Step into a winter wonderland as we embark on a virtual journey to one of Germany's most celebrated Christmas markets. The Dresden Christmas Market (or Striezelmarkt), with its history of over five centuries, invites visitors to embrace the enchantment of the holiday season. This market has everything from time-honoured traditions to culinary delights that tantalize the taste buds. Let's explore the magic and charm of Dresden's Striezelmarkt, where Christmas comes alive in a whirlwind of lights, crafts, and festive culinary treasures.
🎦 Watch our short video on Christmas in Germany, which will inspire you to explore this beautiful country in Europe for the holidays ⤵
About the Dresden Christmas Market
The German name for the Dresden Christmas Market is Dresden Striezelmarkt.
One of Germany's premier Christmas markets
Nestled in the heart of Dresden on Altmarkt Square, the Striezelmarkt is Germany's oldest Christmas market, showcasing its timeless traditions since 1434.
This renowned market beckons visitors with its picturesque ambience and boasts the world's largest Erzgebirgische Stufenpyramide (carved Christmas pyramid), standing tall at 14.62 meters.
Annually, more than 2.5 million people gather here to revel in the holiday spirit, making it a must-visit destination.
The Dresden Striezelmarkt: A Christmas Wonderland
What sets it apart and brings joy year after year is the lovingly designed and unique stalls, offering a diverse array of goods, from Erzgebirge crafts to freshly baked Stollen and the beloved Dresdner Kräppelchen.
Add in the enchanting sounds of the season and the typical Saxon coziness, and you have a recipe that captivates both young and old, making their hearts soar. A visit to the Striezelmarkt is, without a doubt, experiencing Christmas in Dresden!
What Makes the Striezelmarkt Unique?
Consistently, the Dresden Striezelmarkt is chosen as a favorite among Christmas markets in the German-speaking region.
In 2023, it celebrates its 589th edition, earning the distinction of being the oldest Christmas market in Germany.
This attraction is replete with superlatives, including the world's largest 14.61-meter-high Erzgebirge pyramid, arguably the world's largest walk-in Schwibbogen, and a daily cultural program that caters to both young and old.
A true heart-stealer at the market is the beloved Pflaumentoffel. No one can resist the little wrinkled figure, peering mischievously from under its top hat. The handcrafted detail in every millimeter of this fruity puppet with wooden legs is unmistakable.
Another captivating feature, though not grand in size, is the historic Ferris wheel. A ride on it feels like a journey through time, as you enjoy a cotton candy while gazing over the sparkling market stalls.
The scent of roasted almonds wafts through the air, accompanied by the soft tune of a barrel organ in the background.
Dresdner Christstollen: A Slice of Tradition
Visitors to the Dresden Striezelmarkt often treat themselves to a thick slice of Dresdner Christstollen. This delectable treat is exclusively crafted by traditional bakeries in Dresden, using a closely guarded and time-honored recipe.
The name "Striezelmarkt" has its origins in the delicious baked good now known as "Dresdner Christstollen", famous worldwide.
In Middle High German, "Strutzel" or "Striezel" referred to a yeast-based pastry, typically in an elongated, sometimes braided form. It likely was meant to evoke the image of the Christ child swaddled in a blanket from the Christian Nativity story.
Due to its distinctive appearance, this "Christbrot" was also occasionally called "Stolle" or "Stollen," a name that ultimately prevailed.
Over time, the ingredients were refined, and various flavors were developed. Since 1617, the Stollen has been an integral part of the Advent season and is a telltale sign of a delicious Christmas.
Culinary Delights at the Striezelmarkt
The Dresden Striezelmarkt isn't just renowned for its festive ambience and traditional crafts; it's also a food lover's paradise.
Visitors are treated to a rich array of culinary delights that capture the essence of the holiday season.
From Dresden's iconic Christmas treat, the Christstollen, to glazed apples, Kräppelchen (a type of pastry), and steaming mugs of Glühwein (mulled wine), the market offers a gastronomic journey that's sure to satisfy every palate.
The Iconic Christstollen: A Taste of Tradition
As we already mentioned, at the heart of the Striezelmarkt's culinary offerings is the famous Dresdner Christstollen, a name that pays homage to the traditional Christmas market.
This delectable treat is meticulously handcrafted by skilled bakers in Dresden, following a closely guarded and time-honoured recipe. A thick slice of this sweet, yeasty bread laden with candied fruits and nuts is a must-try for visitors.
Pfefferkuchen: A Historical Delight
Another delightful treat is the Pfefferkuchen, gingerbread from the town of Pulsnitz.
This sweet and hearty delight has been a favourite since the 13th century. While the exact origin of gingerbread isn't documented, it's believed that the name "Lebkuchen" is derived from the Middle High German "lebbe," meaning sweet.
In the Franconian region, the heartland of "Lebkuchen," its roots are thought to have taken hold. Records show the existence of a "Pfefferkuchenzunft" or Gingerbread Guild in the Silesian town of Schweidnitz as early as 1293.
Monasteries in this region are believed to have created the first mixtures for these delectable treats, often referred to as "Pfefferkuchen" due to the fine spices, known as "Pfeffer" in medieval times, incorporated into the dough. These gingerbreads satisfied sweet tooths and were used as appetizers, digestives, and even remedies for ailments such as back pain and fever.
In an innkeeper's privilege granted to "the ones from Schlieben zur Pulsnitz" on January 1, 1558, Pulsnitz bakers were first allowed to bake Pfefferkuchen. Initially, Pfefferkuchen was a sideline venture for bakers.
However, from the second half of the 18th century, there were dedicated bakers in Pulsnitz exclusively making Pfefferkuchen. Their presence became a year-round fixture, as the popularity of Pulsnitz's high-quality Pfefferkuchen led to them being sold at fairs, festivals, and markets all year.
Glühwein: Warming Hearts and Hands
No visit to the Striezelmarkt would be complete without a cup of Glühwein. This hot, spiced wine is a quintessential part of the market experience, warming you from the inside out.
The Striezelmarkt and Glühwein are inseparable, and the market offers a variety of options to choose from. Whether you prefer berry or grape-based, with or without a shot of spirits, white or red, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, you'll find a version to suit your taste.
Local winemakers and regional products also make their presence felt, ensuring that the wine selection is diverse and delightful.
A brief history of the Dresden Christmas Market
The Dresden Striezelmarkt, one of Germany's most cherished and enduring Christmas markets, has a rich history of over 500 years. It has evolved through various locations and changes while maintaining its distinctive character, making it a special place for locals and visitors.
1434 - The Humble Beginnings
In 1434, the first Dresden Striezelmarkt existed, lasting for a single day. The Saxon Elector Friedrich II, also known as "the Gentle," and his brother, Duke Sigismund, granted this extraordinary event.
They authorised a free market to be held "on the day before Holy Christmas Eve" in the Altmarkt square, the present-day site of the market.
Tradition Takes Root
Over the next 500 years, the Dresden Striezelmarkt evolved into one of Germany's most traditional and beloved Christmas markets. It annually draws in merchants and showpeople from near and far to showcase their wares.
The Role of Striezel and Stollen
In the 15th century, the Striezel or Stollen, a type of Christmas bread, became a significant part of the market's tradition. The city's records show the city council providing Striezel or Stollen as gifts to the poor and sick. These "Christbrot" and "Christstrüzel" were a token of goodwill.
By the turn of the 16th century, the market became known as "Striezelmontag" or "Stollen Monday" because it took place on the Monday preceding Christmas.
Local housewives flocked to purchase their festive Striezel from boards known as "strutzelbretern," which were laid out on "struzelwahen" or carts. Due to its popularity, the market was later extended from Monday to Christmas Eve.
Stollen Feasts and Market Diversity
In the early 17th century, city councillors received two Striezel each for Christmas and a Westphalian ham for Easter. Despite later transitioning to a monetary allowance, the name "Schinken- und Striezelgeld" endured.
The market saw a growing variety of merchants in the 18th century, including potters, gingerbread makers, goldsmiths, glass merchants, and more. It became a melting pot of diverse offerings.
Notable Christmas Markets
In the 19th century, alongside the Dresden Striezelmarkt, other German Christmas markets like the Nuremberg Christkindelmarkt, Berlin Christmas Market, and Frankfurt Christkindchesmarkt became significant festive markets.
The Pflaumentoffel and Beyond
The artist Ludwig Richter immortalized the "Feuerrüpel" or "Plum People" children who sold on the market in 1853 with a woodcut titled "Sale due to Going out of Business." The iconic Pflaumentoffel figurine became synonymous with the Dresden Striezelmarkt.
Regulations and a Nostalgic Touch
The market has undergone various changes and locations over the years. In 1910, the sale by children was prohibited, and in 1937, a "nostalgic Striezelmarkt" was held in the Stallhof, offering historical Saxon products.
Challenges in Recent Times
Recent years have brought challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the cancellation of the Striezelmarkt in 2020 and 2021 due to legal restrictions. However, in 2022, the market made a triumphant return to the Altmarkt, allowing visitors to enjoy the Christmas season and once again visit the Christmas symbol of the city, just as they did before the pandemic.
For more information about Dresden, check out the Striezelmarkt's official website.
What to see in Dresden at Christmas
Other Christmas markets
Dresden, often dubbed the "Christmas City," boasts a cornucopia of enchanting Christmas markets, each with unique charm and character. Beyond the iconic Striezelmarkt, which dates back to 1434, these markets offer a plethora of holiday delights, creating a magical atmosphere throughout the city. Let's tour some of Dresden's most charming and traditional Christmas markets.
The Neumarkt Christmas market
Between the Altmarkt and the Frauenkirche, is another Christmas market: "Advent auf dem Neumarkt" which beckons visitors during the most beautiful time of the year.
In terms of style, this little Christmas market is reminiscent of Dresden around 1900. All the traders' stalls and the wide range of food and drink on offer are designed initially to give you the impression of being transported back to that era.
Artisans such as bell casters, sign painters, leatherworkers, engravers, chocolatiers, and purveyors of historical and handmade toys captivate your senses. In addition to the exceptional craftsmanship, visitors can enjoy classic Dresdner Christmas treats while listening to church choirs, carolers, and festive tunes. The Neumarkt comes alive with the spirit of the season.
Christmas markets at the Frauenkirche and Münzgasse
Adjacent to the Neumarkt is another Christmas market centred around the Frauenkirche and the Münzgasse.
Traditional crafts like pottery, glass art, and lace from Vogtland are showcased around this historic landmark.
The highlight is an eight-meter-high pyramid adorned with handcrafted wooden figures. Santa Claus appears every day from 4 p.m. to keep the youngest visitors entertained, bringing surprises for all.
Situated between the world-famous Dresden Frauenkirche and Brühl's Terrace, the festively illuminated Münzgasse presents a romantic Christmas scene.
If you're in the mood for shopping and twinkling lights, the Christmas market on Prager Strasse, known as Dresdner Winterlichter, is the perfect choice.
This market is the southern gateway to the city's Christmas festivities, with a stunning 15-metre Christmas tree lighting up the night. The market offers a winter wonderland experience, complete with a visit to Santa Claus's house, rustic merry-go-rounds for the little ones, and a medley of regional specialties.
Mittelalter-Weihnachtsmarkt im Stallhof
Venture into the heart of Dresden's Residenzschloss (Royal Palace) for the "Stallhöfischer Adventsspektakel". This medieval Christmas market offers a rustic atmosphere with artisans historically showcasing their wares.
Performers, including jesters and minstrels, ensure never dull moments. A particular highlight is the annual public bathhouse with two large wooden tubs where up to eight people can luxuriate in a hot soak.
Romantischer Weihnachtsmarkt am Schloss
For a more tranquil alternative, head south of the Residenzschloss to the "Romantischer Weihnachtsmarkt". Located at the corner of the Taschenbergpalais, this market recreates the charm of historical market stalls.
Against the backdrop of one of Dresden's most exquisite places, the former royal city of Taschenberg gleams with a nostalgic holiday spirit.
The Postplatz in Dresden transforms into a captivating Finnish Winter Village during the holiday season.
Visitors are transported into the magical world of Finnish winters, surrounded by traditional craftsmanship, authentic Finnish specialties, and unique Christmas gifts. It's a slice of Finland's winter enchantment right in the heart of Dresden.
For an après-ski and mountain hut party experience right in the city centre, the Dresdner Hüttenzauber is the place to be. Covering over 2000 square meters, this Christmas market at the "Haus der Presse" (House of the Press) boasts a restaurant, a hut bar, an event hut, and even a curling rink.
It's a hit, especially among the younger crowd. Whether you want to indulge in hearty cuisine or enjoy a thrilling game of curling, this vibrant market has it all.
Augustusmarkt – International Christmas Market
The Augustusmarkt, extending along the Hauptstraße at the feet of the Goldener Reiter (Golden Rider), radiates international Christmas flair.
Located in the Neustadt on the other bank of the Elbe River, this is Dresden's second largest Christmas market which opens until the 7th of January 2024.
The white-gold illuminated pagodas, reminiscent of Augustus the Strong's Zeithainer Lustlager in 1730, seamlessly blend Saxon tradition and Dresden's international spirit.
Stroll through the market to find traders showcasing products from Saxon artisanal traditions and others representing holiday traditions worldwide.
Discover Danish Glögg, Finnish Piparkakut, Swedish Julskinka, Italian Pandoro, Alsatian Weihnachtsbredele, Belgian pralines, Swiss chocolate, Czech Obladen, Dijon mustard, spices from the Orient, and much more.
The Christmas market features the Golden Rider Ferris wheel and the legendary blue tree in the middle of the market.
Concerts at the Dreikönigskirche, the galleries, and shops of the Baroque Quarter invite you to linger, explore, and savour the Neustädter Elbseite.
Nestled near the iconic "Blaues Wunder" (Blue Wonder) bridge, the Elbhangfest-Weihnachtsmarkt in Dresden-Loschwitz offers a unique atmosphere.
This hidden gem blends seamlessly into the romantic idyll of the village centre, surrounded by half-timbered houses. Considered a local secret, this small market perfectly embodies charm and tranquillity.
Christmas Events in Dresden
Several Advent events are held in Dresden leading to Christmas, for example, in 2023:
- 02/12/2023 - Dresden Advent Calendar Festival
- 03/12/2023 - Cross Church Day
- 08/12/2023 - Dresden Stollen Festival
- 10/12/2023 - Dresden Gingerbread Festival
- 16/12/2023 - Christmas Pyramid Festival
- 17/12/2023 - Christmas Sounds Festival
- 23/12/2023 - Christmas Choir Festival
- 24/12/2023 - Grand finale of the Striezelmarkt
What to do in Dresden
Here's a list of inspiring activities in Dresden:
Dresden Christmas Market: What you need to know
Here are some practical info to plan your visit to the Dresden Christmas Market.
Where is the Dresden Christmas Market located?
The 589th edition of the Dresden Christmas market will take place in the Altmarkt from the 29th of November to the 24th of December 2023.
There are other Christmas markets across the city.
For more information about Dresden, check out the Striezelmarkt's official website.
How to get to the Dresden Christmas Market?
🚄 By train:
Dresden's accessibility by train is nothing short of convenient and picturesque. With its well-connected railway network, reaching the city's heart is a breeze.
High-speed trains and regional services provide easy access from various European cities, including Berlin, Prague, and Vienna.
The Dresden Hauptbahnhof, the city's main railway station, is a central hub for travellers. As you journey towards Dresden, be prepared to be greeted by the stunning Elbe Valley landscape, adding an extra touch of magic to your trip. It's a seamless and sustainable way to arrive at the enchanting Striezelmarkt.
✈️ By air:
If you're coming from afar, Dresden's international airport is your gateway to the city. The Dresden Airport (Flughafen Dresden-Klotzsche) offers a range of connections, including flights from major European cities.
Once you land, you're just a short drive or a quick train ride from the festive Striezelmarkt. With modern facilities and a convenient location, the airport makes your journey as smooth as possible. The spirit of Christmas awaits you just moments after stepping off your flight.
🚗 By car:
For those who prefer the flexibility of a road trip, Dresden is easily accessible by car.
The city is well-connected to Germany's motorway network, making it a straightforward drive from major cities like Berlin, Prague, and Leipzig.
Here are some key routes to reach the city:
From Berlin: The most common route from Berlin is taking the A13 autobahn, which connects Berlin to Dresden. This journey offers a relatively smooth and direct drive, taking you through the scenic landscape of Brandenburg and Saxony. The drive from Berlin to Dresden typically takes around two to three hours.
From Prague: If you're coming from the Czech Republic, take the D8 motorway. The D8 connects Prague and Dresden, offering a direct route between the two cities. The drive takes approximately two hours, making it a convenient option for visitors from Prague.
From Leipzig: To reach Dresden from Leipzig, you can use the A14 autobahn. This motorway connects Leipzig and Dresden, providing a straightforward journey between the two cities. The drive typically takes about an hour.
The well-maintained road infrastructure ensures a comfortable and scenic journey.
Dresden is :
- 120 km from Leipzig
- 150 km from Prague
- 195 km from Berlin
- 310 km from Nuremberg
- 460 km from Frankfurt
- 460 km from Munich
- 570 km from Cologne
Where to park your car?
If you're coming to the Dresden Christmas Market by car, there are two options:
- Park your car directly in the city centre, in one of the covered car parks. However, parking spaces in the city centre are quite expensive.
- Park your car free of charge outside the city centre in one of the Park+Ride spaces and take the tram to the city centre. More info on Dresden's Park+Ride.
Where to stay in Dresden at Christmas?
Immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of the Dresden Christmas market by opting for comfortable and convenient accommodation!
When visiting the Dresden Christmas market, selecting suitable accommodation is key to fully enjoying this enchanting season. Fortunately, the city offers a range of lodging options right for every taste and budget.
You can choose from elegant hotels in the heart of the old town, cosy hostels, or charming apartments that provide an authentic home-away-from-home experience.
To streamline your search, you can check out this list of accommodations, featuring a variety of options for your stay.
Remember to look at our interactive map to locate lodgings close to the Christmas market and select the one that best suits your needs.
About the illustrations in the article
Most of the photos are ours (© French Moments). However, I have selected some photos (including the Featured Image of this article) from Depositphotos, a commercial platform that brings authors of high-quality licensed stock photos, graphics, vectors and videos together with appreciative buyers.