There’s something extra special about the Essen Christmas market.
And sure, maybe it’s because it’s it’s the first one I experienced while living in Germany (thanks to the pandoozy for cancelling them all in 2020), or perhaps it’s because I went with friends while the kids were in school. Whatever the reason, the Essen Christmas market was just delightful.
The Important Stuff About the Essen Christmas Market
Before I get into the nitty gritty about what my experience, here’s what you need to know if you’re going to check it out.
*The content below is info I’ve gathered, along with my own opinions, tips, and suggestions. Due to the current covid situation and rapidly changing restrictions, I urge you to double check opening hours/dates before heading out to the Essen Christmas market.
⫸⫸⫸ First and foremost: Before you do anything, check out the Essen Christmas Market page for hours, dates, and current Covid restrictions. (And then check again right before you leave. Things can change daily!)
How to Get there
Essen is located about an hour north of Cologne in North-Rhine Westphalia (western part of Germany; zoom in on map), and is easily accessible either by train or car. We personally drove (because it was a heck of a lot cheaper to park instead of taking the train in), but it just worked better for us that way.
Coming in by train? Stop at the Essen station, disembark, and the market begins right there.
Where to Park
If you’re driving, I highly suggest parking at Kennedyplatz Parkhaus (Kennedyplatz Parkhaus, Vereinstraße 2, 45127 Essen). Pop out of the garage, and you’ll be in the middle of one of Essen’s five markets. Bonus: we were there for a little more than two hours and pad less than €5. Not too shabby.
We found two accessible toilets: one in Kennedyplatz (behind the potato pancake hut), and one near the glühwein stall near the train station (pictured). Bring your change—both sites required payment. The map above shows two more options, too.
For the Kiddos
Even though I didn’t have my kids with me for the Essen Christmas Market, I still kept my eye out for things they’d like. There was a ferris wheel and a carousel for little ones. There were also several toy stalls and a “medieval” market that I know my kids would love.
This would also be a market fine for bringing a stroller—things were spread out enough that it wouldn’t be a problem.
Also: have you kids keep an eye out for the talking moose! *Hint: it’s in the Kennedyplatz area.
All About the Mugs
Mugs are a huge deal at markets, am I right? If you’re not familiar, here’s a quick rundown on how the Christmas market mugs work:
When you get a drink at a Christmas market, they typically* come in a festive and unique mug—each market has their own design (and sometimes they’ll have multiple to choose from). You pay a deposit for the mug with your payment for the drink. Then, you get your money back when you return your mug…unless you don’t return it.
The mugs are excellent souvenirs and fun keepsakes to remember your time at the markets.
*Some places, mostly in countries outside of Germany (France and Belgium at least), serve their drinks in reusable plastic cups. Some of them will have the town’s name on them, and some of them won’t.
Mugs at the Essen Christmas Market
Several stalls had Christmas mugs, but we only saw three with Essen written on them (and they only had 2020 dates as of November, 2021). Find one at the glühwein stall when you get off the train, and the other two at the Kennedyplatz, including one with the talking moose on it!
What to Eat at the Essen Christmas Market
The Essen Christmas Market is known as an International Christmas Market, so you can expect to find foods from several different countries here.
I’ll also say that we saw some of the most variety of foods here compared to some of the other markets.
Pasta cooked in a literal wheel of cheese, a killer pork steak sandwich (it’s messy and huge and delicious), fresh chimney cakes, fresh sauteed mushrooms (get the garlic sauce with it), potato pancakes, potatoes on a stick, langos (like a fry bread pizza), allllllll the treats, and so much more.
What to Buy at the Essen Christmas Market
With more than 150 stalls, there’s something for everyone here. The medieval market was especially unique and fun to walk around—you can get some wooden swords and princess crowns here.
I picked up another little ceramic figurine for my village, but they have plenty of traditional-looking German houses and churches you can buy, too.
My Thoughts on the Essen Christmas Market
After checking out more than a handful of markets so far, Essen ranks pretty high on my list. I liked that there were multiple little markets, but they were all very close together. There was a decent gap between Kennedyplatz and Willy-Brandt-Platz, but the street was pretty—don’t forget to look up! (Some towns have them scattered around). So as far as walkability goes, this one was great.
I also liked that you could walk around with your drinks*, as opposed to a few places where you’re limited to only drinking/eating in a designated area. *this may have changed; be sure to double check before you go.
The food options are fantastic, and they’re all pretty much in one area so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on something. I hate finding something that sounds good and then going to another portion of the market only to find something even better (but you’re already full/satisfied from what you just had). Walk around and see what there is before deciding on what you want.
Since we were there during the day the lights were on, but it wasn’t dark enough for that “magical” look. But, I could easily see how incredibly beautiful it would be at night; I’d love to return to see all the lights twinkling.
Another winner for me: the parking option. You pop out right there at the market—it’s fantastic!
I would absolutely return to the Essen Christmas Market.
Have you been to the Essen Christmas Market? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it…and what you got to eat and drink!