A towering 1000-year-old cathedral, millions of lights, the scent of mulled wine and gingerbread—these are the things that make the Aachen Christmas market. Welcoming 1.5 million visitors every year, this market is one of the best in western Germany. You’ll find traditional Christmas decorations, handmade gifts, and all the sausages and potato pancakes you can eat.
The Christmas market in Aachen is fairly compact. The hub of activity is the squares and streets around Aachen Cathedral, Charlemagne Centre, and Town Hall. The historic center feels completely transformed for the season.
There are technically five distinct market areas, but the reality of visiting is that the three main squares run together into one giant festive space while the remaining two have more limited options. Here’s a look at what to expect in each area of this dazzling market.
There’s no mistaking the main market area. The giant sign for Aachener WeihnachtsMarkt greets you as rows of wooden vendor huts stretch out along the Town Hall (Rathaus). Framed by the historic building that was first constructed in the 14th century, the market feels distinctively medieval in the shadow of its towers.
On either side of the sign, two gingerbread men usher you through to the treats and artisan gifts that lay beyond. Known as Aachener Printen, the figures are representations of the local gingerbread cookies that are for sale throughout the market and at stores around town. With origins dating back to the 1400s, they’re an important symbol of the city. (It’s not a coincidence that you’ll find the stall for Nobis Printen, one of the top Printen bakeries, just a few steps away.)
Markt Square is filled with around 50 vendor stalls selling a variety of merchandise. We found Fair Trade and natural products, including candles, salt lamps, bath products, and wool goods. There were also wooden toys and lamps for kids, ceramic creations, art, and accessories–a range of things so you can find just the perfect gift.
This area is also packed with food and drink options. In addition to kiosks where you can stand with your waffles, currywurst, or other delicious snack, there are several enclosed wooden huts where you can sit under the Christmas lights and enjoy food and wine while giving your feet a break.
If you’re traveling with kids or just enjoy seeing the sheer joy that comes with amusement rides, check out the carousel in Markt. The ride is topped with garland dripping with ornaments and lights for an extra touch of festivity.
On the other side of the Town Hall, stalls continue in Katschhof square, which extends to Aachen Cathedral on the south end. The two remarkable buildings make an architecturally stunning backdrop and ensure that this is one of the most atmospheric markets around.
The largest part of the Christmas market, Katschhof has dozens of stalls selling gifts and food. There are lots of ornaments and seasonal decorations and a wide variety of other items, including winter clothes and slippers, linens, leather goods, and artisanal food.
The Aachen Dom liqueur is particularly popular. It’s easily recognizable by its golden color and the image of the Cathedral on the label. You’ll find it available for small samples and purchase at several chalets.
If you’re in the market for something truly special, there are plenty of handmade products and gifts that can be personalized. We found unique jewelry, pottery, and blown glass as well as items being engraved on-site.
There are also lots of food stands in this section. Reflecting Aachen’s location on the border with the Netherlands, much of the food is German and Dutch, which means there is endless amounts of sausage, flammkuchen (flatbread), potato pancakes, and fried seafood.
As with nearly every Christmas market, gluhwein (mulled wine) is the most popular drink. Don’t miss OECHER Gluhwein-Treff, the oldest gluhwein stall in the city, which has been in operation since 1976.
Munsterplatz is the setting of the third section of the market. On the south side of the cathedral, the 20 stalls here sell everything from Russian dolls to stationery and Christmas pastries.
The focus of the activity in Munsterplatz is Hexenhof, a large bar with several sections and plenty of seating. They are known for the boot-shaped mugs they make every year to serve their warm beverages.
Hexenhof is most popular for its gluhwein that can be spiked with a handful of liquors, including rum and Cointreau. They also offer a full range of traditional Christmas market drinks such as eierpunsch (warm eggnog), feuerzangenbowle (gluhwein with a flambeed rum-soaked sugar cube), hot chocolate, and more. If you have a large group or simply want to relax here for a while, you can make a reservation on their website.
Holzgraben and Kugelbrunnen
East of the main market area, two other small squares feature a few food stands—Holzgraben has 6 kiosks, and Kugelbrunnen has 3. You’ll find gluhwein, roasted nuts, and gingerbread at both and a few bonuses at Holzgraben like the Italian stand where pasta tossed in a wheel of cheese is a popular choice. Holzgraben also offers a carousel ride for kids.
It’s probably not worth the time to make a point of visiting these two squares, but they’re convenient if they happen to be on your walking route. If you want to get away from the crowds or something to eat or drink without waiting in a long line, they may be good options.
Opening dates and hours
The Aachen market typically runs for about a month from late November through the weekend before Christmas. This year, it is scheduled for November 24 – December 23, 2023.
The market is open daily 11am-9pm with the exceptions of November 26 (6-9pm), December 16 (11am-10pm), and December 23 (11-8pm).
Parking in the city center can be limited, especially on weekends. If you’re driving, consider using one of the Park and Ride locations. For 5 euros, up to 5 people can take a shuttle to the market.
Many of the food vendors are cash only, so come prepared.
The Aachen Cathedral offers special programming on several Saturdays and Sundays in December which could make a nice addition to your Christmas market visit. Check their website for specifics.
Aachen is well-located if you want to visit several of the best Christmas markets in Europe, as we did. The spectacular Cologne market is just one hour away, and the sprawling Brussels market is about 1 hour 45 minutes away. For something a little cozier, consider visiting Liege, Belgium, or the small town of Monschau, Germany, which are both about 45 minutes away.
Laura Longwell is an award-winning travel blogger and photographer. Since founding Travel Addicts in 2008, she has written hundreds of articles that help over 3 million people a year get the most out of their travel. In that time, she has visited nearly 60 countries on 5 continents, often returning to favorite destinations over and over again. She has a deep love of history, uncovering unexpected attractions, and trying all the good food a place has to offer.
In addition to Travel Addicts, Laura runs a site about her hometown of Philadelphia—Guide to Philly—which chronicles unique things to do and places to see around southeastern Pennsylvania. Her travel tips and advice appear across the web.