Experience the Magical Schmalkalden Christmas Market in Germany
There are many Christmas markets in Germany and most people visit the
big ones, such as in Berlin, Frankfurt or the Dresden Christmas market. But what about a
smaller market in a purely magical, medieval town centre setting? I can
recommend the Christmas
Market in Schmalkalden, Thuringia (Schmalkalder Herrscheklasmarkt).
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Key points for the Xmas
Market in Schmalkalden
30 Nov to 22 Dec 2019
Hours: Mo-Tues 11am to 7pm, Wed 10am to 7pm, Thu 11am to 7pm, Fri-Sat 11am
to 8pm, Sun 1pm to 7pm
Where is Schmalkalden?
Schmalkalden is a small town in the most central state of Germany, Thuringia often flies under the radar of most tourists to Germany. That’s a mistake (and I’m not just saying because that’s where I’m from and I might therefore be biased). There are so many gorgeous towns, historic houses, museums, forests, mountains, castles and lakes to explore. But that’s a different article.
Anyway, Schmalkalden can be found in the southwest of the state, pretty
close to the Rennsteig and Thuringian Forest.
Why Visit Schmalkalden?
The historic center of Schmalkalden town is absolutely gorgeous. Not for
nothing does it go by the name “Town of Half Timbered Houses and Reformation.”
Wherever you roam, the colorful half timbered houses just beg to be
photographed and admired.
Martin Luther himself visited Schmalkalden in 1537 but left before he
could partake in the local Reformation talks due to health reasons. (Cancelling
might have actually saved his life.)
Oh, and did I mention there’s a castle with one of the prettiest and
Why the name?
The locals named the xmas market in Schmalkalden Herrscheklasmarkt. Why?
The local dialect for Saint Nikolaus is Klas. During the Reformation, the local
citizens wanted to distance themselves from Catholic traditions and invented
their own Saint Herrscheklas who brings nuts, apples and treats on the first
advent Wednesday instead of December 6.
For Catholics (and many households in Germany still) Saint Nikolaus goes
around Germany handing out treats for kids who polished their shoes the night
before and put them outside. If the kids have been naughty, they get a piece of
coal. (I never heard of anyone getting coal however.)
Note that Nikolaus isn’t Santa Claus, but a real life person who
inspired the holiday due to his charity work.
What’s to see at
Schmalkalden’s Christmas Market?
Since the town is pretty small, the local market is too. I recommend
going at night when the lights really turn the historic center into a fairy
tale winter wonderland.
However, there are quite a few things to admire around here and events
going on that make this experience extra special. This includes guided tours
around town, light & laser shows and fireworks, dining experiences, Santa
meetups and live concerts.
One special event that you could attend is the Gaudi Biathlon on December 21 at 5pm. You can watch four teams compete. They are comprised of local clubs, school groups, company members etc. Check out the full event program (in German) here.
The main Christmas market in Schmalkalden takes place on the market
square, by the old town hall.
There’s also a medieval Christmas
at Schmalkalden Castle taking place. Sadly, it runs only for the first two
advent weekends and is over now. (30 Nov to 1 Dec & 7 to 8 Dec 2019)
What are the Must Buys?
As with all Christmas markets in Thuringia, a staple food is the local
Thüringer Bratwurst (thuringian sausage). I’ve been told that Schmalkalden
serves the best one. But you basically never can go wrong with this sausage, as
long as you get it in the state of its origin. It really is amazing!
Vegetarians might wanna go for a langosch (Hungarian fried dough with
toppings) or sweets.
A very special thing you can get for Christmas in Schmalkalden is the advent calendar. It’s sold throughout November and each December day until Christmas Eve, a door becomes a lottery ticket. Sales from the calendar are donated to support local projects. Check vendors here.
Typical Christmas souvenirs from Germany also encompass wooden tree
ornaments, lace window hangers and table spreads, wooden Christmas decorations
from the Ore Mountains and local handcrafted items, including clothing.
How to Get to
Schmalkalden is connected to the train network in Germany and you can
therefore easily reach it. If you are in Thuringia, you can get a Regio ticket
or even a hopper ticket if you’re in neighbouring towns.
For the latter, there are return options. One way costs 5,80 EUR. Don’t
forget to validate it at the green machines before boarding the train.
There are no big companies like Flixbus going to Schmalkalden as it’s so small.
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