Every year, in cities and towns across Europe and, in particular, Germany there are hundreds of Christmas markets taking place in the weeks before Christmas, but there is one that’s known to have started the tradition – the famous Striezelmarkt in Dresden.
There is something magical about the time before Christmas in Europe. As days grow shorter and the air becomes crisper, warmly lit wooden stalls adorned with twinkling lights and winter wonderland decor pop up in cobbled old town squares and the scent of mulled wine, fire-roasted sausages, and chocolate-covered churros fill the air. Christmas markets have arrived!
While each city and country may have some national distinctions to their Christmas markets, most markets are German-style since the tradition began there, and the most notable Christmas markets to this day are held in Germany or German-speaking countries.
Dating back to the first half of the 15th century, the first recorded Christmas market took place in Germany’s eastern city of Dresden. Back then, only happening for a day before Christmas in 1434, Striezelmarkt was born in the Altmarkt square (the Old Market square).
There are records of Christmas markets happening in other German cities, too, but only from the 16th and 17th centuries, which makes Striezelmarkt the oldest one.
The reason why the original Striezelmarkt took place on the day before Christmas was to provide people with the necessary supplies of meat and other goods for the Christmas dinner after a period of fasting during the Advent.
Historically, markets were the main place where trading took place. Local artisans and craftsmen would sell their pottery, leather goods, and other handmade items, while farmers would bring meat, baked goods, and sweets.
In Germany, you’ll find that there’s a Christmas market nearly in every town and city, but none are as iconic as the Striezelmarkt in Dresden. With its noteworthy history and magical appeal in modern times, this Christmas market attracts over three million visitors each year.
The name of the market is derived from the famous Christmas cake Stollen (originally, called Stroczel), and the one in Dresden is unlike any other, still sold with a special seal that indicates its origin. It’s a must-try in Striezelmarkt!
Nowadays, Striezelmarkt is open during the whole Advent period starting at the end of November until Christmas Eve. With approximately 240 stands and impressive decorations, this Christmas market is unlike any other.
One of the main features in Striezelmarkt is the Ore Mountain step pyramid that’s nearly 15 metres tall and is perhaps the world’s largest walk-in candle arch. In addition to that, there’s also a moderately-sized ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a traditional Christmas pyramid, and even the home of Santa Claus! And it wouldn’t be Christmas if all the festivities didn’t happen around a beautiful tall Christmas spruce tree.
Every day, and especially during the weekends, there’s a cultural programme entertaining the whole family. Even if you’re there only for a quick stroll through the market, you’ll be amazed by how rich the offer is. Handmade crafts, beautiful artisan products, sweets and stocking fillers, traditional Christmas decorations and more.
The food and drinks are an experience within itself – you can’t beat Striezelmarkt for that! Traditional Christmas cake and Dresdner handbook or stuffed bread are absolute must-tries here! Sausages, potato dishes, and dumplings are in ample selection, and the sweet side of things is as grand – lebkuchen or gingerbread cookies, candied and spiced almonds, bonbons, and marzipan balls. Don’t leave without trying the mulled wine – in Dresden, you’ll find both red and white mulled wine, and other hot drinks perfect for a winter’s night.
The 588th Dresden Striezelmarkt will be held at Dresden’s Altmarkt from 23 November to 24 December 2022!
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