According to my German friends, the Heidelberg Christmas market is quite a famous one. Since I’m living here, I have of course visited the market a dozen times already. The main market opens for a whole month, from Nov 21 to Dec 22; there is also a special Castle Market (Schlossweihnacht) that opens only for two weeks. The two markets are quite different so I’ll review them separately.
Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆
Diversity of goods: ★★★☆☆
Similar to the Heidelberger Herbst (Heidelberg Autumn Festival), the Weihnachtsmarkt is spread throughout the Altstadt. I’m not very sure which part is the main market, but you can find the most booths on Uni-platz. There are also stalls in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit on Marktplatz, Bismarckplatz, Kornmarkt and Karlsplatz, so I’d say it’s quite big a market. On each square you can find something for kids (e.g. Merry-go-round on Uni-platz, Christmas train ride at Kornmarkt). You can also go ice skating on Karlsplatz (“Christmas on Ice”) for a reasonable price (€3 for adults/€2.50 for children for 90 minutes).
While the Heidelberger Weihnachtsmarkt is certainly big enough and looks really beautiful at night, it doesn’t make it to my top 3 favorite Christmas markets. For a market this size, one would expect a greater diversity of goods, but the majority of stalls sell food only. There’re just a few booths that offer candles, decors, woollen stuff and paintings on Uni-platz. Besides the candles and Christmas decors, you can find the rest in different shops in the town at any other time of the year. It feels like they’ve only moved these items from the shops out to the market and sell them at a higher price.
There are so many food and Glühwein stalls but little space for people to stand around to eat and hang out, so it’s always crowded in the evening, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. And if I say it’s crowded, it is crowded. I thought I had got used to overpopulated Hong Kong but this is simply another level of over-crowdedness. You can’t move around at all when everyone just stands there to drink and spill wine everywhere!