Home to the world’s first and oldest Christmas market, we’re riding a one-horse open sleigh straight to this week’s travel crush: Dresden, Germany.
My nerdy travel personality (see: my love for very specific cheeses, World of Warcraft, and being a young grandma) follows me all the way to the end of the year: I was lucky enough to have a childhood that instilled in me a deep love for the holiday season, and that love has yet to wane as I’ve grown older.
While the holidays have since become a more stressful time of year (or so says my heat bill), the spirit of the season still lives inside me in the form of cravings for mulled wine, comfort food, and cozy winter nights.
Although there’s often no place like home for the holidays, I think there’s also something magical about traveling in December—and lately, I’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas spent in Dresden, Germany. Dresden is home to the Striezelmarkt, the world’s first and oldest Christmas market, which dates all the way back to 1434. Each year, the festival sees nearly 240 vendors, performers, and craftspeople set up shop to show off traditional artwork, gifts, food, music, stories, baked goods, and more.
Also, they have special Christmas coins you get to use in place of Euros. So much holiday cheer and nostalgia I’m practically drowning in it.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Weihnachten
The Striezelmarkt is the definition of a winter wonderland. Amongst the dozens of vendor tents, there’s storytelling, a Christmas bakery, craft and baking workshops, a fairy tale castle, a candle pyramid, and a holiday Ferris wheel, all decorated with fairy lights. Then, there are all the treats to try: fresh gingerbread, honey cakes, glühwein (mulled wine) served in special mugs, and—of course—Dresdner Christstollen. (More on that in a moment.)
The original 15th-century festival lasted only a day, but now, the festivities last from the end of November until a few days before Christmas.
A Controversial Christmas Cake
Unpopular opinion: I think fruitcake is delicious. (I may be biased; I’m Jamaican and bun and cheese is the greatest delicacy on earth in my eyes.) At the Striezelmarkt, you can try Dresdner Christstollen, a traditional German sweet loaf baked with nuts, spices, and dried fruit all dusted with icing or powdered sugar. Look at that thing and tell me your mouth doesn’t water.
A Five-Star Hotel I Can Barely Spell
Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski: It doesn’t quite roll off my American tongue, but it does look gorgeous! Built in a restored 18th-century palace in Dresden’s historic center, the hotel’s facilities are impressive—consider their restaurant, bar, and café, as well as their luxury spa and modern, neon-lit indoor pool—but the romantic inner courtyard that transforms into an ice skating rink each winter really put the icing on the Christstollen.