There are many articles on the Internet listing beautiful Christmas markets all over Europe. However, it is hard to find the really special ones, with the characteristics that define local treasures. To find them, start by asking your friends for recommendations, and search the web some more. Then go there!
These are my recommendations for a special Christmas weekend.
Bernkastel-Kues is about an hours drive from Luxembourg, roughly 50 km from Trier in the Moselle valley. It is a well known wine growing centre on the Middle Moselle, in the Bernkastel-Wittlich district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is also the birthplace of one of the most famous German polymaths, the medieval churchman and philosopher Nikolaus von Kues (Cusanus).
What a beautiful town, like a romantic and colorful painting. All those medieval German buildings, perfectly painted and garnished with Christmas decorations. The Christmas market stalls are all over the tiny pedestrian streets of the historical center. The main square hosts the crown jewel of this event: the advent calendar. Every day at 5:30pm one of the advent doors is opened and a cute musical show takes place for a few minutes. There is also a beautiful Nativity scene and a Christmas Pyramid.
The Christmas Market is open until 22nd December 2013, Mon-Thu 11am-7pm, Fri-Sat 11am-9pm and Sun 11am-8pm. For more information, click here.
Finding places to eat in Bernkastel-Kues isn’t hard,but it can be quite tricky when the city is crowded with hundreds of people. Let me share my secret; La Terraza is an Italian restaurant on top of a hill with a stunning view of the Moselle river, just a few kilometres away. It is family friendly and the food is delicious. But be patient, it may take a long time to get served. Address: Bergstrasse 22, 54539 Ürzig.
If you’d like to spend a night at a local hotel, you can try booking.com, but it is very, busy during these weekends. Hotel Zur Post has a great location, just a 3 minutes walk from the market, and there is public parking across the street. However, Hotel Doctor Weinstube gets the best booking.com rating.
For more information on Bernkastel-Kues, you can visit the official tourism webpage.
Another hours drive from Bernkastel-Kues, on a very peculiar road along the river, is another beautiful town – Cochem. Cochem is the main town in the Cochem-Zell district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.
The Cochem Castle, or Reichsburg Cochem in German, is a place where history comes to life. Cochem Castle dates back to the first millennium, the year 1000 A.D. It was the home of the Palatinate counts and was built on the orders of Count Ezzo. The first historical mention of this castle is from 1051, when it was given as a gift to a nephew, Henry I, by Richeza, the oldest daughter of Ezzo and once Queen of Poland.
The Reichsburg Cochem was used mainly as a defensive structure. It was said that at one time, it housed as many as 40,000 knights! The Sun King Louis XIV attacked and burned the Reichsburg to the ground in 1688. It wasn’t until 1868 that Mr. Louis Ravené, a Berlin businessman, began to reconstruct it in the Neo-Gothic style that we see today.
Address: Schloßstraße 36, 56812 Cochem. During the winter, you can only visit the Castle on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays with a limited number of tours (11am, 12am, 13am or special reservation for groups).
The Christmas Market is in the city centre, by the river. It has just a few but beautiful stalls, a Nativity scene, an old style children carrousel, a huge slide and a big tent where you can eat and drink, well protected from the freezing temperatures outside. The market is open daily until 15th December 2013, from 11am to 6pm. During the second weekend of December (14th and 15th) the Christmas story is re-enacted as part of a castle tour featuring a live Nativity scene. For more information on the Christmas market, click here.
As for restaurants, I have another secret to share with you. It’s called Zom Stüffje and it is a very relaxed and family friendly place for some German comfort food. Address: Oberbachstraße 14, Cochem.
For more information on Cochem, visit the tourism website.
Have fun and a great holiday season! Merry Christmas!
Text and photo by Rute Vendeirinho, December 2013