With less than two week's of January to go until we cross over into February, you'll have to forgive me for sharing my weekend of wandering round Hamburg's Christmas markets with my best friends from university today. What can I say, I'm pining for Christmas and if I have to confess (which with you I always do) I didn't take down my Christmas tree until the 12th.
You could judge me horribly for this fact, or like me you might be in need of a holiday or at least some solid holiday planning. I've already booked in a trip to Reykjavik in October with my boyfriend, am on to my next activity of planning a Summer holiday with some friends and word on the telephone is my mum wants to get away for a few days together too. So now I'm in need of a holiday from holiday planning! Maybe somewhere where you can't see your breath inside. If you're in the same situation as me, I've got your itinerary planned for a weekend trip to Hamburg's Christmas markets in 2015. It's all covered here in this post, please note best friends as travel companions is not included as part of the travel package I offer but I highly recommended for you to bring your own.
I love Hamburg for many reasons. Number one, my favourite German lives there (friend and Claudia Schiffer lookalike, Kimi). Number two, you cannot have a bad meal there. It really is impossible. Number three, despite it being heavily bombed during the World Wars the citizens worked hard to protect their city making it a beautiful mix of industrial and period architecture. And finally, number four, the Christmas markets.
If you asked me how many Christmas markets there are in Hamburg, I couldn't tell you. To me, Hamburg feels like one massive one, especially with the Christmas parade that runs through the city. It's just magical. However, there are some particularly Christmassy highlights, including the harbour, Hamburg Rathaus and Winterwald.
A trip down to the harbour is always worthwhile, you can see all the way across the river and if you're put off by the cold there's always Alex, a good breakfast stop on the waterfront where you can enjoy the view with a peppermint tea and the best all you can eat breakfast I've ever had. Having wrapped up warm, take a stroll round the harbour and check out the boat displays of stained glass German fairytales. The market on the front is also a great spot to pick up some of your classic German snacks if you're not too full from breakfast such as funnel cake and bratwursts, and then some not so classic such as beignets and liquorice-coated cashews. One thing I can confidently say, and I'm prepared to face contention from others, is that Germany has the best bakeries, and if you have never had baum kuchen (a chocolate covered layer cake) you must buy some when you're in Hamburg.
If Neuer Wall is not the prettiest street to walk down in December in Hamburg then please let me know what is. Walk down this street on your way to market number two. It's one of a number of streets that specialise in high end shopping in Hamburg, although it is also full of little boutiques.
The Rathaus, or old town hall, with it's turquoise roofs, frames the town square which acts as the location of one of the largest and busiest Christmas markets in Hamburg. For me it's always the food stalls that capture my attention, and stand outs include watching women pull sugar into candy Christmas trees, and sampling as many flavours of cream cheese as possible including nutella, curry, and pomegranate and mint (weird but it works!). There's also other stands selling all sorts of different hand crafted gifts, including cookie cutters shaped like the town hall. Then there's the main attraction; the Christmas decoration shop. I'm not joking. You have to queue to get in! The decorations are beautiful, my friends could certainly spend a good hour rummaging in there. However, if like me you'd rather eat some more, grab a cup of glühwein and peruse the fish and fondue stalls, possibly with a crepe in your other hand. Or, if you're stuffed, watch Santa Claus fly across the sky with his sleigh and reindeer as he speaks (or manic laughs) good will to all at 4, 6 and 8pm.
And finally, if you've still got some room and are feeling sick of bratwursts (who are you?), head to Winterwald, Hamburg's very own Winter forest for a picnic area amongst the trees and reindeer skulls in central Hamburg. It really is central as you have to walk through Hamburg's biggest shopping mall Europa Passage to get there!
Unusually, this market has a stall selling and smoking fish on the premise, and kebabs whose smell made my mouth water from the other side of the market. Another thing Germany does really well is Turkish food, these are nothing like what you get in England. Completely different. There's also a giant candle carousel selling glühwein. And now after writing this post, I'm going to have to book another trip to Hamburg, no better time to start planning for my trip to the 2024 Olympics (fingers crossed for my Hamburg friends)!