The port city of Hamburg is recognized as Germany’s most international, cosmopolitan and multicultural city. However, during the Advent season, Hamburg is magically transformed into the Christmas capital of the North. “The fact that we host 16 Christmas markets in our city centre makes Hamburg unique as a Christmas destination,” said Guido Neumann, Head of Media Relations Hamburg Marketing GmbH to Cheese Traveller. “You can walk from market to market through the shopping area,” he said.

Diversity is the main characteristic of the 16 markets that attract more than 6 million visitors every year said Guido Neumann. “There are lots of different markets. The traditional one with flying Santa Claus  in front of the city hall, the luxurious one at the Alster Lake, several maritime markets, a party christmas market at the Reeperbahn and a gay and lesbian market in St. George.”

Christmas music, traditional Christmas carols such as “Silent Night,” arts, toys and epic decorations create a wonderful festive atmosphere in the city caught up in celebrations. Beautiful,  handcrafted wooden toys, jewelry, ornaments and leather items make the perfect Christmas gifts and the shopping is enjoyable and pleasurable. The overall atmosphere at the 16 Christmas markets is exceptionally cheerful,  and if you listen closely at one of the Christmas market’s mulled wine stands, you will find that “Silent Night” is actually being sung in various different tongues, sending Hamburg’s seasonal greetings around the world.

Here, Neumann shares a few tips on how to get the most out of your Christmas Markets visit in Hamburg.

Traditional. “Romantic minds and lovers of the traditional Christmas market will feel at home at the historic Christmas market on the Rathausmarkt. Designed by Bernhard Paul, director of Circus Roncalli, this market offers not only quality arts and crafts and organic mulled wine, but also a flying Santa, who with his reindeer-drawn sled glides over the heads of the visitors three times daily. Moreover, in the late afternoon this market turns into Northern Germany’s largest “after-work party zone” (until 23 December, 11 am – 9 pm, Sat/Sun until 10 pm).

LGBT. “While the Christmas market in the heart of St. Georg, also known as the Winter Pride market, may be less traditional, it is certainly most colourful and extravagant: Hamburg’s only gay-lesbian Christmas market offers not only a cosy and relaxed atmosphere, but also an area entirely free from traditional Christmas carols. Instead, there will be a varied music programme featuring renowned DJs, and each Sunday there will even be live performances by singer-songwriters from Hamburg (until 30 December, 12 pm to 10 pm, Fri/Sat until midnight). The Christmas market on the Fleetinsel and the “White Magic” Christmas market on the Jungfernstieg directly on the Alster Lake, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, offer a Christmas experience with a maritime twist (until 30 December, 11 am – 9 pm, Fri/Sat until 10 pm). Hamburg is still young when compared to traditional Christmas market destinations such as Nuremberg or Munich. After all, Hamburg has been marketing itself as a Christmas market destination for only 15 years – but this has proved to be highly successful.”

Luxury. “Right next to the White Magic market, the fairy tale boats moored at the Alster jetty provide entertainment to small Christmas-market visitors with theatre, Christmas baking and a perfect view of the famous Alstertanne – Hamburg’s tallest, festively lit Christmas tree in the middle of the Alster Lake.”

Modern. “Situated in Europe’s largest inner-city development area, the modern HafenCity Christmas market in the Überseequartier attracts visitors from near and far with its unique port location and its own ice-skating rink” (until 30 December, daily from 12 pm to 8:30 pm).

Alternative. “Less contemplative, but rather cheeky, cool and ironic: this is “Santa Pauli – Hamburg’s hottest Christmas market.” Located right in the Reeperbahn entertainment district, this market offers a somewhat alternative Christmas experience. Also this year, the Santa Pauli market was opened by Drag Queen Olivia Jones. Christmas time and a party atmosphere go hand in hand here – nightly strip shows included.” (until 23 December, Mon – Wed, 4 pm to 11 pm, Thur 4 pm to midnight, Fri/Sat 1 pm to 1 am, Sun 1 pm to 11 pm).

Hamburg has also a vibrant fine dining scene. Therefore visitors can also enjoy all that the local cuisine has to offer and the taste of Hamburg at Christmas. “Hamburg is the second biggest port in Europe and not far away from the open sea.” said Guido Neumann and explained : “So fish influences our gastronomic scene.”

How to stay safe while traveling abroad

Today’s international travelers are putting safety and security first when choosing a travel destination. Beth Godlin, president of the Aon Affinity Travel Practice  talked to Cheese Traveller and shared her top travel tips :

  1. Remember the (flu) season
      It’s not just holiday season, it’s also coughing/ sneezing/ fever/ body ache season. The risk is compounded by the fact that you get in contact with thousands of people from around the world as you pass through the airport, take public transportation – or visit a Christmas market. Nobody ever has time to get sick, but it’s especially disappointing when it might affect your holiday trip – before you go and while you’re traveling. So before you take off, talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot. Also, consider travel insurance to make sure you’re covered in case of a trip interruption or cancellation due to illness, or, even worse, a medical evacuation, which can cost upwards of $10,000.
  2. Blend in, and be vigilant
      Christmas markets are popular among locals and tourists alike – but criminals, like pick-pockets, might see non-locals as easy targets. Adjust to local behaviors, and avoid advertising your tourist status by skipping obvious behaviors such as studying an enormous map on a busy street corner. Make sure you keep your belongings close to your body, keep your pockets closed, and leave valuables in your hotel room safe.
  3. Have a plan
      Any time you travel, you should use your common sense to make sure you and your belongings stay as safe as possible. While gatherings of crowds, such as at a Christmas market, pose a certain risk, it’s no reason to lose your holiday cheer. Still, it’s smart to stay alert and have a plan. Here are three steps you can take:

      • Set up a meeting point in case your family or group gets separated. Make sure it’s easy for children to get to it.
      • Know how to reach the U.S. embassy. Passports get lost or stolen, so travelers should always carry the address and phone number of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, in English and the local language.
      • Sign up for the State Department’s smart traveler program. It tells the government where you’re traveling and when, so they know where you are in case of emergency in that area. They’ll send warnings and information that may impact your area of travel, etc.