With its soaring skyline and reputation as a key global transport and commerce hub, Frankfurt is still surprisingly compact and manageable. Here, the hypermodern sits snugly alongside medieval charm. During Christmas in Frankfurt, the old town comes alive with a vast festive market and a roster of concerts, activities and events.
Christmas Markets & Activities
Among the largest in Germany, Frankfurt’s Christmas Market can be traced back to 1393. Now, as then, it’s set beneath the striking Römerberg area with its iconic half-timbered buildings straight out of a fairytale. Though much of this area was destroyed in World War II, it was carefully renovated to resemble the original, and retains its authentic and singular atmosphere, especially under the seasonal spell of the Christmas Market.
The famous Frankfurt Christmas Tree arrived as a fixture in the 19th century, a relative latecomer to local tradition. Today, a 124-year-old European spruce standing 33 meters tall makes the Christmas Market’s impressive centrepiece.
The Christmas Market is open seven days a week from the end of November through to December 22, 2017. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5.10 pm, an advent concert takes place on a stage directly in front of the Römerberg.
Among the other many attractions and traditions, the chiming of the bells is particularly moving. On November 28 at 4.30pm and on December 24 at 5pm, 50 bells from 10 churches across the city all ring out simultaneously.
For a unique Christmas party in Frankfurt, you have the rare opportunity to take a ride on the historical steam train. On December 16 or 17 you can climb aboard for a special festive journey under the shadow of the skyscrapers, on tracks that run through the city parallel to the River Main.
Festive Food & Drink
Apple wine, known locally as Apfelwein, is Frankfurt’s speciality drink. The story of its origin comes from a 17th century disease that decimated the region’s vineyards. Winemakers turned instead to what they had left: Apples. Apfelwein has a hearty and comforting taste, somewhere between cider and white wine, and comes in sweet and dry varieties. At the Christmas Market, it’s usually served in a decorated mug, which also makes a memorable souvenir. Simply take the mug away when you leave instead of retrieving the deposit (Pfand in German) of a few Euros.
Christmas in Frankfurt is not complete without sampling the Bethmännchen—marzipan pastries made from almond, sugar, and rose water. Evolved from a medieval recipe, the Bethmännchen are named for the Bethmanns, a 19th century banking family in whose kitchen the pastry is rumoured to have been invented.
Another weird and wonderful tradition to look out for is the Zwetschgenmännla, also known as Quetschemännchen. These small figurines made of dried plums are thought to bring luck at Christmas time.
Where To Celebrate
When it comes to Christmas parties in Frankfurt, the city’s apple wine taverns provide the perfect place to soak up local flavours. Many of the best are clustered in the Sachsenhausen district, close to Frankfurt South Station. Rich in old-school atmosphere and local character, both Apfelwein Fichtekränzi and Apfelwein Wagner make ideal venues for memorable Christmas parties in Frankfurt, with large wooden tables for groups and a huge selection of traditional dishes. Gather round and feast on schnitzels, Frankfurter sausages and sauerkraut, grilled pork and ox breast, while washing it all down with beers, wines and, of course, Apfelwein.