Holiday traditions: Frankfurt Christmas Market and more

Visiting Frankfurt during the holiday season is full of magical experiences, from Frankfurt Christmas Market to the Alte Oper. At this time of year, the bustling streets seem to glow, and the whole city comes together to celebrate.

Home to one of the best Christmas markets in Germany – and even Europe – Frankfurt is a haven during the holidays, filled with good cheer, glistening lights and plenty of soul-warming seasonal delicacies.

Discover the best places to take your Frankfurt hire car this winter with our handy guide.

Frankfurt Christmas Market

Romberberg, 60311 Frankfurt am Main

For one of the oldest and biggest Christmas markets in Germany, make a beeline for St Paul’s Square (Paulplatz).

Frankfurt Christmas Market dates way back to 1393 and opens towards the end of November.

The main attraction is the array of colourful stalls filling the square, selling everything from traditional German Christmas decorations to delicate glass ornaments. On top of this, there’s also a great variety of food vendors offering up local and festive delicacies, such as wurst (sausages) and hot chocolate.

The market also upholds the Christmas spirit with live carols, church bells and a carousel, all nestled against the backdrop of the traditional timbered houses.

While most of the festivities are held in St Paul's Square, you’ll find more stalls near the River Main. Take time to wander and you’ll be rewarded with bright lights and sweet smells.

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Ebbelwei Express

If you’ve parked up for the day, take a ride on the Ebbelwei Express tram. Although it operates year-round, it’s especially enchanting at Christmas time.

Known in English as the Apple Wine Express, this brightly coloured tram invites you to sit back and relax as it takes you through the streets of Frankfurt.

Lasting an hour, the journey includes the best of festive German music. If you want to feel like a true Frankfurtian, you can also opt for a Hessian dialect course while you ride.

The tram also allows you to take in the magic of Frankfurt at Christmas time, away from the crowds as you travel through Romerberg and Sachsenhausen.

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Alte Oper

Opernpl. 1, 60313 Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt can reach as low as 0°C in winter, so seek warmth and entertainment with an evening at the enthralling Alte Oper opera house.

Originally built in 1880, it was destroyed in World War II and left derelict for almost 30 years. That was until restoration began in the 1970s after locals came together to raise the funds.

Now, it’s a shining beacon of Frankfurt’s community spirit, which is only amplified during the holiday season when its grounds are adorned with twinkling lights and grand Christmas trees.

Inside the theatre, there’s always something magical to see, from classical music – performed by the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra – to the opera house’s annual Christmas concert.

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Palmengarten der Stadt, Siesmayerstraße 63, 60323 Frankfurt am Main

While a botanical garden may seem like an unconventional festive attraction, the Palmengarten transforms itself into a winter wonderland at Christmas.

During the day you can wander the gardens, which are filled with the beautiful colours of various winter plants. Admire vibrant poinsettias and sweet cyclamens and soak up the festive aroma from the conifer trees towering above.

However, the real event happens when the sun goes down and the building is bathed in light. Enjoy an evening walk around the grounds to take in the sights and sounds of its winter lightshow and watch the different fauna glisten and gleam under a spectrum of colours.

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The Pealing of the Bells

Römerberg 23, 60311 Frankfurt am Main

Head to Römerberg – home to the Römer city hall – on Christmas Eve to hear the Pealing of the Bells.

This special half-hour event sees thousands of visitors and locals flocking to the square to hear 50 bells from 10 churches chiming in unison. Use the time to wander around Innenstadt, Frankfurt’s old town, to hear the unique sounds from each of the churches.

The weather can be frosty, so warm up with some hot chocolate from one of the vendors.

If you’re not around for Christmas in Frankfurt, you can still hear this delightful display at three other times during the year: the start of Advent on 1 December, the day before Easter, and the day before Pentecost.

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St Bartholomew’s Cathedral

Domplatz 1, 60311 Frankfurt am Main

On cool, crisp days, take the opportunity to explore some of Frankfurt’s most impressive architecture. St Bartholomew’s Cathedral is the city’s largest religious building, and was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. It’s made distinctive by its red sandstone exterior, and possesses a grandeur befitting of the site where emperors were coronated.

Today, you can climb all the way up into the tower (328 steps, to be precise) to enjoy unbeatable vistas of the city, 66 metres above the ground. Look out for the unmistakable skyline of the Old Town, as well as the Museum Embankment along the Main River. In the cathedral itself, look out for many celebrated works of art, including the Lamentation of Christ by Antonius van Dyck.

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Ice skating at Eissporthalle

Am Bornheimer Hang 4, 60386 Frankfurt am Main 

Is there a more traditional way to spend Christmas in Frankfurt than ice skating? Eissporthalle is an outdoor ice rink in Frankfurt where you can enjoy the cold, fresh air while practising your skating skills. There are also two indoor rinks as part of the complex, so you can enjoy the ice in all weathers.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite on the rink, head to one of the traditional restaurants nearby to refuel. Apfelwein Solzer, just 15 minutes’ walk away from Eissporthalle, is a much-loved tavern serving up authentic Frankfurt cuisine. Take a seat outside to soak up the ambience on a chilly evening.

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The Main Tower

Neue Mainzer Straße 52-58; Frankfurt am Main

If you can’t get enough of bewitching Frankfurt views, why not experience the awe-inspiring vistas from the top of Germany’s fourth-highest building? Named after the Main River, the Main Tower is located in the city’s Innenstadt district. The visitor’s platform stands at 198 metres (while the impressive Main Tower itself stands at a staggering 259 metres above Frankfurt).

Once you’ve soaked up the views, why not stay warm and check out the Main Tower Restaurant and Lounge on the 53rd floor? Eight-metre-high glass facades mean you can enjoy spotting some of the city’s most famous landmarks while tucking into world-class cuisine.

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Kleinmarkthalle Food Market

Hasengasse 5-7, 60311 Frankfurt am Main

Immerse yourself in the culinary culture of Frankfurt by paying a visit to one of the city’s finest food markets, Kleinmarkhalle. This market is home to over 60 food vendors, offering up a huge variety of traditional delights from fresh fruit and vegetables to grilled meats and hot delicacies to help you stay warm.

Keep on enjoying the holiday spirit by heading to nearby Zeil, the city’s most famous shopping street. The street’s origins date all the way back to the 14th century, and today you’ll be able to browse high street shops and designer boutiques. There are also two shopping malls to discover if you fancy staying warm while indulging in some retail therapy.

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Museum District

Brückenstraße 3-7, 60594 Frankfurt am Main

The Museum District, also known as ‘Museumsufer’, refers to a complex of museums and art galleries sitting on both banks of the River Main. There are an impressive 39 in total to explore, ranging from the Städel Museum showcasing European art dating back to the 14th century, to the Historical Museum, dedicated to sharing the city’s history.

Frankfurt’s impressive collage of museums is one of the most impressive and notable in all of Germany, whether you’d like to admire work by the Old Masters or discover contemporary sculpture artists. Take a stroll along the Museum District and duck into those which take your interest, in order to stay warm on a cold winter’s day.

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Add a touch of magic to your Christmas celebrations with Frankfurt car hire.