Having previously been to the Christmas Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park we decided for this year to travel to Germany to experience a ‘real’ German Christmas market!
This was a treat thanks to a Secret Escapes voucher Laura received for her 50th birthday earlier in the year. (Secret Escapes is an online travel club which specialises in luxury travel at discounted prices).
Day 1: Bremen
We had an early Saturday morning flight from London’s Stansted airport and within an hour or so we were in a chilly Bremen by around 9 am! Bremen airport is close to the town and you can either get a taxi for around 15 euros or take tram number 6. The tram station is located outside the front of the airport (walk to the right if you arrived at terminal 2 as we did). You can buy tickets from a machine once you get on the tram so it would be handy to some Euros handy (and the machine gives change).
We made our way by tram straight to the Maritim Hotel, a fairly large 4* hotel in a quiet location near the Congress Centre. We were too early to check in so we left our back packs in the left luggage and set off in search of the markets!
After a 15 minute walk which included a 5 minute stretch through the station, we came to the quaint cobbled Marketplatz (market square), home to the many Christmas market stalls.
Before long we decided to warm up with a mulled wine… and cointreau… and rum… Once fully refreshed we had a leisurely wander around the market with tantalising smells of chestnuts and cinnamon and cheery Christmas tunes being played by buskers.
We made our way through the Altstadt (Old Town) and found a large dark beamed restaurant serving traditional German dishes; just right for lunch!
Around mid afternoon we sauntered back through the market and back to the hotel to check-in. The room was large and comfortable so we chilled for the rest of the afternoon and had a delicious evening meal in the warm comfort of the hotel restaurant.
Day 2: Hamburg
Having seen much of Bremen’s historic market square and festive market on day 1 we decided to head further afield and explore the main Christmas market in the larger city of Hamburg.
There is a direct train link between Bremen and Hamburg and the journey takes about an hour. A small number of Christmas market stalls can be found next to the station, ideal for a quick warm apple gin before boarding the train!
Hamburg is a major port and the second largest city in Germany and as such was quite a contrast from the pretty smaller town of Bremen.
The main Christmas market is held in front of the town hall, a 15 minute walk from the station. This market was busier and with its security guards keeping a watchful eye, it didn’t have the same traditional charm as Bremen.
As a huge city a range of attractions can be found in Hamburg including a wealth of museums, concert venues and restaurants. With its location at the mouth of the River Elbe, numerous canals criss cross the city giving it a modern Venice-like feel.
It would be wonderful to stroll around the canals and maybe take a boat trip in the summer but in the cold dark depths of a Northern European winter we decided to leave that for another time and after warming up in a coffee shop, we headed back on the train to Bremen.
Bremen was magical at nighttime with the stalls and historic buildings lit up with sparkling Christmas lights. We meandered through sampling such tasty delights as cinnamon pastries, candied almonds and soft warm pretzels!
Another mulled wine or two was in order and we enjoyed a delicious mulled white wine with baby apple and Calvedos, as shown in the photo below:
The atmosphere turned even more festive when it began to snow (pic below) even if it was only a small amount…
Day 3: Bremen
Having visited Bremen’s market twice, for our third and final day we decided to don our tourist hats and visit some of the sights of this historic town.
The imposing gothic St Peter’s cathedral is over 1200 years old and the free museum at the back of the building is worth a visit. Displays of the ancient robes of monks from centuries past can be found although the descriptions are in German so, unless you can understand the text, you just have to look!
Another interesting place to visit is the Schnoor Quarter, where the oldest streets of Bremen can be found. The tiny 15th and 16th century mediaeval houses are squashed together alongside the cobbled alleyways. Apparently ropes and cables were originally produced here and this is where the name ‘Schnoor’ came from, as schnur is German for string!
We enjoyed our little trip to Germany and of the two Christmas markets visited we preferred the more cozy and charming feel of Bremen.
The Hotel Maritim was perfect for us; a good location with large comfortable rooms in which to relax. The restaurant and bar prices were reasonable (well… compared with say London…) and the food was excellent. While delicious with a great deal of choice, breakfast on the Sunday morning was rather chaotic with the masses all arriving at the same time! Thankfully the opposite was true on Monday morning where breakfast was something of a more calm and tranquil affair.