With the start of December, Mannheim is kicking off its Christmas season by celebrating with one of Germany’s most beloved holiday traditions: Christmas Markets! The town has been setting up for days, and the market has finally been opened for the city residents and students alike. It’s a much welcome distraction from the daily work and grind of classes and final exam preparation.
The only other time I ever get to see a Christmas Market is when the annual Philadelphia Christmas Village at City Hall rolls into town, kicking off the winter season. While walking around Mannheim’s market, I was shocked at the similarities that Philadelphia managed to pull off with crazy accuracy, all the way from the food stands, to the smaller hand-made crafts typically on sale. But of course, each market, despite it’s geographical location, is unique in its own way, and Mannheim is no exception to this.
Because Mannheim has a couple of large open spaces found around the city, its Christmas market is split up amongst the region, letting you experience different holiday traditions depending on where you choose to go. A portion of it is located in the Paradeplatz, another at the Wasserturm, and the last one smack dab in the middle of the two.
The Wasserturm is like a Christmas wonderland – covered in sparkling lights, filled with gingerbread at every stand, carnival rides wherever you look, and of course, food as far as the eye can see (my favorite). The Paradeplatz market is slightly more toned down, containing a few food stands around its perimeter, but the main focal point of the market is the wide variety of decorations in the middle of the plaza, that showcase some of the most popular stories from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. And last but not least, the market located in between the two larger ones is mainly a stopping point in case you get hungry on your journey towards the other market.
Mannheim has truly been transformed into a winter wonderland! Mobs of celebrators spill into the streets as the smells of roasting almonds, glühwein, and cinnamon float all around you. Blinking lights flash in every direction from decorated craft stands, to carnival rides amusing its child riders as they squeal with glee. There’s an experience tailored for everyone – whether you’re young or old, in the holiday spirit or not, you’ll find plenty of ways to be entertained just by looking around! As much as I love my home city, I do have to admit that Philadelphia will never live up to, or even be able to recreate, the magic of a traditional Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany.