Only in Frankfurt: Hot apple wine and “Bethmännchen” marzipan candies lure visitors to the city’s traditional Christmas market
Monday 22, November 2010
This year’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, to be held from 24th November to 22nd December, will be featuring traditional arts and crafts, a wide range of culinary specialities, a unique honey shop and much, much more.
The market, which stretches from Liebfrauenberg across St. Paul’s Square and the Römerberg old town centre to the banks of the River Main, will be open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm.
The scene is truly beautiful. A lavishly decorated fir tree reaches for the skies, thousands of fairy lights illuminate the surrounding townscape, snow descends slowly upon the historical old town while the air is filled with the scent of baked apples, roasted nuts, homemade gingerbread and piping hot mulled wine – it’s Christmastime again in Frankfurt am Main. Exuding a cosy and romantic atmosphere, Frankfurt’s Christmas market invites visitors to a leisurely stroll amongst rows and rows of booths and stalls, where they are sure to find the ideal Christmas present for their loved ones. Close by, Germany’s tallest Christmas tree stands proudly at a height of over 30 metres. Together, the old town hall and the historical half-timbered homes of the Römerberg, St. Paul’s Church and Frankfurt’s modern skyline form a colourful and contrasting backdrop for one of Germany’s most traditional Christmas markets.
The history of Frankfurt’s Christmas markets dates back as far as 1393. For years, only Frankfurt merchants were permitted to display their wares here, perhaps explaining why today one is still able to find such a wide variety of local and regional specialities. Gingerbread, “Bethmännchen”, a delicious almond and marzipan biscuit (and a favourite of J.W. von Goethe), and “Quetschemännchen”, a candied figure made of dried plums, are just some of the many typical Frankfurt Christmas specialities looking back on hundreds of years of culinary tradition. Years ago, a gentleman too shy to make known his affections to a lady often availed himself of the age-old custom of sending a “Quetschemännchen” to her residence to let her know of his intentions. If she accepted this sweet gift, his chances looked bright indeed. If not, he would be well advised to seek elsewhere.
Aside from sweets, the market’s beautifully decorated stalls also feature a wide variety of traditional Christmas articles, such as Christmas ornaments, arts and crafts as well as typical Frankfurt creations like pottery and stoneware products. And then there’s the unique honey shop on St. Paul’s Square, one of the market’s more unusual attractions. At home in a 300-year-old half-timbered house erected for the duration of the Christmas market, the two-storey shop sells honey, mead, candles and many other honey-based products that may be tasted or tested in the cosy 1st floor lounge.
Having completed their stroll across the market, visitors may revitalise themselves with a glass or two of the locals’ beverage of choice, Frankfurt apple wine, served piping hot at most of the market’s many food and beverage stalls. Aside from being an excellent place for finding unusual Christmas gifts, the Frankfurt Christmas Market is also a very popular meeting place. Heated outdoor taverns and booths offering mulled wine, smoked sausages and bratwursts invite guests to meet up for a drink and a chat in front of a truly nostalgic wintertime setting.
Those interested in finding out more about the history of Frankfurt’s Christmas market are urged to take a guided tour of the market, available seven days a week. Entitled “Stories, Sweets and Savouries. Enjoy the Frankfurt Christmas Market with all of your senses”, the tour is full of interesting tales and anecdotes of historical and modern Frankfurt. “Taste tests” of many Frankfurt specialities are included.
Frankfurt’s Christmas market also offers plenty of musical variety. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the tower horns sound from the balcony of Old St. Nicholas Church, while International Christmas carols are sung from the stage next to the Christmas tree every Saturday and Sunday. And on the Saturday before the 1st Advent, Frankfurt’s church bells chime in a harmonious display of yuletide co-operation. At precisely 4:30 pm, some 50 bells of 10 downtown churches ring in the festive season with a performance that’s heard across the entire city. Inside the town hall, meanwhile, Frankfurt artists come together to display their latest creations in the time-honoured “Römerhallen”, or Roman Halls.
Finally, if you too are a fan of wintertime nostalgia, then take a trip on the historic steam train along the banks of the River Main. Offering excellent views of the southern bank, this short journey also paves the way for the next programme highlight. After conclusion of your stroll across the Christmas market, why not pop across to the other side of the Main and pay a visit to some of Frankfurt’s renowned riverside museums? The famous Frankfurt Museum Embankment and countless other sightseeing highlights are only a stone’s throw away. So as you see, there’s plenty to do in Frankfurt am Main during the holiday season.
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