The Hamburg Rathaus Weihnachtsmarkt (Hamburg Town Hall Christmas Market) is full of history, tradition and Hanseatic heritage. Plus, it has maybe one of the most beautiful backdrops you’ll ever see- the Hamburg Rathaus (Town Hall)!
I recently wrote about my visit to the slightly alternative St. Pauli Christmas Market in Hamburg. After visiting the historical and authentic one in the city center just a few days ago, that got me to thinking…
Where Does the Christmas Market Come From?
The idea of an open-air street market has been around in Europe long before anyone even celebrated Christmas. During the Late Middle Ages, there were special winter markets that would open for a day or two, allowing townspeople to stock up on food and supplies they would need during the upcoming cold months. There were many examples of this, but they were never officially considered “Christmas Markets”.
Over time, these markets evolved to sell other craft items such as baskets, toys or woodcarvings as well as specialty foods such as almonds nuts, gingerbread and other baked goods. Many times, these items were given as gifts for Christmas or New Year’s Day.
The first claims of documentation of a “Christmas Market” come from Munich (1310), Bautzen (1384) and Frankfurt am Main (1393), though their authenticity as official markets has been called into question. The Striezelmarkt in Dresden perhaps has the most official claim of being the first Christmas Market, dating back to 1434.
The Hamburg (Rathaus) Town Hall Christmas Market
This Christmas Market is located directly in the large square (Rathausmarktplatz) in front of the Town Hall. Each year, nearly three million visitors come to see and feel the magical spirit of Christmas time at the market- which includes a Santa Claus flying his reindeer sled above the roofs of the market, telling the story of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer (at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm each day).
Traditional Items and Foods for Sale
Like many other Christmas markets, craft items are the majority of things for sale. The Hamburg Town Hall Christmas Market takes this to another level with the Spielzeuggasse (Toy Street), where rows merchants from around the world sell different gadgets and play things for children.
Walking through the pathways made from the various wooden vender booths, you can see tons of other craft items as well. Decorations from the Erzgebirge region and looked after by woodcarvers from Tyrol, bakers from Aachen, gingerbread makers from Nuremberg and pottery made from artists from the Lausitz region.
As well, there are many other traditional artisan crafts for sale such as beeswax candles or the shop with endless handmade Christmas decorations by Käthe Wohlfahrt.
When you’re done shopping, head to one of the many food and drink booths to enjoy some traditional German Christmas Market gastronomy- sausages straight from the grill, meat from the rotisserie, a hot cup of Glühwein (mulled wine) and a delicious baked good.