Have you ever heard of the Jena Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market)? It’s a charming little festive market and can easily be reached via train or regional buses. Plus, if you time it right, you can even attend some live events at the medieval market at the old city gates.
**** This post isn’t sponsored but contains affiliate links. If you book anything from them, this doesn’t cost you anything but might give me a little commission to help keep this free blog full of more travel tips and me fuelled with chocolate to keep writing. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. ****
Reasons to Visit
1. There are 2 Christmas Markets
Granted, the Christmas market in Jena doesn’t have 17 Christmas market sites like in Erfurt or is festive on every corner like in Dresden, but it’s compact and still cute. The main Christmas market is hosted on the old town square among buildings both historic and new.
It then sprawls out along the side alleys and onto the big parking lot in the city centre. A little further, just up the stairs and towards the old city walls and gate, you will find the medieval Christmas market of Jena.
2. There is a Ferris Wheel
While the main part of the “Jenaer Weihnachtsmarkt” is centred around food, drink and Christmas items, the market on the parking sqaure is all about theme park attractions.
You can find a hall of mirrors, scooter rides, carousels and of course a ferris wheel that offers great views over the busy market. Plus, it is here that you can heat up at the tallest mulled wine hut in the German state of Thuringia.
3. It’s Easy to Reach
Both the main train station of Jena (“Paradiesbahnhof”) and the coach station (“Busbahnhof”) are located only a ten minute footwalk away. The city centre is easy enough to reach, just walk away from the train station and past the former public bathing house.
4. It’s Right in the Old Town
The centre of Jena was heavily bombed during WWII and many historic buildings were destroyed completely. However, not all of them. Meaning, you will now find a colourful mix of modern buildings and traditional houses circling the cobblestone square.
The St Michael Church is just a stone’s throw away, the town hall and city museum is right next to the Christmas market – and you will be able to witness the live brass operformance from their windows. In short, it’s a good starting point for city sightseeing in Jena as well.
5. There’s Good Food
As is common with Christmas markets, you will not find a shortage of food. It’s all part of the appeal! Being in Thuringia, you can enjoy authentic and delicious local dishes, such as Thuringian sausage (“Thüringer Bratwurst”) and German dumplings with gravy and red cabbage (“Kloß mit Soß”).
Other typical fare includes langosch (fried dough spread with salt, sour crème and cheese), soups and tarte flambée. For dessert, just order lebkuchen hearts, caramelized nuts, chocolate covered fruits or crepes.
6. There Are Shopping Opportunities
On German Christmas markets, it is common to find handcrafted items to decorate your Christmas tree and make your home festive, including wooden hangers, glass baubles and delicate paper stars.
Other than that, there are also hand knit clothing items, artsy wooden souvenirs, such as bird houses, or special candles and candle holders on sale. Don’t forget to get a classic wooden pyramid from the Ore Mountains, a staple in German homes.
7. There’s Live Music
Every day at 5pm, you can listen to live music from the tower brass band playing above the main market square. They will play from the top floors of the historic buildings, bringing you special Christmas cheer.
8. There’s Entertainment
Apart from the live brass music, you can enjoy live performances and shows from the small stage by the old fountain. Those happen on weekends. Not all of it is catered to the little ones.
Jena Travel Tips
How to Get There
You can easily reach Jena by train. The city has several train stations, the most central one being <em>Jena Paradies</em>. Right opposite is the regional and long-distance bus station. From there, it is just one tram stop into the centre (yem>Löbdergraben</em>) or not even a ten minute walk.
Read on: The Best Thuringia Christmas Markets
What to Pack
It can get pretty cold on a Christmas market in Jena, so dress up warm! I usually wear thermal underwear and warm cotton socks in winter boots. Top that off with a winter coat, scarf, wooly hat and gloves.
If I know I am standing on the market for a few hours, I might bring a hand warmer with me. Also bring some change to buy food, souvenirs, etc. You can’t use a credit card.
Read on: Get the free winter packing list
Where to Stay
There are a few hotels in the centre of Jena, both modern and more traditional. The Hotel Haus im Sack, for instance, is set in a historical half-timbered house above a fancy restaurant. Rooms come with a TV and with rustic furniture. Check rooms here.
For an apartment, you can check out Ferienwohnung Friedrich Schiller. It’s only a 15min walk away from the centre. There is a bedroom, a TV, laundry machine and kitchen. Also, rooms have half-timbered pillars. View availability here.
To really be right in the heart of the city in a modern hotel, pick the ibis Jena City. My relatives have often stayed there and it’s really quite nice. The interior is colourful, yet not over the top. There is air conditioning, wifi and a breakfast buffet. Check rates here.
Is A Visit to Jena Christmas Market Worth It?
I say yes! Jena is centrally located and you can easily visit Erfurt and Weimar Christmas market from here. Plus, there are a few castles around, such as Lobdeburg Castle in Lobeda or Leuchtenburg in Kahla. You can make it a day trip!