Welcome to Sun Scribes’ very first winter blog post! I am back home in Ireland exactly ten weeks now, and it was time for another trip. I’m shocked to admit this is actually the first time I’ve ever taken a Christmas trip anywhere!
Having missed the last two winters in Ireland, I was determined to make the most of this season by filling it with festive fun and Christmas-overload! I booked my flights to Hamburg just three weeks after returning home from Sri Lanka, so with a limited budget, I had to get inventive!
When Christmas markets are brought up in conversation, the mind automatically thinks of Prague, Vienna, Krakow, and of course Germany.
Germany is extremely famous for its weihnachtsmärkten, and over the years, German winter tourism has boomed, along with the growth of its markets. Berlin and Cologne are the most well-known cities for the Christmas fairs, and as a result, are also the most expensive.
Unless flights are booked months in advance, return flights to Berlin and Cologne can get pretty pricey, pretty quickly.
When searching Skyscanner, flights to Hamburg for December 7th-9th cost about €60 return. My heart set on some Gluhwein in Deutschland, I booked the flights.
Where To Stay
The great thing about Hamburg (the second-largest city in Germany) is everything is connected by Hamburg’s Hauptbahnhof, so staying city centre is not necessary. While in Hamburg, we stayed in the quaint suburb of Altona.
With winding cobbled streets, three-storey traditional German townhouses, cosy cafes, and swanky wine bars with beautiful Christmas decor, Altona was a haven from the bustling city markets. Regular and direct trains left from Altona Square to the city centre every couple of minutes. I would suggest downloading Google Maps, which will make navigating the area and Bahnhof a lot easier.
Equipped with its own miniature markets on the main street, we never felt too far away from some festive cheer and mulled wine! Open from morning to late evening, we would stroll to the markets for a crepe and coffee and gaze at the gorgeous baubles and nic-nacs, before heading into the city come nightfall.
Our Airbnb was a stunning apartment on the first-floor of a repurposed old townhouse, with huge oval windows overlooking the streets below. We paid about €160 for two people for two nights, and was well worth the money. Our Airbnb was so cosy and warm, we would happily go back!
The Christmas Markets
The great thing about Hamburg at Christmas is the abundance of markets everywhere! No matter where we walked, we accidentally happened upon mini markets everywhere! Everything from traditional, to food, to alcohol and even erotic, they were everywhere, each one just as Christmassy as the last! On the main strip near the Town Hall at 5.30pm Saturday night, there is a mini parade with floats, Santas, elves, dancers, performers and more!
The Hamburg Wienachtmarkt is the most famous and biggest of all the Hamburg markets, situated right in from of the Rathaus (Town Hall). Every evening at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm, the flying Santa appears in his sleigh over the market! His sleigh travels all the way through the night sky, stopping midway to tell Christmas stories auf Deutsch to all the people listening below. These markets are traditional and cosy, though can get very busy at the weekend, particularly around the time Santa arrives overhead.
Near the Rathaus markets, is the Weisser Zauber Christmas Market, a short walk from the main square. You will easily recognise theses markets for their distinctive white and blue luminosity. The ambience of these markets is a little more upbeat with all the cheesy English-speaking Christmas tunes blaring, and a younger clientele drinking gluhwein and eating bratwurst.
Another new (and rather interesting) addition to the Christmas market scene in Hamburg is the erotic Christmas market! This X-rated Christmas market is held in the Kiez, the red-light St Pauli district of Hamburg around the Reeperbahn. It markets itself as the ‘horniest Christmas market’ in the city.
Pricing And Cost In Hamburg
A glass of Gluhwein is roughly €3.50 plus €3.50 deposit on the glass. You can either keep the glass or return it to the bar to get your cash back. Crepes and Nutella cost roughly €3 and a Bratwurst about the same. These will be great options to keep the hunger at bay while strolling through the city!
A train ticket from Altona to the Rathaus cost €2.20 one way, with a ticket to the airport costing €3.30. Like I mentioned before, our Airbnb for two cost €159 for two nights, and this was the cheaper end of the scale for accommodation at this time. Remember, prices are hiked up at Christmas, so unfortunately this is a cost you can’t avoid.
Things To Remember For Christmas Markets
- The markets (and a lot of smaller restaurants and cafes) only accept cash.
- As expected, it’s cold in Germany, but particularly FREEZING in Hamburg as the Christmas Markets are right beside the river! Wrap up warmly, and wear comfy shoes, seating is limited so you’ll be on your feet, gluhwein in hand, for a long time.
- Airbnb is a great option for cheaper accommodation, and a great way to get into the Christmas spirit as a lot of the apartments will be decorated!
- An obvious one, but a great money-saver: travel mid-week. Flights and hotels will be a lot cheaper than the weekends, and also the markets will not be as busy.