Two memorable Christmas markets take place in the historic cities of Aachen and Trier in Germany. We enjoyed the traditional foods, shopping the unique gift stalls, and seeing the historic architecture in each city. Here is a quick guide to both of these Christmas markets – must sees if you live in Eastern Netherlands, Belgium, or western Germany. Something to note about both city markets: they expect you to pay in cash. Only a few places accepted credit cards, and rarely did the food stalls accept card.
Aachen is the former capital of the Holy Roman Empire and is situated on the border of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. It has been an important city in the history of the region as evidenced by the well preserved Aachen Cathedral that dates back to the 8th century (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and the Rathaus that dates back to the 14th century. The Christmas markets are nestled into the streets downtown and appear to be hugged by these great structures.
Practical Info: There are several places to park if you arrive by car including here and here, or learn about other arrival options on their website here. There is a special park and ride option as well if you prefer to stay out of the busy city center, especially on Saturdays. There are 1560 P+R spaces are available in Aachen at the Westfriedhof (Vaalser Straße), at the Waldfriedhof (Monschauer Straße), at the Jülicher Straße/Berliner Ring car park and in the Tivoli multi-storey car park, and it costs €5 for up to five people to park and ride. Keep in mind that there are public restrooms available around the market, but they will cost, so bring coins. On the weekends, expect it to be shoulder to shoulder – it’s extremely busy – so I recommend visiting on a week day. Most stalls have people who speak English here (and French too!) so communication isn’t an issue.
- DATES: 2022 18 November – 23 December
- HOURS: daily 11.00 – 21.00 (some exceptions, see website)
GIFTS: The Christmas market was packed full of drink and food stalls, plus gifts ranging from treats and sweets to hand crafted candles, bath items, felt and wool products, Christmas decor, ceramics and jewelry. There are 120 stalls in total, arranged in one area downtown as shown on this map:
FOOD: There are so many yummy food options! We enjoyed grilled potatoes and mushrooms, fried fish and chips, flamkuchen (like pizza), brats, pretzels, wood-fire roasted salmon sandwiches (my fave!), and potato pancakes (reibekuchen & kartoffelpuffer). And that’s not even mentioning the sweets! We also made sure to try a variety of fried doughs and strudel pastries. So good.
DRINKS: I love the mugs in Aachen! If you’re not familiar with how Christmas market mugs work, you purchase a drink and pay a small deposit (usually 1-2 euro) for each mug, then you can keep them or return them for the deposit back. Aachen has great colorful boots, tall glass mugs, curved round mugs, and lots of drink options! This year I tried the white creamy eierpunsch, made with egg yolks, white wine, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and citrus juice. I did not like it. Maybe it would be better with a shot of rum? I definitely prefer eggnog! Obviously try the mulled wine, but there are also a variety of drinks you can get (hot cocoa, ciders, beer) and you can always add a shot to them, too.
ALSO: Things to keep an eye out for in Aachen at the market: the carousels (yes there are two!) and giant blow-up gingerbread man. There are also children’s Christmas musical performances in the Cathedral to keep an eye out, which you can learn more about here.
Trier is known as the oldest city in Germany, as evidenced by the monuments and cathedrals on the UNESCO World Heritage site that date back to the Holy Roman Empire. It is located about 2 hours and 15 minutes south of Aachen on the border of Luxembourg. When visiting Trier for the market, also make sure you have time to view Porta Negra, the great Roman gateway that is nearly 2,000 years old. Also the Trier Cathedral of St. Peter is magnificent and is over 1,000 years old! Another place of note in the city besides the charming Hauptmarkt where the bulk of the Christmas market takes place, are the Forum Baths, a museum of 2,000 year old Roman baths encased in a glass cube. So cool.
Practical Info: When we visit Trier we like to park here but another good option is here. Keep in mind that there are public restrooms available around the market, but they will cost, so bring coins. We actually used the restrooms for free in the mall (3rd floor) here on the way to and from the parking garage. It is very busy on the weekends here, so again, try to plan a visit during the week – we did, and it was bliss! Most stalls have people who speak English here too, as well as French, so communication isn’t an issue. Trier and Aachen didn’t have as friendly of a feel from the vendors as other markets we have been to (namely Cologne and Lille) but they are definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area.
- DATES: November 18 to December 22 Monday through Saturday 10:30 am – 8:00 pm
- TIMES: Monday – Saturday 10:30 am – 8:00 pm, Sunday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
FOOD: The food here might be my favorite from all the markets we visited. The only bummer is its cash only everywhere, so we had to come prepared. Of course Trier has the classics like brats and curry worst (the kids tried that but I didn’t – no meat for me) and potato pancakes, but there is also the best langos (fried dough with sour cream, garlic and cheese) that I have had outside of Hungary, absolutely delicious potatoes, mushrooms, egg and garlic sauce plates (the kids flipped for this), and a desert classic to this area: dampfnudeln! This stuffed dome bread cake comes in fruity or chocolate (Nutella) type flavors and is drenched in sweet creamy sauce and is absolutely to die for.
DRINKS & MUGS: I wasn’t especially impressed with the drink options here at the market – it seemed like they were more focused on beer than anything else. For kids there was just warm apple juice (they didn’t even pretend and call it cider), so no kinderpunsch. The only place we found hot cocoa was on a side street on our way to the Cathedral, and thankfully they also had their own mugs separate from the main market area. The mugs were super cute here though, and we snagged three that have the main landmarks of Trier on them!
GIFTS: As usual, there are many classic Christmas gift items, hand made treasures, edible treats and Christmas decor here in Aachen. My favorite were the hand made leather journals, beautiful unique jewelry, bath items, and hand knit goodies. The kids are always mesmerized by anything with lights – candles, glowing tiny houses or paper lanterns, and ornaments. There is also pretty good shopping along Simeonstraße leading to the Roman gate and of course at the nearby malls.
ALSO: There is a musical house next to the carousel that appears to have puppets that sing and dance at regular intervals – so cool! Trier also has a classic wooden pyramid (like a windmill) greeting people into the market. The clock bells are beautiful in Trier as well. Above see photos of the great Roman gate and inside St. Peter’s Cathedral. It’s like walking through time!