Welcome to a journey through the enchanting world of the Stuttgart Christmas Market! In the heart of Baden-Württemberg's capital, Stuttgart, a timeless tradition comes alive every year, transforming the city into a winter wonderland.
With a history that spans over three centuries, this market is not just one of the oldest in Europe but also among the most picturesque and cherished.
From the magical illumination of the city's landmarks to the bustling stalls filled with delightful treasures, we'll explore what makes this Christmas market a must-visit destination for locals and travellers alike.
So, wrap up warm, grab a cup of mulled wine, and embark on a festive journey through the Stuttgart Christmas Market, where age-old traditions meet modern delights.
🎦 Watch our short video on Christmas in Germany, which will inspire you to explore this beautiful country in Europe for the holidays ⤵
About the Stuttgart Christmas Market
The German name for the Stuttgart Christmas Market is Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt.
Stuttgart's Christmas Market, a beloved annual tradition, warmly embraces between 3.5 and 4 million visitors, both local and international. People flock to this enchanting event to immerse themselves in the festive season, savouring delightful treats like cookies and warm mulled wine, enjoying the sweet sound of carols, and basking in the magical glow of twinkling lights.
Grand Opening at the Old Castle
Every year, the Stuttgart Christmas Market kicks off with a grand opening in the Renaissance courtyard of the Old Castle.
For instance, on Wednesday the 29th of November 2023, at 6 p.m., Stuttgart's Lord Mayor will invite visitors to embrace the Advent and pre-Christmas season joyfully and peacefully in his opening speech.
The Stalls at the Stuttgart Christmas Market
From Karlsplatz to Marktplatz and from Schillerplatz to Schlossplatz, 300 stalls offer food, drink and Christmas cheer.
Over three million visitors gather here yearly to get into the Advent spirit, with many coming from the tri-border region of Switzerland, France, and Austria.
The 300 stalls sell various items: Christmas ornaments, winter clothing, honey products, household items, toys, candles, hearty and sweet dishes—everything that makes an authentic Christmas market is available at the splendidly adorned stalls of Stuttgart's traders.
Karlsplatz Antiques Market
The picturesque Karlsplatz Antiques Market has been an integral part of the Christmas Market for over 15 years.
Over 20 dealers offer rarities and curiosities in the heated tent: old books, watches, jewellery, porcelain and much more.
It's a popular meeting place for antique lovers and collectors from all over the world. Experts appraise the value of antiques brought in free of charge.
The Christmas Pyramid
The 26.5-metre-high wooden Christmas pyramid stands in the middle of Königstrasse. Its various levels house 24 rotating figurines.
Stuttgart City Hall
Stuttgart city hall is once again being transformed into a giant Advent calendar.
From 1 December, a window will open daily to reveal a beautiful photo of one of Stuttgart's 23 districts.
Every evening at 6 pm, a musical salute from the district in question will resound on the steps of the town hall.
History of the Stuttgart Christmas Market
Stuttgart's Christmas Market is celebrated as one of Europe's grandest and most ancient and holds a significant place in history.
Although its first official mention dates to 1692, the Christmas market's roots stretch back to the early 16th century.
In 1507, an official market privilege granted by Duke Ulrich of Württemberg empowered the city of Stuttgart to collect fees during annual fairs.
This privilege likely confirmed an existing practice, mentioning a horse market held on St. Ottmar's Day (November 16), gradually evolving into a yearly fair leading up to Christmas.
This transformation gave birth to the "Christkindleinmarkt," a market from Tuesday to Saturday before Christmas.
The Stuttgart Christkindleinmarkt in the 17th Century
The market's history was marked by turbulence, often disrupted by wars, dangerous routes, and rampant epidemics.
The tumultuous Thirty Years' War brought all trade and travel to a standstill.
The Christmas market re-emerged only after 1643.
To attract outsiders to the market, it guaranteed safe passage for life, property, and possessions. The city collected tariffs and stand fees, alongside its responsibilities for day and night surveillance and providing necessary stalls.
Market masters ensured the market's smooth operation, receiving a daily wage of six batzen, morning and interval refreshments.
According to a decree issued in 1644, stalls had to be arranged to form four lanes. Merchants with similar goods were to occupy neighbouring spaces.
Priority was given to Stuttgart's local traders in allocating stall spaces, and a drawing determined any remaining spots.
Outsiders were already considered as such if they hailed from nearby Esslingen.
First Documented Mention in 1692
In 1692, the Stuttgart Christmas Market officially received recognition as an annual fair, solidifying its historical importance.
Spanning over 300 years, it is one of Europe's oldest Christmas markets.
Starting in 1780, the market's opening was designated for the Tuesday following the third Sunday of Advent.
A few years later, the original cattle market was phased out, and the new Christmas market adopted a more lively fair character featuring tightrope walkers, magicians, jugglers, and jesters. Menageries adjacent to the market showcased dancing bears, elephants, tigers, and zebras, delighting the mesmerized audience.
The mobile ambulance was also an integral part of the Christmas market, providing tooth extractions and selling walking sticks.
Business turnover significantly increased, attracting merchants and visitors from distant places.
By 1850, the market boasted participation from at least 1,200 merchants.
The Christmas Market Through Challenging Times
At the onset of the 20th century, the market welcomed innovative and sensational items, including razors, model trains, and gramophones.
However, traditional peddler market items like tableware, clothing, and household goods continued to hold sway.
Even during the war, the Christmas market persevered, holding its annual festivities.
Nevertheless, owing to a lack of labour and fuel, the tradition of setting up a Christmas tree had to be abandoned.
In the post-war years, goods for sale were initially scarce, and the stalls in front of the charred ruins of the Old Castle primarily offered pre-war merchandise.
Even after the currency reform, the offerings from sausage stands, waffle bakeries, and gingerbread booths remained a luxury many visitors could ill afford.
Growing Significance for Tourism from the 1970s
In the early 1970s, the city had a growing realisation of the Christmas market's vital role in attracting tourists.
The old stands, composed of folding tables, tent roofs, and tarps, made way for uniform wooden booths adorned with intricate decorations.
The market extended its reach to the Schillerplatz and assumed its current expansive size.
A Christmas Market Town
Stuttgart consistently shines as a Christmas market city every year.
While the merchants continue to offer traditional peddler market items, the selection of approximately 280 stalls has evolved to become remarkably diverse.
It now includes wooden toys, nativity figurines, handicrafts, jewellery, delectable sweets, and culinary delights worldwide.
The event program is equally dazzling, featuring daily live concerts, a large children's fairy tale land equipped with nostalgic carousels, a real miniature steam locomotive for enjoyable rides, and a host of interactive activities such as the children's bakery and candle-making workshop.
The antique market on the Karlsplatz also contributes a unique charm to the Stuttgart Christmas Market.
A New Atmosphere Highlight Since 2014
Since 2014, the Stuttgart Christmas Market boasts an additional atmospheric highlight with the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in front of the Königsbau.
Following the grand opening in the Renaissance courtyard of the Old Castle, around 40,000 energy-efficient LED lights magically transform a towering spruce tree, standing approximately 25 meters tall on the Schlossplatz, into one of Germany's tallest and most magnificent Christmas trees.
Presently, about 3.5 to 4 million visitors assemble annually in the capital city of Baden-Württemberg. Visitors within the country and abroad converge in their hearts to embrace the tranquil Christmas season together.
For more information about Stuttgart, check out the event's official website.
What to see in Stuttgart at Christmas
There is a wide choice of exciting events and attractions to do and visit during Advent in Stuttgart.
Ferris Wheel on Schlossplatz
The Ferris wheel in the courtyard of the New Castle invites visitors to ride and be amazed from October 27, 2023, to January 7, 2024. Guests can discover Stuttgart from a height of 58 meters during a gondola ride.
Wheel & Wine: The giant Ferris wheel, well-known from the folk festival, offers fun for the whole family in the courtyard of the New Castle: see Stuttgart's sea of lights, the historic Schlossplatz, and the colourful lights of the Christmas market from high above.
Children's Fairy Tale Land
When the mini-train takes the little visitors on a journey through the miniature landscape, letting off steam with a loud hiss, they can't help but be amazed. The Children's Fairy Tale Land on Schlossplatz is well worth families visiting.
In addition to the mini-train, kids can take a spin on the mini-Ferris wheel or the nostalgic children's carousel. Moreover, adorable gingerbread hearts await creative decoration.
Concerts in the Courtyard of the Old Castle
In the historical setting of the Old Castle, visitors to the Stuttgart Christmas Market from November 29 to December 23, 2023, can look forward to fantastic square concerts featuring groups from Stuttgart and the region.
Each concert lasts about an hour, and there are no reserved seats. Admission to the concerts is free. For more information, visit Concerts in the Courtyard of the Old Castle
In 2023, the Stuttgarts Glanzlichter are shining again for the fifth time.
The light sculptures create a magical atmosphere on Schlossplatz, and thousands of LED lights shine on Königsstraße and Schulstraße.
The light installations rise to eight metres high against the impressive backdrop of the New Palace but also illuminate other tourist landmarks of the city.
The most central figure on the Schlossplatz is the Stuttgart Rössle, known from the city's coat of arms.
A Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing and a Porsche 911 represent the two automobile museums.
The elephant represents the Wilhelma, the Ferris wheel the Cannstatter Volksfest and the wine glass symbolises Stuttgart's wine village.
The light event also features the Stuttgart television tower and the burial chapel.
What to do in Stuttgart
Here's a list of inspiring activities in Stuttgart:
Stuttgart Christmas Market: What you need to know
Here are some practical info to plan your visit to the Stuttgart Christmas Market.
Where is the Stuttgart Christmas Market located?
From Karlsplatz to Marktplatz and from Schillerplatz to Schlossplatz.
The Stuttgart Christmas Market will take place again from the 29th of November to the 23rd of December 2023.
Information Stalls: There are two information stalls: one near the Old Castle at the entrance to Schillerplatz and the other on Königsstraße, close to the mulled wine pyramid (subject to change). Look for the information stalls marked with "INFO."
How to get to the Stuttgart Christmas Market?
🚄 By train:
Accessing Stuttgart by train is not only convenient but also offers a pleasant and efficient way to travel, providing you with easy access to the city's attractions and the broader region of Baden-Württemberg.
Here's how to access Stuttgart by train:
1. Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof: The central railway station in Stuttgart, known as "Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof" or simply "Stuttgart Hbf," is one of the largest and busiest train stations in Germany. It serves as a central transportation hub for both domestic and international train travel.
2. Domestic Train Services: If you travel within Germany, you can easily access Stuttgart by high-speed trains, regional trains, or InterCityExpress (ICE) services. Stuttgart's central location in the country ensures excellent rail connectivity with major cities like Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, and more.
3. International Train Services: Stuttgart's central railway station offers connections to various European cities through international rail services. You can take trains from cities like Paris, Zurich, Vienna, and Strasbourg to reach Stuttgart conveniently.
4. Booking Tickets: To access Stuttgart by train, you can book your tickets online or at the train station. It's recommended to check schedules and book in advance for popular routes, especially during peak travel times.
5. Travel Time: The travel time to Stuttgart varies depending on your departure location. For example, you can reach Stuttgart from Frankfurt in approximately 1.5 to 2 hours by high-speed train. Travel times from other cities will differ accordingly.
6. Stuttgart's Central Location: Stuttgart's central location in Germany and its modern, well-maintained train station make it an ideal entry point to explore the city and the beautiful region of Baden-Württemberg.
7. Local Transportation: Once you arrive at Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof, you can easily access the city centre and its surroundings through local public transportation, including trams, buses, and taxis.
8. Enjoy the Scenic Routes: Some train journeys to Stuttgart offer stunning scenic views, particularly as you approach Stuttgart through the picturesque landscapes of the Swabian Alps.
✈️ By air:
Whether you're arriving from abroad or within Germany, Stuttgart Airport offers a straightforward and well-connected entry point to this exciting city and the beautiful region of Baden-Württemberg.
Stuttgart Airport (Flughafen Stuttgart), also known as Stuttgart Manfred Rommel Airport (Flughafen Stuttgart-Echterdingen), is the primary gateway to the region. Here's how to access Stuttgart by air:
1. Stuttgart Airport: The main point of entry to the city is Stuttgart Airport. This modern and efficient airport offers a wide range of international and domestic flights. It's approximately 13 kilometres (8 miles) south of the city centre.
2. International Flights: Stuttgart Airport is a hub for international and European flights. You can find direct flights to Stuttgart from various major European cities, making it a convenient choice for travellers arriving from overseas.
3. Domestic Flights: If you're travelling within Germany, you can easily connect to Stuttgart through domestic flights from major cities like Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, and more.
4. Terminal Facilities: Stuttgart Airport boasts excellent terminal facilities, including shops, restaurants, car rental services, and ground transportation options. You'll find everything you need for a comfortable arrival and departure.
5. Ground Transportation: From the airport, you have multiple transportation options to reach the city centre. These include taxis, car rentals, and the S-Bahn (suburban train) S2 and S3 lines, which provide a convenient and cost-effective connection to Stuttgart's central railway station.
6. Travel Time: The journey from Stuttgart Airport to the city centre typically takes around 30 minutes by S-Bahn and less by taxi or car.
7. Nearby Airports: If you're exploring nearby regions, consider flying into other international airports like Frankfurt Airport or Munich Airport and then take a connecting flight or train to Stuttgart.
8. Airport Codes: Stuttgart Airport has the IATA code STR (Stuttgart) and the ICAO code EDDS.
🚗 By car:
Accessing Stuttgart by road offers the convenience of travelling at your own pace and exploring the stunning landscapes of southern Germany. It's an excellent option for those who want to combine city exploration with scenic drives.
Stuttgart is strategically located in the heart of Europe and is well-connected to a network of major roadways. The Autobahnen (German motorways) and well-maintained roads provide easy access to the city.
- From Frankfurt: Stuttgart is approximately 215 kilometres (134 miles) southwest of Frankfurt. You can take the A5 Autobahn for a straightforward drive.
- From Munich: Stuttgart is around 220 kilometres (137 miles) west of Munich. The A8 Autobahn is the primary route connecting the two cities.
- From Zurich, Switzerland: Zurich is about 210 kilometres (130 miles) south of Stuttgart. The A81 Autobahn connects the two cities.
- From Strasbourg, France: If you're coming from Strasbourg, Stuttgart is roughly 150 kilometres (93 miles) east. You can drive using the A5 Autobahn, making it a convenient road trip from France.
Stuttgart is :
- 150 km from Strasbourg (France)
- 210 km from Nuremberg
- 210 km from Frankfurt
- 210 km from Zurich (Switzerland)
- 220 km from Munich
- 370 km from Cologne
- 630 km from Paris
- 635 km from Berlin
Stuttgart has environmental zones where only vehicles with specific emissions stickers (Umweltplakette) can enter. Check if your vehicle meets the requirements or obtain the necessary sticker.
Where to park your car?
If you're coming to the Stuttgart 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. There are 217 park-and-ride facilities with over 17,000 parking spaces at 111 stations within the Great Stuttgart area. More info on Stuttgart's Park+Ride.
Where to stay in Stuttgart at Christmas?
Immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of the Stuttgart Christmas market by opting for comfortable and convenient accommodation!
When visiting the Stuttgart 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 from Depositphotos, a commercial platform that brings authors of high-quality licensed stock photos, graphics, vectors and videos together with appreciative buyers.