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Christmas time in Hamburg can be magical. Snow is not always a guarantee in December, but these places will get you in the Christmas spirit.
The whole inner city is one big Christmas market when December rolls around. The scent of roasted almonds fills the air, mulled wine seems to be everywhere and vendors will try to sell you warm scarfs and silly hats – all a lovely, familiar pastime. Then, in the main Christmas market near the city hall, a real-life Santa will ride his sleigh over the crowd, leaving everyone excited (and baffled)!
On the banks of the Alster /Jungfernstieg, one market has the best view of the giant, brightly lit Christmas tree in the middle of the lake. Another Christmas market is even on the Reeperbahn (which tends to be a little bit naughty and for adults only). But the classic Christmas market, where most of the locals gather is just a little bit further from the water, at the Gänsemarkt. It is quieter here, people seem more relaxed and the booths offer better products… but that doesn’t mean you won’t get headaches from the traditional sweet mulled wine.
Nothing will get you in the Christmas spirit like visiting one of the five big inner city Churches around Christmas time. Besides the regular and holiday services and readings, an extra, festive tradition is included: special holiday concerts. The peaceful events allow guests to appreciate the Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach performed by several choirs and orchestras in these great buildings with their special acoustics. In this case, the sound in the church even beats the Elbphilharmonie! Be sure to book tickets in advance for concerts at these five churches: St. Michaelis (St. Michel’s), St. Petri, St. Nikolai on Klosterstern, St. Jacobi and St. Katharinen.
The Jungfernstieg is a magnificent place to enjoy that special holiday vibe in the city, especially if you are travelling with kids. As an extra attraction and somewhat of a tradition, there five boats moored on the small pier: The five fairy-tale ships on the Alster. They offer their own daily programs for kids and grown-ups, mostly free of charge. There are two Bakery Ships on which children as young as three can bake fine Christmas biscuits – to take home or eat on the spot. Then there is the Café Ship where grown-ups can enjoy Hamburg’s winter magic on the water. It is also a classic hide-away spot where the committed Christmas shopper can relax and enjoy numerous Christmas treats. For the kids, there is also a Dream Ship with games and a listening corner, where the little ones can listen to stories about Santa. And then there is the Theatre Ship which offers a different child-themed plays each day.
A very special treat for young and old alike is the Alster advent boat trip with the beautiful old steamer known as „St. Georg“. It is decked out with festive decorations, mulled wine, hot Chocolate and Christmas pastries on board. This is Hamburg’s oldest Alster steamboat, built in 1876 and it will take you on a memorable 90-minute nostalgic tour across the Alster, canals and ponds. This rather unique boat ride is something most people in Hamburg don’t even know about. Between November 24th to December 23rd the boat departs from the Jungfernstieg pier at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on a route across Alster to the nicest parts of town where beautiful town-houses along the way should all be decorated for Christmas. The highlight of the trip is the return to the Inner Alster, with all dazzling lights of the Christmas markets and the majestic Alsterhaus on Jungfernstieg.