 6-11, and the aim is to learn more about and appreciate other cultures. So far we’ve made the projects in the Japan, Colombia, France, Greece, France and Madagascar crates. There is a project or two inside the box, as well as a booklet talking about the traditions, food (with recipes!), and geography of the country you’re learning about. Sometimes we come across a photo from one of those countries, and my son will point out a detail, ‘Look, it’s like the thing I made from my Atlas Crate!’ – just what I want to hear. I just asked him which was his favourite, he said, ‘Sweden! It had a cool game in it’. The game is Kubb, where you throw wooden sticks and large wooden blocks, trying to knock them over.

Atlas Crate Explore Greece Geography Kit

Finally, a project I don’t have to organize

I hear you, we’ve been online schooling at home for months now and we’re missing the hands-on aspect of in-person school. We also subscribe to Tinker Crates, aimed at ages 9-16. These are engineering/STEM projects where kids build something like a crane, a spirograph, or a model trebuchet from parts so they see how it works. What I really like about these projects is they are ambitious and impressive. It’s not a dinky little catapult, it’s a working trebuchet. It’s not a wobbly spirograph, but a motorized paint splatter art maker you’ve built from the circuit board up. My son is thrilled when he’s finished one of these, and really proud he’s made it work. The only downside of these projects is the storage space afterwards – after a year or two of these crates every month, we really have to prioritise which we keep and which we recycle.

My son reading about the continents, from his first Atlas Crate

Support for parents with kids learning at home

KiwiCo has stepped up their online resources for parents trying to help their kids learn at home during lockdowns. Check out this part of their site for free project plans, craft ideas, kitchen experiments, and more. From ‘how to draw a dinosaur’ to ‘the science of handwashing’, this is a bit of a lifesaver when your well of things to do has run dry.

Where does KiwiCo ship to?

KiwiCo is an American company, but we have received our crates in Canada and Germany, and they ship to most of Europe, Hong Kong, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. We have not had to pay duty or any import fees on our crates in Canada or Germany. You can check the full list of places they ship to here.

Atlas Crate Explore Australia Geography Kit

At a loss for a gift? Give a single crate or a subscription

I promise you, any parent would be glad to receive a box like this for their child – it’s an educational yet entertaining activity that they didn’t have to plan. You can check out their store for specific projects, and their matcher-upper will help you narrow down the right project for the right age group. You can supplement any crate with a book to go with it as well, which I think is great for a gift. We have also had crate subscriptions kindly gifted to us by family, which has been such a boon over this very long year spent at home. My son loves sharing his recent projects with family over FaceTime.

Just a reminder, the links in this post are affiliate links, but I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post. We have been using KiwiCo crates for years and years, and I recommend them to everyone I know.

First Month Free! Receive first month free with a 6 or 12-month subscription purchase from KiwiCo.

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Visit Castle Lichtenstein (Schloss Lichtenstein), the fairy tale castle of Baden-Württemberg

Visit Castle Lichtenstein (Schloss Lichtenstein), the fairy tale castle of Baden-Württemberg

If you are as obsessed with castles as I am, chances are you’ve seen photos of Schloss (Castle) Lichtenstein perched on a clifftop in Baden-Württemberg (NOT in the small principality of Liechstenstein). This little jewel of a castle is definitely worth visiting on your trip to southern Germany.

Please note: Schloss Lichtenstein is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please do save this post for your future planning!

This is an old castle, right?

Actually, no. This is a new build from 1840, but the old castle ruins are about 500m away. The old castle was built around 1100, the property of the local count, who had a long-running unfriendliness with the nearby free city of Reutlingen. Skirmishes and all-out battles destroyed the old castle twice, despite its impressive location on the cliffs. Changes in the political landscape meant it was abandoned in the 16th century. The old castle saw a little action in the Thirty Years War that ravaged most of Baden-Württemberg in the first half of the 1600s, but by that time the last member of the Lichtenstein family had already died. In typical unsentimental fashion, King Frederick of Württemberg took apart the ruins and built a hunting lodge on top of it in 1802.

Ivy-covered building in the courtyard of Schloss Lichtenstein

Who built the Lichtenstein Castle?

Romanticism was in full swing in the 1800s, and a full-scale nostalgia for a largely imaginary medieval past full of knights and ladies had gripped the upper classes of Europe. German poet Wilhelm Hauff wrote a historical novel set in medieval Swabia (this region of Germany), and called it Lichtenstein. King Frederick’s cousin Count Wilhelm von Urach was so taken with the novel, he purchased the land in 1837 and built a castle on it, as he imagined it would have been in the 1500s. The castle is still owned by the descendants of Wilhelm von Urach.

While this castle is very picturesque, you may be a bit surprised when visiting as it really is not very big. The interiors, however, make up for its small size by being covered, on every surface, with a riot of colour, pattern, and ornament. I don’t have photographs of the interiors, as with most privately owned castles (!) you can’t take photos on the tour. Take a quick look at the gallery part of their website, however, to get a sense of the maximalism.

One of the most fascinating elements of the castle, for me, was the dining hall. It is connected to a room above and to the side by a large vent, covered with a decorative screen. For parties, the Count (later he became a Duke, as one does) would have his house musicians play in this adjoining room, and the music would float in to the dining hall.

Schloss Lichtenstein with dramatic weather.

Do I need to take a tour of Schloss (Castle) Lichtenstein?

Like most castles in Germany, a guided tour is required to see the inside of the building, and it is well worth your time. The tour is only half an hour, you can buy a ticket for a tour when you buy your castle courtyard entry ticket, though you don’t need to book a specific time but do ask when the next English-language tour starts when you buy your tickets. The groups for the castle tour meet on the bridge to the castle, so if you’d like a good photo from this vantage point, it’s best to catch the lull between tours. It’s worth noting here that there are stairs involved in the tour, so wear comfortable, sturdy shoes.

There aren’t many formal gardens around the castle, but the fortification wall offers some spectacular views down into the valley. There are some lovely meadows and hiking paths too. If you’re interested in the local hiking, there are maps to several local routes on the castle’s site here. The ruins of the old castle are very underwhelming, you might come upon them when wandering in the grounds. The stones have been thoroughly plundered for building the new castle!

Adventure park and cafe

Outside of the castle courtyard there is the adventure park, with a rope climbing course up in the trees. This is a popular type of activity in Germany, called a ‘Kletterwald’ or climbing forest. You get kitted out in a helmet and harness, and climb along ropes or narrow boards high in the trees. Children from eight years old can climb with an adult, and you can have up to two children climbing with you. This is adventure park is completely separate from the castle, but it’s literally next door, so they share a parking lot. To climb for three hours, it costs €23 per adult, and €17 per child, though there are family rates as well. You need to have a scarf to wrap your hair with under the helmet, and if you don’t have one they will sell you one for €3 each. Do check the rates and restrictions beforehand.  There’s also a little fast food café there too with tables outside, if you’re looking for something less formal than a sit down meal.  

Green meadow next to Schloss Lichtenstein.

When is the best time to go?

The Schloss Lichtenstein is open from March to December, 9am-5:30pm (April-October) and 10am-4pm (March, November, and December), though they close for Christmas each year from 24-26 December. It’s best to arrive as close as you can manage to the opening time for a less busy visit. The summer is of course a nice time to visit, but the autumn foliage in October is absolutely gorgeous.

How to get to Schloss Lichtenstein

There is no question that getting to Schloss Lichtenstein is easiest by car. However, it’s not impossible by public transport. The town of Lichtenstein is not, confusingly, the closest town to the castle. Buses leave hourly from Reutlingen, the nearest city, to Honau, the village in the valley below the castle. The hike up to the castle itself is fairly uphill and can take about half an hour. I have not done this walk myself so I can’t speak to the difficulty, but I have driven up the windy road and I would expect this hike would be too much if you’re travelling with kids and expecting to then explore the castle and grounds. There are organized tours to the castle, but as the grounds are currently closed, I can’t point you to any. Once this changes I will update this post!

You can reach Reutlingen easily by train, you can book a ticket here in English.

PS – Looking for more great day trip ideas from Stuttgart? I have more here!

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Pile Dwelling Open Air Museum on Lake Constance

Pile Dwelling Open Air Museum on Lake Constance

The day we visited the Pfahlbau Museum Bodensee, or Pile Dwelling Museum on Lake Constance, it was absolutely pouring. It was in the shoulder season, so there was only one tour that day, and we all crowded under the eaves of the information centre waiting for our guide, while getting pounded by the rain. It seemed a fitting kind of day to explore these examples of prehistoric pile dwellings found around the Alps. 

I love a good open-air museum

If you’ve ever watched those shows where people attempt to recreate life from another time period, you’ll remember how devastating heavy rain can be. If you’re wearing wool, it could be days before you’d dry out. Looking out at the houses on stilts over the lake, connected by slippery wood walkways, I could only imagine how long you’d have to stay inside, huddled together, waiting for storms to pass before you could do anything. Well, for us, even if not all of the tour group was appropriately dressed, we stamped out in the rain to investigate the villages regardless.

What is there to see at the Pile Dwelling Museum?

There are 20 buildings in all, arranged in small clusters. These buildings are, of course, recreations of structures from the Neolithic and Bronze Age (4000 – 850 BCE), based on extensive archeological evidence. But you might be surprised to learn that two of them are 100 years old themselves. In 1922, an open-air museum society built two pole dwellings, and they have been refurbished and repaired over the years, probably much like the originals were. Evidence of prehistoric pile dwellings like these have been found in lakes across this region, in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and France, and this museum, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It seems counter-intuitive, but these pile dwellings by their location have left much for archeologists to find. Bogs and marshy lakebeds are terrific preservers of wood – whole sections of floor, piles, roof pieces, and walls have all been found, even pieces of furniture. 

But why did they build their houses on poles?

The lakes near mountains, while incredibly rich in flora and fauna (ie food), and water to drink, are also prone to major flooding when the spring comes. Lake Constance, for instance, can rise up to three meters in the spring, and very quickly. Presumably from experience, our ancestors figured out that having their houses up on stilts meant they wouldn’t be washed away each year. 

Visiting the Pile Dwelling village

In the off and shoulder seasons, there is one tour a day, and the guide takes you around the little village clusters, and brings you inside several of the buildings to look at the dioramas set up with realistic looking mannequins using period tools. The tour is in German, but you are provided with some documentation in English. In the spring and summer months, guides are waiting in the buildings to explain things, but you are free to wander about. Even at the end of our tour, we were left to explore the houses on land near the information centre on our own for awhile. The tour is quite leisurely, and we didn’t feel rushed at all.

My favourite part of a good open-air museum visit are the moments you can feel what it might be like to live there. To listen to the wooden joists groan and creak in the wind, the water slap at the poles underneath you, and wonder whether the house can stand up to the storm raging outside! But stepping out on a walkway afterwards, watching the clouds race away across the lake, that also must have been satisfying. Unlike most of the other open-air museums I’ve visited that focus on the middle ages and a bit later, this life is so far removed from our own, it’s quite fascinating to experience. There’s so much we don’t know about these people, and even what some of the artefacts the archeologists have found might have meant to them. I think the museum has made a good attempt to fitting it together, but as the guides will tell you, sometimes they’re just not sure. 

Visiting the Pile Dwelling Village with kids

While we went in shoulder season, it would be easier for non-German speakers to visit in the summer so you can take your time exploring with the English brochures the museum has available at the ticket counter. Kids are encouraged to explore, and like other open-air museums, it’s quite easy for them to grasp some of the history just by standing in the houses or walking along the walkways. If you have an under-6 who likes to run, this may be a bit of a challenge as the walkways do go over the lake quite a long way. If you’re doing the self-guided visit, you’ll be fine, but the tour takes an hour and that might be too long to stay focussed for the littlest among us. Definitely check their website for the details of their tours and opening times. 

Getting there

To get to the museum, you can walk from the Uhldingen-Mühlhofen station (Oberuhldingen), it takes about 25 minutes, or take a taxi from the station. There is a wharf right next to the museum, so your best bet is to take a ferry from Konstanz or another stop along the lake – you can see the ferry routes and timetables here. The stop for the Pile Dwelling Museum is Unteruhldingen, and it’s a pleasant walk through the park to the museum itself. You could always combine your trip to a visit to Mainau, the garden island, as well. Do check for combination tickets, someone at the ferry ticket desk can help with this. For shoulder and off-season visits, do check the schedule well ahead of time as the ferries don’t run as often or stop everywhere.

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Heidelberg Christmas Market: A Local’s Guide

Heidelberg Christmas Market: A Local’s Guide

WILL CHRISTMAS MARKETS HAPPEN IN 2020?
No, unfortunately nearly every Christmas market has been cancelled this year. Please do use this page to plan for your future visits!

Our Christmas market in Heidelberg fills every one of the squares in our Old Town, stretching along the decorated pedestrian main street culminating in an ice rink right below our glorious castle. It’s full of locals enjoying the season every year. We go to the market five or six times each year, as well as visiting other nearby markets too, at all times of day, and all days of the week. It’s one of my favourite places to buy gifts to send home to my family. If you’re the kind of person who collects special ornaments from your holidays, you will have so many to choose from it will make your head spin. 

Is the Christmas Market enjoyable if you’re not really a Christmas person? Definitely! This is much more of a wintery, festive thing than an overtly consumerist, flashy religion thing. The religious content is very minimal, and you’ll find everyone celebrating the cold weather and… well… Glühwein!

So pull on your warm socks and walking shoes, here’s your local’s guide to enjoying our lovely Christmas market here in Heidelberg.

Gift stalls in the Heidelberg Christmas Market in the Universitätplatz

When is the Heidelberg Christmas Market open?

For 2021, the dates for the Heidelberg Christmas Market are 22 November – 23 December, 2021. Obviously it’s impossible to know what the travel situation will be like then, but I will keep you updated when I hear more!

Generally, the schedule runs like this: each day, the stalls and ice rink opens at 11am, and close up around 9pm, except on Saturdays when they stay open a bit later until 10pm. 

NEW in the HEIDELBERG CHRISTMAS MARKET as of 2019!

This year the market vendors have gone all out to make it feel even more special and Heidelberg-y. One stallholder spent nearly half a million Euros building a half-size replica of the giant (and I mean seriously ginormous) wine barrel at the Heidelberg Castle for the Christmas Market. Not only can you buy Glühwein, but you can reserve a table INSIDE the wine barrel (which has several tables and a chandelier, because obviously), and even stand on top on the special patio. This incredible structure is in the main Marktplatz next to the large church. The beautiful pyramid Glühwein stand with the traditional revolving structure has now shifted to the big market at the Universitätplatz. This year they’ve also put special emphasis on stallholders using as much local produce and wine as possible.

Where is the market?

There are little markets spread all along our pedestrianized main street, the Hauptstrasse. Starting at the Bismarckplatz, the main bus exchange, you can visit six along your walk. Some are just a small collection of stands serving food and drink, with a smattering of mugs and decorations, like the one at Bismarckplatz. But the last three, at the Universitätplatz, Marktplatz, and Kornmarkt are quite large. I’ve made a special map just for you, scroll down to see it.

Is there a Christmas market up at the Heidelberg Castle?

You will probably read about a market at the Castle, but this is no longer happening as of 2016. Endangered bats nest and hibernate in the tunnels below where the Christmas market used to be held. It was decided that the market was too disruptive for the bats, so the stalls that used to be there were moved down to another square in the city that year. It was off the usual route, however, and I don’t think they did that well, because the next year those stalls were included in the main market locations. However, you can enjoy ice skating in the Karlsplatz directly below the castle.

Carousel in the Heidelberg Christmas Market in the Universitätplatz  

What is there to do at the Heidelberg Christmas Market and when to go

Just soaking up the festive atmosphere is one of the best activities, to be honest, but a gentle stroll through the markets is what we locals do. The most magical time is around dusk, when all the lights come on and it feels like you’re walking through a Christmas card. If you’ve got kids with you, head straight for the Universitätplatz market to save little feet. At the centre is a big old carousel, and even though my son knows it well, he always wants at least three rides! The Kornmarkt is set up as a little forest, with loads of pine trees on stands, all entwined with lights. Between the trees is a mini-train the kids can ride, and again, a good two or three times around seems to be required! The giant windmill-style Glühwein stand that is an iconic Christmas market staple is set up in the main Marktplatz, as well as a smaller carousel. The ice skating rink is one market square beyond the little wood, in the Karlsplatz. You can rent skates there, and take a few turns around the rink to music, with the castle lit up right above you. 

Each day, the stands and the ice rink opens at 11am, so if you’re looking to buy gifts, early afternoon is a great time to do so with minimal crowds. Because the market is so spread out, it doesn’t often get too crushed. The stalls close up around 9pm, 10pm on Saturday nights. Weekends are definitely busier than weekdays, as daytrippers come in from across Europe. 

Glühwein mug, and Flammkuchen

What to eat at the Heidelberg Christmas Market

What not to eat?! Come hungry, because there’s lots to choose from. The ubiquitous Bratwurst is everywhere of course, served in a small bun (think of it as an edible handle). If you like it spicy, go for the Feuerwurst. There are steaks and venison sausages cooked on the big round grills. There are usually several vegan food stalls as well, if you’d rather skip the meat. Local to our region is the Flammkuchen, a very thin crust pizza topped with onions, bacon pieces, and a mild soft cheese more like cream cheese than mozzarella. There are infinite variations you can get though, including ones with mozzarella on them, veggies, pesto, and more. These are cooked to order, and are a good crowd-pleaser, as everyone just tears a piece off. Just keep ordering until everyone is full. 

One of my favourite treats is the Kartoffelpuffer, which is a bit like a hashbrown patty, but it’s deep-fried fresh to order, and you can have either Apfelmuss with it (apple sauce) or avail yourself of the ketchup and mayo there. Sweet and savoury crêpes are available all over, as well as sides of salmon grilled over an open fire. Hot waffles drizzled in Nutella, or sprinkled in sugar and cinnamon is another favourite. My son’s tip for the best sweet crêpe: order the Kinder Riegel one, where they put a thin chocolate bar (or two if you’re lucky!) made of milk and white chocolate in the middle, and it melts and gets all gooey inside the crêpe. There always seems to be a few stands that will dip a skewer of fruit in molten chocolate for you as well. 

If you’re looking for a more portable treat, cotton candy, or Zuckerwatte, is popular, as well as bags of candied nuts. There are always colourful stalls full to the brim with candy that seems to attract children like a magnet. The decorated heart-shaped cookies hanging outside are pretty, but pretty hard to eat. 

Would you like to sit down inside somewhere and eat? Here’s my post on all the best places to eat in Heidelberg.

What to drink

Glühwein of course! Because Heidelberg is in the middle of several wine regions, if you do a little searching you can find the more delicately spiced Weißglühwein, which is my particular favourite. If you order it ‘mit Schuß’ you will get the choice of a shot of rum or Jägermeister in your hot sweet wine for an additional Euro. For some theatre, seek out a Feuerzangenbowle stall to watch them set a rum-soaked sugar cone on fire, above a cauldron of Glühwein. And then have a mugful, obviously. For kids and nondrinkers, you can find Kinderpunsch at every stand that serves Glühwein, which is a hot spiced fruit juice. The mug you’re served your Glühwein in is reusable, and when you buy your first mugful, you have paid a deposit, or Pfand. You can walk up to any other Glühwein stand in the market and pay for a refill. If you’d like your deposit back, when you’re finished the night you can return your mug to any stand selling drinks, and they will refund you – don’t forget, it’s 3€ a mug! I think everyone in Heidelberg has a few of these at the back of the cupboard!

Wooden toys at the Heidelberg Christmas Market

What to buy

On average, I find the prices at the gift stalls very reasonable for the quality of the work. A lot of these people spend all year making things to bring to the Christmas markets. Some of my favourite things to buy as gifts at the market include:

Sheepskin slippers

We are a farming region down here, and there are a few stalls that only sell sheepskin products, and the slippers are so incredibly warm. They have gorgeous proper sheepskin throws as well, but these are pricey. They are also the best quality ones I have ever seen.

Felted pouches

Who doesn’t need another pouch to keep train tickets, small change, or glasses in? These stands also feature some incredibly detailed children’s slippers with curled toes. If you have an elf-obsessed small person, this may be your perfect choice. There’s also a good selection of felted flowers to pin to a coat or hat.

Wooden puzzles

The wooden puzzle booth is always a favourite stop. From classic ball mazes to more complicated Escher-like twisting baubles, everything is made in good-quality wood, oiled and stained. Not just for kids, most of these games would look perfect on a bookshelf or desk.

Christmas decorations and lanterns

It’s a tradition in southern Germany to put a lit-up star lantern in your window. Accordingly, some of the most beautiful stalls are the ones hung with many lanterns, all glowing in the evening. There are metal punched-hole ones from Morocco, and paper ones of all shapes and sizes. The paper kind will flatten down, if you’re concerned about suitcase space. There are many options for more traditional wooden decorations as well. If you really want to invest, visit the Käthe Wohlfahrt store at the corner of the Unveristätplatz market –– they have full Christmas scenes that move with the heat from a candle, miniature (and not so miniature) Christmas pyramids, and pretty much everything Christmas you can think of. The prices are much higher in here, but if you’re looking for an heirloojm piece, this is the place. 

Chocolate tools

This sounds so strange, but there is a stand behind the carousel in the Universitätplatz market that sells chocolates in intricate shapes of tools, cameras, cars, keys, and kitchen implements. It’s worth a look even if you don’t buy anything, because they are incredible. 

The Christmas pyramid in the Heidelberg Christmas Market in the Marktplatz

Christmas Market Insider Tips

We visit many times over the season, as well as many other Christmas markets in nearby towns. Here is what we’ve learned:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and warm socks because you will be walking and standing the whole time
  • Bring a reusable bag for any purchases
  • Wear a hat and a scarf, and bring gloves, it gets quite cold when you’re out for several hours
  • Don’t bother with an umbrella if it’s raining, there are too many people, just wear a hat
  • If you’re not into walking a long way, take the bus to the centre of the market and start there (see below)

How to get to the Heidelberg Christmas Market

The Christmas Markets are easy to reach in Heidelberg, as is Heidelberg itself. Regional trains reach the city with a change in Mannheim – for more details on how to get from Frankfurt to Heidelberg, I’ve written a whole post for you. From the Hauptbanhof (main train station), you can take any tram or bus marked for Bismarckplatz to walk the whole length of the markets. If you’re looking to save your energy, take the 32 Bus to Universitätplatz and that will bring to the heart of the bigger markets. If you’re driving, you will want to park around the edge of the Altstadt and walk in. I’ve marked two good parking garages on the map below, as well as where the markets are, the train station, and where the bus drops you. 

 

BONUS market to visit: Kloster Neuberg

NOTE: The Kloster Neuberg market is open again as of 2019!

Not part of the city markets, but well worth a visit is the little market at the Stift Neuberg. This is a still functioning monastery down the river a bit from the city. The market is on the grounds of the historic farm that is run separately from the monastery these days, and it features cows, goats, and an excellent brewery. If you’ve been craving beer but could find nothing but Glühwein, this is your stop. It is much smaller than the other markets, but it’s much more rustic. The craft stalls are inside the barns, and there is sometimes a small carousel. Fresh Flammkuchen is always available, along with hot waffles, Kartoffelpuffer, and Bratwurst. If you’re lucky, they will be roasting a pig on a spit above a woodfire. This market is much quieter, so if you want a little magical local experience, this is worth it. 

To get there, you can take the bus 34 to the bottom of the hill where the monastery is (marked on the map above), or you can take the Weisse Flotte boat along the Neckar (departure pier also marked on the map). The boat is more like a little ferry, you don’t need to book ahead. I wouldn’t recommend driving, as parking is a right pain. It is a big walk up a hill, but there are more sitting options than in the bigger markets, so you can take a rest once you get up there! Also, wrap up warm, it is at a higher elevation. If you’re really lucky, it will snow!

Enjoy your trip to the markets in Heidelberg, we really love this time of year in our adopted home.

PS – Here is my overall guide on how to do German Christmas Markets, and if you’re looking for other things to do in Heidelberg with kids, I’ve got you covered there too.

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