Hamburg at Christmas Time | Travel Diary

Last December, I traveled to Europe with one goal in mind: the ultimate Christmas Market vacation. My loyal travel buddy Becky and I arrived in Hamburg, staying only one night, with one goal in mind: drink as much glühwein as possible.


Christmas is, hands down, my favorite holiday. My family has many traditions- some of which have been passed down from my German-American ancestors. When I was little, my Grandpa would sing “O Tannenbaum” every year, stumbling over the broken German words. My sister and I have kept the pffefferneusse tradition alive- they’re tiny, German spice cookies that my family consumes in unhealthy quantities every December.


All of my mom’s siblings, at one point or another, have lived in Germany. One year, my aunt and uncle, having just moved back from Stuttgart, decided to introduce the family to glühwein. Unfortunately, somewhere in the translation something went awry and we were left with a pot of steaming liquid that went untouched for the rest of the night. So, naturally, I decided a little hands-on research was necessary to. For preserving our heritage, of course. Purely academic.


Christmas in Germany was magical. The glühwein was sweet and aromatic, just strong enough to warm us up on a winter night. Inside Hamburg’s main market, the stalls were selling everything from baked goods to handicrafts.  Much to my surprise, Santa and his reindeer traveled across the sky, suspended on cables, with a Christmas greeting (at least, I think so? It was in German). This was exactly what I came for.


Hamburg has multiple Christmas markets. The one in the town hall square is the largest, but maybe not the most famous. Later in the night, fulled with courage from the glühwein, we traveled to the Santa Pauli market located just off the notorious reeperbahn. If you ever wanted an Adult Swim Christmas, this was it.


In the center of the market, a gigantic disco ball was rotating above the crowds. Techno music blasted from the speakers. Did you know Christmas techno music even existed? These stalls were much different. They sold glühwein too- and about fifteen other alcoholic beverages. You weren’t going to find any homey decor here.


At the end of the market was the main attraction. The Strip-Zelt. I don’t speak German but I did understand one word. Yes, this was a German pop-up strip club. Becky and I were a little unsure but we had to go in. “Do the thing in the place you’re supposed to do it”, right?

Did I mention this was a Wednesday night? They didn’t allow any photos inside but the place was packed. Men, women, singles, couples, young, old- everyone was here. Unfortunately the show was entirely in German so I missed out on some quality dialogue but thankfully cheering is a universal language. I can safely say this is one of my most unique Christmas memories.


Did you do anything special for the holidays? Share your experiences in the comments!

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