I could feel the cold trying to creep through my hands, but I could not put my gloves on since I can’t shoot my camera with gloves unless I`m using auto mote, which I never do. No, for this, I needed manual mode, I needed working fingers… But they would not work for much longer if I didn`t warm up, too. So, trying to avoid the crowds, I managed to find my way to the wooden bar where I knew the answer to all my problems would be waiting for me, in the form of a warm, sweet cup of Gluhwein.
I was at the Hanover Christmas market, and I couldn’t wait to start exploring it!
Those who know me probably know of my fascination for everything Christmas related. It began when I was a child, and my family would not only spoil me with a lot of gifts (which child does not love getting gifts?!?), but they would also organize the most beautiful and fun Christmas parties. My grandmother spent days in the kitchen, cooking the most delicious plates, and at least 3 desserts (I had a serious sweet tooth growing up). My parents would make us write down our Christmas lists, then hide our gifts and make a lot of mystery about what were we getting, making the weeks before the date a huge countdown for me and my brother, who could barely hold our excitement. And my grandfather…
Well, my grandfather is the main reason why even today, as a 30 somethings woman (a lady never tells her age), every time Christmas come, I feel as excited as I did as a child. He would put together this huge Christmas tree, then another smaller one, and turn our fireplace into a nativity cave (since I grew up in Brazil when Christmas happens during the summer, we, for obvious reasons, would not use the fireplace to make a fire this time of the year). He would decorate the whole house and I was his official assistant. I remember this one year, I had my finals projects to present in architecture school, and I didn`t have time to help him decorate. He was so mad at me…
My grandfather is gone now (a loss I don’t think I`ll ever recover from), so I took it upon myself his role of the Christmas anti-grinch of the family. I love Christmas and even though living by myself in Barcelona I don`t have any family (sad, I know), I still decorate the whole house and put together a huge tree, as a way to honor them, to honor him. And I host beautiful Christmas dinners to my friends, with a perfectly set table, just like my grandmother would do. So, Christmas markets… Let me just say that they are my equivalent of an amusement park, all the colours and the sparkles, with the great addition of warm wine and amazing food!
Coming back from memory lane, there I was, at the Hanover Christmas market, it was the opening day and the whole city seemed to be out that night. I’m usually not a big fan of crowds but I didn`t care. My eyes were sparkling with the view of all those lights, my mouth was watering with the smell of warm, delicious German market food, and I felt like a child, ready to run and explore that magical land in front of me. I had been at Christmas markets before, I try to visit one every year, in different countries, but this was my first time in Hannover. I clapped my hands with excitement and jumped up and down, just like a child would do.
What to see at the Hanover Christmas Market
There is more than one Christmas Market in Hanover, and they are spread through the Old Town, the river bank and around the Central Station. You can find drinks and food in all of them, what changes a little is the atmosphere. I was lucky to have a great local guide to show me around – my friend Michael, thank you!!! – so I got to explore all of them. We started at the Weihnachtspyramide, a giant-sized wooden pyramid with 5 floors, the ground and first floors being a bar (yeiii). These pyramids are traditional folkloric German Christmas ornament, believed to be a predecessor of the Christmas tree. This is where I first tried the deliciously hot Feuerzangenbowle (keep reading to find out what is this!).
The Old town market is the cutest one for me, I was surrounded by wooden chalets shops that were surrounded by beautiful traditional German architecture townhouses, with the wood frames and triangular roofs. A truly impressive atmosphere and great for photos!
Then there is the historic Christmas village, by the banks of the Lein River. This market takes you back in time since it is set like a medieval market where people dress up like in medieval times! You can have a lot of fun here playing games like “smash the egg” (harder than it looks like!) or just chill there by the open-air fireplaces with a warm drink a hand because it gets really cold by the river. Let me just say that drinking warm drinks is a matter of survival at the German Christmas markets. And since we`re talking about drinks…
Discovering the world of warm alcoholic Christmas Market drinks
It is no mystery that I’m a wine lover and many of my travels revolve around wine, as you can see in this post about wine tasting in Spain, or this one about my latest holidays that I spent doing wine tastings in Umbria, Italy. So what an amazing thing that even at Christmas markets, you can survive out of wine, and still be drinking something with the warming effects of a hot tea, but with the welcomed alcoholic induced happiness. Mulled wine is the star of the German markets and it`s called Gluhwein there, but there are more than a few variations to it, that I was more than happy to explore so I could tell you about it (all for the sake of my dear readers!).
Gluhwein: The most popular drink, made of mulled red wine with spices (cinnamon, clove, anise) and sugar.
Druidentrunk: Made of white wine (not so strong and a little more fruity).
Feuerzangenbowle (I know, I can’t pronounce that either): like a spiked gluhwein, this drink has red wine with sugar that is caramelized with rum. They set it “on fire” and it looks like this:
There are also other options that you can drink, like fruit punch and apple cider, that you can always spike with a dose of rum.
How to avoid an alcoholic coma in the Hanover Christmas market
If you’re wondering if I`ve tried all those drinks… Of course I did. I like to be thorough in my research. If you`re wondering if I got drunk… Nope, not at all. How did I manage that? Simple. By also trying the delicious Christmas market foods!
If you think that`s all you’ll find in Germany is beer and sausages… Well, you can find that, sure, but this is not all you`ll find. Here are some of the options I`ve seen, but there are so many more:
Flammlachs: Grilled salmon halfs fillets roasted on a wooden fire. A healthy and delicious option, you can only find it at the Christmas markets.
Fleischspieße: These huge meatsticks were delicious and a lighter option with you don`t want to eat anything heavy. You can choose from a variety of meat. Simple and delicious.
Schwäbisches Bauernbrot: A complicated name for an easy snack, one of my favorites, this is like a small pizza, with different toppings. The name is because of the type of bread they use. I tried one with 4 kinds of cheese and another one with bacon and cheese. I wish I had a piece as I`m writing this…
Kartoffellanzen: Stick food is popular at the German Christmas markets. This is deep fried, thin and crispy potato spirals served on a stick!
Champignons Mit Knoblauchsoße: I didn`t have
space in my stomach time to also try this, but they serve mushrooms doused in a garlic sauce, and the smell was to die for. Too bad I didn`t take a photo either, but it is something that would be worth trying.
I didn`t try anything sweet (I was sweet enough from the mulled wines) but if you prefer sugar, from waffles to biscuits, from pancakes to cakes, you`ll find a lot of options there for sure! I noticed that, differently from some previous Christmas markets I`ve been to, the Hanover Christmas market was more focused on food and drinks, not so much for shopping, even though you can find nice things to buy (I did!).
Shopping at the Hanover Christmas Market
I’ve eaten and I`ve drunk by the fire, and as I calmly watch the flames and feel the heat on my face, I`m happy, but I still have one more mission: To buy Christmas ornaments for my tree.
I created a new Christmas tradition for myself: Wherever I go, wherever I travel to, I try to buy something for my Christmas tree. Some people collect fridge magnets, others collect shot glasses as souvenirs. I collect Christmas tree ornaments. They are only on display for one month of the year, and I’m the only one who knows where they came from, but it is nice to know that every one of them has a special story behind it, a memory of a trip somewhere… And whenever comes this time of the year, as I hang them on my tree, I remember those stories. But I still hadn`t bought anything on the Hanover Christmas market, so that`s what I went for.
As I said before, I had the impression that the markets here (that`s actually more than one, spread around the old town, all of them so beautiful) were more about eating and drinking than shopping, but I did find an area with little Christmas shops where I found just what I was looking for. See, every place has a different style of Christmas ornaments, the ones I found here were so delicate, beautiful and fragile, I had the hardest time not to buy the whole store (they were also expensive, so…). But here are some of the ones I bought:
The Hanover Christmas market is opened from November 29th to December 22th, so you may want to plan your dates right because this is an experience that is worth living! I’m a person who hates winter and suffers a lot with the cold, but I didn’t mind at all being out there at night, the whole atmosphere is so magical that you just forget about everything else!
You can get more information about the Hanover Christmas Market at their official page, here.
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