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4 of Germany’s Best Christmas Markets on Points & Miles

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This winter, get into the holiday spirit in the country where Christmas markets originated — Germany. Grab a mug of glühwein (mulled wine) and make your way through traditional stalls selling all sorts of handicrafts and regional specialties like gingerbread. TPG Contributor (and glühwein aficionado) Lane Nieset guides us through a few of Germany’s top Christmas markets, using points and miles to make the most of your winter getaway.

Cologne Christmas Market
See the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland at Cologne’s Cathedral Christmas Market. Image courtesy of KölnTourismus GmbH/Dieter Jacobi.


Cathedral Christmas Market — November 23 December 23
(Sunday-Wednesday, 11am 9pm; Thursday and Friday, 11am 10pm; Saturday, 10am 10pm)

The 2,000-year-old city on the Rhine transforms its landmarks into winter wonderlands with one of the most famous markets taking place smack-dab in the center under the gothic towers of the Cologne Cathedral — complete with the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland, which is lit up by 50,000 LED lights. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of wooden stands since there’s more than 150 of them selling handcrafted gifts, regional specialties, holiday sweets and glühwein, the “Original Christmas mulled wine.” When ordering this drink, markets ask for a deposit of a few euros that you’ll get back when you return the mug. Each market has a signature mug with its name and date, which makes for a great souvenir to bring back home.

Getting to Cologne

Fly to Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN) on major carriers like Air Berlin, Lufthansa, KLM, Swiss or Turkish Airlines. If you’re flying from another destination in Europe, a number of budget carriers also offer direct flights, including Germanwings, Norwegian, EasyJet and Ryanair. Most flights from the US require a European connection, but you can book using AAdvantage miles with Oneworld partner Air Berlin, connecting in Munich (MUC); off-peak awards start at 20,000 miles each way in economy, 50,000 in business and 62,500 in first.

Where to Stay

The Category 7 Cologne Marriott Hotel is a quick walk from the Cathedral Christmas Market and features more modern décor since its revamp two years ago. Note that if you’re taking the train from another town in Europe, the station is just steps away from this hotel. Rates start at 161 euros ($177) or 35,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. The Hilton Cologne is also within walking distance of the cathedral and Old City and features IceBar, a bar that’s actually made of ice and serves more than 100 different types of vodka. The HHonors Category 8 hotel starts at 169 euros ($186) or 40,000 points per night.

Berlin Christmas Market
Berlin is home to more than 60 Christmas Markets, but the WeihnachtsZauber (pictured here) is one of the most popular. Image courtesy of Visit Berlin/Wolfgang Scholvien.


WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt — November 23 December 31
(Daily from 11am – 10pm; Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, 11am – 6pm)

You’ll run into a Christmas market at almost every turn in Berlin — there are more than 60 spread throughout the city, with themes that range from traditional to fairy-tale inspired. One of the most popular — and arguably most beautiful — is the WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt, which transforms the square between the Französischer Dom, Konzerthaus and Deutscher Dom into a sea of pointed tents, crowned with glowing stars and wrapped with 1,000 strings of twinkling lights. While most of the markets in town are free, this one requires a small entry fee of 1 euro (about $1.10), which not only gets you out of the cold and into the heated tents, but also allows you to indulge in upscale versions of market fare, with a Galeries Lafayette wine bar and pop-up eateries by Michelin-starred chefs.

Getting to Berlin

You can fly direct to Tegel Airport (TXL) on United from Newark (EWR), with one-way flights starting at 30,000 miles in economy, 57,500 in business and 70,000 in first. Oneworld offers direct flights on American Airlines, British Airways and Air Berlin that leave from Chicago (ORD), Miami (MIA) and New York (JFK). On SkyTeam, you can fly Air France or KLM with connections in Paris (CDG).

Where to Stay

The five-star, 342-room Grand Hyatt Berlin is tucked into Potsdamer Platz in the Mitte neighborhood close to Tiergarten Park and the Brandenburg Gate. It has three restaurants and the Vox Bar, which offers live music and more than 240 whisky blends. Rates start at 198 euros ($218) or 15,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points per night. Over in West Berlin, the Autograph Collection’s boutique Hotel am Steinplatz is set in the Charlottenburg district in an Art Nouveau building with 87 rooms and suites, as well as a sauna and spa featuring skyline views. Rates for the Category 7 Marriott hotel start at 165 euros ($182) or 35,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.

For more ideas on places to stay and things to do in Berlin, see our posts Destination of the Week: Berlin and Hotel Review: Soho House Berlin’s Big Room.

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt
Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is one of the most well-known in the country and features more than 180 stalls. Image courtesy of the Nuremberg Convention and Tourist Office/Uli Kowatsch.


Christkindlesmarkt — November 27 December 24
(Daily from 10am – 9pm; Christmas Eve, 10am – 2pm)

One of the most famous Christmas markets in Germany, the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt has a history dating back to the 16th century and has been used as a model for other Christkindlesmarkt markets in US cities like Chicago and Philadelphia. Known as the “Christmas City,” the market’s 180 stalls that sell Nuremberg’s notorious gingerbread and handicrafts form a candy cane-striped village in the main market square, which is framed by the Church of Our Lady, the fountain and Old Town Gothic Church of St. Sebaldus.

Getting to Nuremberg

A number of airlines offer connecting flights within Europe to Nuremberg Airport (NUE), with Air Berlin flying from other destinations in Germany. Turkish Airlines offers twice-daily service from Istanbul (IST), Lufthansa offers six daily flights from Frankfurt (FRA), Air France and KLM offer flights from Paris (CDG) and Amsterdam (AMS) and Swiss flies four times per day from Zurich (ZRH) from cities like New York (JFK) and Miami (MIA). Swiss, a member of Star Alliance, has reward flights from the US for 30,000 United miles for economy or 70,000 for business each way.

Where to Stay

The 192-room Le Méridien Grand Hotel Nuremberg is in the heart of the historic city center, just across from the historic main train station, with rooms looking out at the old quarter. Rates for the SPG Category 4 hotel start at 119 euros ($131) or 10,000 Starpoints per night. Another option right in the center is Hampton by Hilton Nuremberg City Centre with just 80 rooms near the city’s historic attractions like the Imperial Castle Museum and Albrecht Dürer’s House. Rates at the Category 5 hotel start at 143 euros ($157) or 40,000 HHonors Points per night.

Striezelmarkt Dresden
The Striezelmarkt in Dresden is the oldest Christmas Market in Germany. Image courtesy of City of Dresden/Sylvio Dittrich.


Striezelmarkt — November 26 December 24
(Daily from 10am – 9pm; Christmas Eve, 10am – 2pm) 

The oldest Christmas market in the country, Dresden Striezelmarkt in the Dresden Altmarkt square is celebrating its 581st anniversary this year. Named after the Christmas bread, it’s tradition to eat a piece of the original Dresden Stollen cake while at the market, with the ultimate celebration on December 5 — the Stollen festival — when a giant Stollen is ceremonially sliced and paraded through town. 

Getting to Dresden

Fly to Dresden Airport (DRS) with connections in Europe through Zurich on Swiss, Frankfurt or Munich (MUC) on Lufthansa or Basel (BSL) if you’re flying low-cost on Easyjet. 

Where to Stay 

The five-star Baroque boutique hotel Gewandhaus, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, was just renovated this year with rooms boasting Italian marble bathrooms, custom furniture and French doors that showcase views over the city. Rates at the Category 6 Marriott start at 125 euros (or $138) or 30,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. The 333-room Hilton Dresden in the city center is within walking distance to the main train station and overlooks the Frauenkirche and River Elbe. Rates at the Category 6 Hilton start at 109 euros or 40,000 HHonors Points per night.

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Helpful Hint

Credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Starwood Preferred Guest Amex and the Citi ThankYou Premier, don’t charge foreign transaction fees, making them ideal to use on vacation in Germany — especially in its Christmas markets, where credit cards are accepted. To see more cards without these fees, check out our post, Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees.

For more trip ideas, see our post Europe’s Best Christmas Markets — and share some of your favorite Christmas market with us in the comments below!

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