Every year thousands of tourists rush to see the biggest Christmas tree in Dortmund, explore the endless stalls in Düsseldorf or visit the longest market in Duisburg, most of them oblivious to the fact that among them hides another festive gem; the Essen Christmas market.
The often-overlooked Essen Christmas market provides a respite from the crowds of the bigger markets nearby, without compromising holiday cheer.
On the contrary, Essen’s city center goes all out and is completely covered by a floating sea of sparkling string lights, that guide you through the various festive stalls, offering everything from Medieval-themed souvenirs to intricate Christmas ornaments and iconic seasonal treats.
In this Essen Christmas Market guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about experiencing the beauty of Essen’s Christmas Market for yourself.
NOTE: We last visited this Christmas market in November 2017, so take note that some things may be different this year. We’ve tried to keep this guide as up-to-date as possible, but let us know if you spot anything we should change!
When is Essen Christmas Market?
According to the official Essen tourism website, the dates for this year’s Essen Christmas Market are confirmed for November 12 to December 23, 2021.
Where to Stay for Essen Christmas Market
In need of a place to stay? Here are some quick recommendations for hotels near Essen Christmas Market:
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Where to Find Essen Christmas Market
The Essen Christmas market is a relatively small market, compared to other ones in the area, but it still has a lot to offer.
Here are the locations where you can experience Essen’s Christmas Market scene for yourself:
The heart of the Essen Christmas market is located at Kennedyplatz.
Covered in golden glittering lights, you will be drawn to it like a moth to a Christmassy flame!
Walking through the market, make sure to take a break from admiring the lights and look down long enough to browse through the varied seasonal snacks and unique souvenirs that you can find in this picturesque market.
Another reason we love this market—besides that obvious wow factor provided by the million floating lights—is the fact that the Essen Christmas market provides you with everything you could want out of a German Christmas market experience, minus the overwhelming crowds. Yay!
Due to its flashy neighbor Düsseldorf, and the famous Dortmund Christmas market, Essen is still relatively low on tourists during the holiday season, so if you want to be a Christmas market pioneer make sure to add this one to your list!
If you are a romantic who thinks that old times were the golden times… how far back would you want to go?
The Essen Christmas market will transport you back to medieval times with this amusing medieval-themed market for all of us who always dreamed of getting our armor on to go fight the evil dragon, except that here you get your armor on to go drown your medieval sorrows with Glühwein.
In this unique Christmas market, you will find all sorts of fun souvenirs such as leather coin pouches, wooden treasure chests, and all the medieval weaponry your knightly heart might desire.
Side Street Stalls
The Essen Christmas market is mostly focused in the Kennedyplatz area, however, we consider it is worth mentioning that you can also find more stalls spread out through the city’s streets, as well as beautiful light installations sprinkled around, so make sure to explore all over the city center.
What to Eat at Essen Christmas Market
The Essen Christmas market is the perfect size to explore in one day, but with its 250 different stalls serving all kinds of delicious treats and international goodies, you will want to come back for more.
So to help you decide where to begin, here are some of the foods you should try at the Essen Christmas market:
1. Wurst (Sausage)
In all its kinds and sizes, with all its condiments, bread or no bread, if you are in Germany it is your duty to try a Wurst.
The Wurst (sausage) is the embodiment of German food, and you will come across plenty of stalls selling this national delicacy as you make your way through the Essen Christmas market.
It is estimated that Germany has over 1000 different kinds of sausages, all prepared and seasoned differently, so it is understandable that wanting to narrow your German food experience to one sausage can seem daunting, so if you are at a loss for which one to try you can always ask a friendly seller for some recommendations.
2. Reibekuchen (Potato Cakes)
If you are a fan of the classic breakfast hashbrowns, you will be happy to know that Germans are too, and they have their own version of it—the Reibekuchen.
The Reibekuchen (also referred to as Kartoffelpuffer) is a little potato cake that is fried to crispy perfection and is served with a side of apple sauce, however, contrary to the popular American hashbrowns, this savory treat is mostly enjoyed as an afternoon/evening snack.
Make sure to locate these at the Essen Christmas market and give them a try.
The Currywurst is a modern national dish that was originated in Berlin, and it consists of a cut-up sausage covered with a sweet curry ketchup sauce, topped with curry powder, and normally served with a warm bread roll. Pure comfort food!
This tasty warm snack has quickly become the country’s favorite go-to after-party meal since is one of the few food options that are open late through the night and during the weekends.
The Currywurst is not unique to the festive season, but it is very present in everyday German life, that’s why you will find no shortage of Currywurst stalls at the Essen Christmas market, and that’s why it should definitely be on your list!
4. Pommes (French Fries)
Currywurst and Pommes are like peanut butter and jelly, they just go hand in hand.
Pommes might not seem like the most festive or German thing to eat at a Christmas market, however, Germans will always find a new way to enjoy potatoes… and Pommes is the most practical presentation of them!
This one-size-fits-all snack can accompany any other savory treat you might get at the market, like the flavorful Currywurst, or enjoyed by themselves next to a cold beer.
5. Steak Sandwich
Imagine you are tipsy and giggly after several mugs of Glühwein and all you want is a savory snack to absorb the booziness and to satisfy that craving for cheap McDonald’s french fries… well, I have something much better than cheap french fries; the Essen Christmas market steak sandwich.
You can find this mouth-watering treat at the “Der Klopper” stall at the Essen Christmas market, and it consists of a juicy slab of steak covered in a rich garlic sauce, topped with onions, inside a triangle of fluffy bread.
It is absolutely divine! And you must try it.
6. Gebrannte Mandeln (Roasted Almonds)
On the sweeter side of the menu, another iconic festive snack you need to try at the Essen Christmas market is the fragrant roasted almonds.
You will easily spot these sweet shops thanks to the unmissable vibrant gingerbread cookies dangling from the roof, or even easier, by the sugary aroma in the air.
In these stalls, you can enjoy a variety of delicious candied nuts, but beware, prices are often listed per 100g, so make the math before you spend all your paycheck on sugary almonds. (But to be honest, we wouldn’t judge you if you do)
Another treat for those of us with a sweet tooth, a German classic that you will undoubtedly find at the Essen Christmas market: Marzipan.
Marzipan is a German dessert made out of eggs, almonds, sugar, and honey, and it has a dry doughy texture that can be molded into different shapes and forms—like the fun “mega marzipan potato” pictured below.
PS: This seasonal treat would also make a nice gift for anyone back home!
If there is one thing, and one thing only, that you must try while at any German Christmas market, it has to be the famous Glühwein.
This comforting spiced hot wine arrives at the beginning of winter bringing with it the holiday cheer, and something to look forward to at the end of the day during those dark winter months.
Seriously, you can almost see people running out of their offices and into the Christmas markets at the end of the day to get their hands on a piping hot mug of Glühwein… it’s that good!
You will find a few variations of this festive beverage through the Essen Christmas market, the typical being with red wine, but can also be made with rosé, white, or with an extra kick of a liquor of your choice.
9. Heiße Schokolade (Hot Chocolate)
I know what you are thinking, “I didn’t fly across the globe to have a simple hot chocolate”, however, you are in Christmas-land, surrounded by thousands of tiny lights sparkling above your head, it would be disrespectful to your 5-year old self to not indulge in a hot chocolate moment!
Besides, there is something unique about German Christmas market hot chocolates, might be the recipe, might be the added shot of Baileys… we will never know, but they are silky smooth and delicious!
Eierpunsch has been described time and time again as the German eggnog, but we are not convinced.
The Eierpunsch is a festive drink made with egg yolks, white wine, cinnamon, clove, vanilla, citrus juice, and topped with whipped cream. So basically, f you like to drink your dessert, then this is the drink for you!
You can find this drink at almost any stall at the Essen Christmas market that is also serving Glühwein, hot chocolate, and any other hot beverages.
What to Buy at Essen Christmas Market
After wandering through the Essen Christmas market and feeling the giddiness of a small child surrounded by all those Christmas lights, you will surely want to get a little something to remind you of your magical time abroad.
So here are some items that would make great gifts or souvenirs that you can find at the Essen Christmas market:
1. Candles And Candle Holders
While exploring the Essen Christmas market you will definitely come across a few of these stalls dedicated to candles and intricately decorated candle holders.
These delicate items make for a very thoughtful gift for that avid candle burner in your life or are also the perfect souvenir to display around your place and reminisce about your Christmassy holiday abroad.
2. Christmas Market Mug
One of the simplest, most practical—but still absolutely adorable—souvenirs you can get is a festive Christmas market mug.
These mugs tend to be completely different from city to city, so you know that you are getting an item that is truly unique to your destination.
Sometimes different stalls within the same city will have their own unique designs, so make sure to go around the Essen Christmas market to locate the winning Christmas mug before purchasing the first one you see.
3. Traditional German Toys
Germany lives in some sort of melancholic state for old times; payment by card is hardly ever accepted, any kind of paperwork is mostly done by snail mail, and you can still find good old handmade toys carved out of wood.
This doesn’t mean that actual modern toys don’t exist, it’s just that Germany likes to keep traditions alive, and these little dolls are part of it.
So, whether you buy one for your favorite tiny human back home, or for yourself to use as decoration, these lovable little wooden figurines should definitely make their way into your luggage!
4. Paper Stars
If you love the coziness of the candle holders, but can’t see yourself managing to take them home in one piece, then these Moravian paper stars might be the perfect souvenir for you!
These colorful stars will also add a warm glow to any room, but contrary to the candle holders, these are super easy to transport since they are light and foldable, therefore very easy to pack in your luggage without the fear of them getting damaged.
5. Local Liquour
In addition to beer, Germany is also a big liquor consumer, which is why they are well known for their delicious and punchy Schnapps.
Throughout the Essen Christmas market, you will be able to find a wide variety of locally produced liquors, which would make a great souvenir to take home as a way to keep on experiencing the place you traveled to and to share that adventure with loved ones.
PS: You can even find carry-on approved little bottles of liquor.
6. Authentic German Christmas Ornaments
As previously stated, Germany loves tradition, and you can see that translated into the love and attention that goes into producing a lot of the handmade goods sold at the Christmas market, like the beautiful Christmas ornaments.
While exploring the Essen Christmas market you will find a variety of stalls selling these intricate handmade Christmas ornaments that would make a great addition to your holiday decor back home, or a great gift for the Christmas lover in your life!
7. International Goodies
The Essen Christmas market brands itself as an “International Christmas market”, which is why, among its 250 stalls you will also be able to find products from over 20 different countries, varying from amber jewelry from the Baltics to African handicrafts, that would make very unique souvenirs or gifts.
8. Unique Souvenirs
While strolling through the Essen Christmas market we also noticed that there was a tendency here for more modern and rare souvenirs that we didn’t see in other more traditional markets—such as the cool record clocks pictured below.
So, if you want to stray away from traditional Christmassy shops, this market will surely have something more unique for you to take home.
9. Customizable gifts
A customizable item is a great way to get a thoughtful one-of-a-kind gift for a loved one back home, or as a souvenir for yourself to remember your Christmassy trip abroad.
You will find no shortage of these personalized gifts at the Essen Christmas market, from cute mugs with handpainted personalized messages to breadboards that can also be carved on the spot, there is something for everyone!
10. Painted Porcelain Christmas Village Houses
Finally, one of the cutest seasonal souvenirs you can possibly get at the Essen Christmas market are these painfully adorable miniature porcelain village houses… just look at them!
These precious little things are a beauty to look at, and even more if they are under your own Christmas tree every holiday season.
To make this souvenir even more personalized to your trip abroad, look out for some of the tiny houses that have been modeled after the city’s most iconic buildings, this could be the city hall or any major church.
Extra Tips for Visiting Essen Christmas Market
The Essen Christmas Market takes place throughout November and December when the temperatures drop significantly at night, so, make sure to dress accordingly.
To be able to fully enjoy your time wandering around, instead of just thinking how cold you feel all the time, we would recommend wearing a proper winter jacket and very warm shoes, since you will be standing and walking a lot, plus accessories such as a scarf, a hat, and gloves.
This is the golden rule of visiting any Christmas market: BRING CASH.
The majority of stalls at the Essen Christmas market will not accept any type of card payment, and there is nothing worse than standing in line for a delicious steak sandwich and realizing you have no cash and have to track down an ATM… is just not worth it, so plan accordingly and bring all the cash you might need for food, drinks, and souvenirs.
Bring a reusable bag
If you are planning to buy bigger items and souvenirs, we would advise you to bring a small foldable reusable bag that you can use to haul your purchases back to your hotel since most shops won’t offer plastic bags or they might charge for it.
So to stay on the safe side, just bring your own.
Where to Find More Info on Essen Christmas Market
Official website: VisitEssen.de
Help us improve this Essen Christmas Market Guide!
Do you have a pro tip about Essen Christmas Market? A particular souvenir you loved, or a delicious treat you tried? Let us know in the comments what your insider tips are for Essen Christmas Market so we can help improve this guide for all future visitors.