Just over the border lies the enchanting Black Forest region of Germany. During the Christmas season this area comes alive with some truly magical Christmas markets and unique traditions.
Freiburg Christmas Market
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freiburg’s Christmas Market (November 23 to December 23). With 134 market stalls at seven city centre locations, including St Martin’s Church, Rathausplatz and Urlindenplatz, the market is officially opened every year by the mayor of the city at the traditional gingerbread cutting ceremony in front of the Rathaus (town hall).
As well as various offerings to buy and eat, a wide range of arts and crafts workshops are available to take part in at the market including candle making (for both kids and adults), baking Christmas cookies in the Children’s Bakery or even knocking free your own gemstone from a hunk of stone (kids only). Take a ride on the 12-metre-tall antique wooden Ferris wheel at the Kartoffelmarkt which goes at the speed of 8 laps per minute, or head over to Colombipark to take an impressive selfie in front of the romantically lit castle.
Ravennaschlucht Christmas Market
The Ravennaschlucht Christmas Market (November 23 to December 17), held every Friday to Sunday during advent, is an absolute must-see if you’re after something truly spectacular. Located in the heart of the stunning Ravennaschlucht (Ravenna Gorge), this unique Christmas market offers visitors a truly magical experience, surrounded by towering fir trees and the breathtaking natural beauty of the location’s setting, which is often covered in a thick layer of snow. It isn’t hard to see why Ravennaschlucht makes it onto many Best Christmas markets in the world lists, such as the Timeout 2022 list.
The market is particularly famous for its illuminated viaduct (Höllentalbahn), which casts a warm, golden glow over the festivities, creating a super cozy and dazzling atmospheric experience. It may be a relatively small market with around 40 market stalls, but one real advantage here is that there is an entrance fee and the number of visitors is limited per 2-hour slot so you can really enjoy the market without it being too crowded. The market not only offers traditional crafts and local gastronomy, but also Christmas concerts.
Tickets for this event must be booked beforehand and often sell out very quickly so head to their website and book early to get your desired slot. There is parking at the venue which again sells out almost immediately when tickets go on sale, so a popular option is to park in or take the train to Hinterzarten and then hop on the free shuttle bus to the market. Be sure to dress warmly, as this Christmas Market is high up in the Black Forest, it is often snow-covered and can be very cold.
Gengenbach Advent Calendar House and Market
For more than 20 years, the quaint town of Gengenbach in Baden-Württemberg has transformed its Rathaus into the World’s Largest Advent Calendar House. Each year, the 24 windows (two rows of 11 and two in the roof) of the Gengenbach Rathaus are each decorated with a festive Christmas scene, created by some of the world’s greatest artists, with a new window revealed every night until Christmas (November 30 to December 23). An enormous Christmas tree twinkles in front of the Rathaus as crowds gather, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the 18:00 magical light show. If you miss the 24 days of reveals, you can still see the completed Advent Calendar up to and including January 7.
The Gengenbach Advent Market (November 30 to December 23) is also worth a visit to explore market stalls with handcrafted gifts and local delicacies like the world-famous Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest gateau). In addition to the Advent calendar and market, there is a daily programme of Christmas events on the stage in front of the town hall, which starts at 17:00 on weekdays and 15:00 on weekends.
Baden-Baden Christmas Market
The Baden-Baden Christmas Market (November 21 to January 6) is one of the few markets open during the run-up to the holiday all the way through to Three Kings Day (January 6). The winter atmosphere in this world heritage city doesn’t disappoint, from its stunning location in front of the Baden-Baden Kurhaus, to the twinkle of Christmas lights creating a fairy tale atmosphere, all framed by the mountains of the Black Forest. This traditional Christkindelsmarkt (Christ child market) has numerous attractions and offerings including arts and crafts, culinary delights, daily live music concerts and shows. New this year, there are daily guided tours of the market in German, English and French. Topped off with a nativity scene exhibition, carousel, mini-Ferris wheel, Christmas bakery for children and gourmet igloos, a trip to Baden-Baden is well worth it.
Triberger Weihnachtszauber (Triberg Christmas Magic)
Though not taking place in the Advent time itself, rather between Christmas and New Year, the Triberger Weihnachtszauber (Triberg Christmas Magic, December 25 to 30) in the central Black Forest is not to be missed. Into its fifth year, the cascades of the Triberg waterfalls are lit up with more than a million lights setting the scene for a wintry waterfall area and the perfect backdrop for a romantic winter scene. Music and shows on three stages accompany the spectacle, including the popular fire show as well as shows featuring artists and singers to jugglers and drummers. A breathtaking firework display at 21:00 closes the daily event (December 27 to 30). Make sure to book your tickets online and in advance.
I hope this list inspires you to discover some new Christmas traditions. For more Christmassy festivities in the Dreiländer region please see our other articles: The Basel Christmas Market: Top Tips and Picks, Christmas in the Basel Area and Christmas Markets in Alsace
Alison is a Brit who has been in the Basel area for over a decade. She currently resides in Oberwil, where she enjoys having countryside on her doorstep as well as town being only a short tram ride away. She loves cooking, baking and anything food-related and is a beginner food stylist and photographer. She enjoys being in nature and relaxing doing anything wellness-related, as well as engaging in creative activities such as abstract and fluid art and crochet.