Seasonal delicacies like roasted chestnuts and grilled sausages are closely identified with Christmas markets. Photograph by David Celdran
Travel Destinations

Christkindlmarkt No.4: Where the Black Forest of Heidelberg in Germany inspired fairy tales

In this fourth of a series David Celdran discovers the Christmas markets of Heidelberg, the origin of gingerbread houses, the gingerbread man and yes, black forest cake. 
David Celdran | Dec 19 2018

GERMANY, HEIDELBERG

In Heidelberg, the Christmas market literally never seems to end. Apart from celebrating the annual tradition over an entire month, the city also converts five of its main squares into a huge interconnected market with Christmas activities across the entire length of Europe's longest pedestrian street, Hauptstrasse.

The old town and Heidelberg castle nestled between the Neckar River and the Black Forest.

The picturesque university town tucked between the Neckar River and the Black Forest is fabled for its beauty during the warmer months of the year, but, even when blanketed in snow, the illuminations lining the Christmas market from dusk until dawn veil the city with an enchanting glow.

Mugs used for drinking traditional glüwein are also popular souvenirs.

Despite its unusually large size for a local market, Heidelberg's Christkindlmarkt feels surprisingly intimate—and outsiders can look forward to being warmly welcomed. Heidelberg is one of Germany's most international cities, with universities and colleges that have drawn students from all over the world for centuries. This, plus the city's young English-speaking population, makes it easier to fit in, or share a round of gltiwein with strangers.

The cinnamon and clove-spiced mulled wine helps keep body temperatures and spirits high.
A woodcarver from the Black Forest working on a new batch of Christmas ornaments.

The Heidelberg market is also one of the most charming you'll find in Germany. Market stalls are adorned to look like traditional country homes complete with thatched straw roofs. Handcrafted cuckoo clocks from the workshops of the nearby Black Forest are popular holiday gifts as is Black Forest cake and, most especially, gingerbread cookies and houses made famous by German fairy tales such as "The Gingerbread Man" and "Hansel and Gretel," both of which were inspired by the mysterious Black Forest surrounding Heidelberg.

The city’s young population keeps the atmosphere in the market lively.

 

Photographs by David Celdran

This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue 18 2014.