It is December 2017. I cannot believe how quickly this year passed by. For me it was a year of changes in so many ways. On a professional level: I changed jobs! Well, actually the same job but a different employer and a different office. I can now walk or ride my bicycle to work; how great is that?! There are times when I think about a career switch , but I never seriously take action, because the truth is that I really love working at the travel agency.
So… it is December and me and the 2 Astrid’s are once more on our way to Germany to visit a Christmas market. We had such a good time in Cologne in 2015, that we decided to go again this year. Well, not to Cologne, but to Essen this time. When driving in Germany you have to stick to some rules; I wrote about them in the Cologne travel blog, so I will not repeat it here. The link to the Cologne blog you can find below. I also wrote that I believe that Germany has the best Christmas markets and there are so many of them around the country! But since we travel by car from the west of The Netherlands (where we all live in various towns/cities), we always try to find a place not too far away (max 3 hours driving).
So off we go again, like excited girls going on their yearly school trip. Just like last time we leave early, so we will have the entire day in Essen. Since we want to enjoy the local food/beer/wine 😉 I booked ourselves a hotel room so we can stay overnight. I booked Hotel Handelshof; the location for us is just perfect. Only 300 meters from the hotel we can park the car at Parkhaus Akazienallee (yes we have to pay, but the price is reasonable – if I remember well it was 11euro per 24hrs). But in case you want to visit by train: central station/Hauptbahnhof is just a short walk from the hotel. And there are more hotels in the area, so plenty of options.
But somehow I found this hotel and when we arrive at Hotel Handelshof by the end of the morning we can already check in. We have a really spacious room for 3 and when we look outside of the window we see that our first Christmas market is just in front of us at the Willy-Brandt-Platz. That means our first warm drink is not too far away ;). And Astrid 1 is extra happy since there is a Galeria Kaufhof (she is a bit of a shopaholic) opposite of the hotel. We leave our luggage in the room and go outside.
The Christmas markets open at 11am, so we can already have a look what the stands have to offer. Lots of variety in the products: delicacies, gifts, bags, wallets, hand crafted items, Christmas decorations, etc. We always end up buying something! But first it is time for a glühwein/mulled wine. It is actually a bit rainy outside and chilly, so we need to keep ourselves warm! Mulled wine is also known as spiced wine. It is usually made with red wine, spices like cinnamon, cardamom and star anise. Many add citrus fruit (oranges being the favourite) and sometimes a bit of liqueur is added. Drink 2 or 3 and you start to feel a) very warm and b) very happy!
From the Willy-Brandt-Platz we walk along the Kettwiger Strasse. Along the street there are more stands; there is no way you come home empty handed! We see a huge wheel/riesenrad at Burgplatz. For sure we will go in, but first we get ourselves another warm (non alcoholic) drink and something to eat for lunch.
Then we go in to the Essener Dom/Cathedral which is also on Burgplatz. The Essener Dom is the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Essen. I love cathedrals, although I am not religious. But there is usually something dramatic about them, as well as being peaceful. The cathedrals have a big history and I love the architecture. We walk around for a while and visit the garden at the back and we hear singing somewhere. I am glad we went inside to have a look.
OK, time to get into the wheel. We have an amazing view over Essen, but it is really gray outside and windy and cold. So I do not take any pictures and keep my hands warm. We sit close together and do enjoy the ride though, but we should have gone at night, when Essen is beautifully lit by 1000’s of lights. After the ride we decide to walk back to the hotel to warm up a bit and put on something warmer. Astrid 1 goes into Galleria Kaufhof for a while, and Astrid 2 and I go for a drink. After we get changed we are ready to go back. We walk via the Rathenaustrasse which is beautifully lit. Essen has the title of having the most beautiful Christmas lights decorations and this to me is true!
We are at Kardinal Hengbach-Platz, We need antoher glühwein, since we are still cold. And believe me: drinking one really helps to get warm. And it is only our second one, so… we order one and drink it and get warm at a open fire place outside. Now I actually start to get in the Christmas spirit. We reach Kennedyplatz where the biggest market is. The lights hanging over the market are truly beautiful; it is like a sky full of stars (mmm… sounds like a song). I take many photographs as we take our time to look at the stands and buy some gifts for the family.
We decided it is time for dinner. We want to go inside somewhere and sit for a while. We cannot bother to search for a long time and walk inside Sausalitos. It is packed, but we manage to find ourselves a table and relax. We have the biggest burger ever, which tastes pretty good I must say. We will save the fine dining for another time. We chat away and that is why we are here: quality time with the girls. After we pay our bill we walk back and stop once more at the wheel. It is beautifully lit at nights and the lights change all the time. No, we do not go in a second time.
We walk back to our hotel and have a last drink at the market in front of the hotel. It is even colder now late at night and the market is about to close. We finish our drink and go to our room, have a warm shower and fall asleep before we know it. What happened to the days when we used to stay up till late at night ;).
The next morning we wake up and see that it is snowing outside. Oops… we have all weather tires underneath the car and you have to have winter tires in Germany, if you want to drive in winter conditions. So we check out, leave Essen before the snow comes down big time and once we reach the Dutch border we find ourselves a place for breakfast. We really enjoyed Essen. The Christmas markets are all within walking distance of each other and the huge amount of lights create a very special atmosphere. I wonder where we will go next time…
Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller
December 3, 2017
More information on the Christmas market in Essen: https://www.visitessen.de/essentourismus_veranstaltungen/essen__weihnachten_/startseite.en.html
More information about the environmental zone in Essen: https://www.essen.de/leben/umwelt/luft/umweltzonen/Umweltzone.en.html
Click here to read the blog about Christmas in Cologne and to get tips and tricks for driving in Germany during winter: https://oneluckytraveller.com/2015/11/28/colognegermany/