Many other towns and cities in Europe have their own Christmas markets these days, but there is little to compare with the original German versions. And where could be more romantic to experience the typcial pre-Christmas experience than in the historic settlements along the Romantic Road.
Generally speaking, a 'Weihnachtsmarkt' opens around midday and goes through to the early evening. A market normally consists of stalls selling Christmas ornaments and knick-knacks, as well as local handicrafts that would be suitable for presents, and not forgetting the traditional food and drink. Mulled wine (Glühwein) and spiced tea with rum are specialities for this time of year.
The markets below are listed from North to South along the Romantic Road, not in any particular order of importance and with the dates for 2012:
This is held from November 29 through to December 23 in the Oberer and Unterer Markt (Upper and Lower Market) in the centre of the city. There is also a section with artists' stalls selling handicrafts in the courtyard of the town hall. The market is open daily from 10.00-20.30 (on Sundays it opens an hour later).
More about Würzburg
The Advent Market in Rothenburg dates back to the 15th century.
The 'Reiterle', who gives his name to the market, is a mythical horseman who visits in the Advent time from a parallel world of lost souls. Originally he was someone to be feared, but over the centuries he has become a figure of good luck and Christmas cheer.
The Rothenburg Christmas Market opens on November 29 in the main town square and goes through to December 23. It is open from 11.00-19.00 and an hour later on Fridays and Saturdays.
More about Rothenburg ob der Tauber
The market in Dinkelsbühl starts on November 28 and runs through to December 22. It is held in the courtyard of the Spitalhof on the northern edge of the town and runs 14.00-20.00 on weekdays and 11.00-20.00 at the weekend.
More about Dinkelsbühl
The Nördlingen Adventmarkt is held in the central part of the town from the Marktplatz through to the historic buildings centred on the old corn warehouse. There is also an 'crib trail' - a walk taking in displays of the traditional art of Christmas cribmaking. The market runs from November 29 through to December 23 and is open from 11.00-19.00 and to 20.00 on Fridays and Saturdays.
More about Nördlingen
In many parts of Europe, the Christkind (the 'Christ-Child' is not however to be confused with Jesus) is the person who brings presents (rather than Santa Claus) and the Christkindl is an affectionate diminutive term.
The Augsburg Christkindlesmarkt dates back to the 15th century - its origins were as a fair organised by the bakers of gingerbread ('Lebzelten'). The idea of the Christkind came into belief following the Reformation, with Protestants favoring the Christkind as the bringer of presents rather than the old (Catholic) St Nicholas.
The Augsburg market also features a display of angels, where a living Advent calendar is portrayed on the facade of the town hall, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during Advent. The Christmas market itself opens on November 25 and runs through to December 24. It is open 10.00-20.00 Sunday-Wednesday and 10.00-21.00 Thursday-Saturday.
More about Augsburg
Those travelling independently on the Romantic Road might be interested in adding on a couple of days to see the Christmas markets at an arrival or departure city.
More information about the markets in Frankfurt and Munich.