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.
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Reasons to Visit
1. There are 3 Christmas Market Sites
Granted, Jena’s Christmas market doesn’t have 17 Christmas markets like in Erfurt or is festive on every corner like in Dresden, but it’s compact and still cute. All three locations are basically next to one another right in the centre.
For starters, the city’s main Christmas market is hosted on the old town square among buildings both historic and new. This is also where you can find the giant and very real Christmas tree hoisted up in front of the town hall (which hosts one of the 7 Wonders of Jena, a major attraction).
From here, walk westward out, choosing any of the side alleys and you’ll see a street and giant square ready for Christmas. You can’t possibly miss it.
The second site is less traditional and full of souvenir stalls, it’s more food and fun focused.
For most of the year, the area is a big parking lot but for Christmas in Jena, you will feel like on a little town fair. There are rides, rollercoasters, bumper cars and a ferris wheel. It’s all a little small but still nice.
A little further, just up the stairs and towards the old city walls and gate, you will find the medieval Christmas market of Jena. It doesn’t run as long as the main Xmas market in Jena, so check the dates each year. (More detail on that a little further down.)
2. It’s a Limited Time Affair
This is a no brainer because Christmas markets are obviously just found during Christmas time.
However, the dates vary from city to city in Germany and sometimes Christmas markets are open even until January. (Often Epiphany/”Heilige Drei Könige” on January 6.)
Here are the dates for the Christmas markets in Jena:
Historic Xmas Market Jena: 28 Nov to 15 Dec 2019
Regular Xmas Market Jena: 25 Nov to 25 Dec 2019
Times: 10am-9pm (stalls close at 8pm)
3. There is a Ferris Wheel
I’ve already mentioned it, while the main part of the “Jenaer Weihnachtsmarkt” is centred around food, drink and Christmas items, the market on the parking square 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.
(And it makes for a stunning attraction even if you’re not riding it. I got some great photos with it!)
Plus, it is here that you can heat up at the tallest mulled wine hut in the German state of Thuringia.
4. 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. No need to get a local tram ticket to get around the Christmas Markets. (But if you want the cheapest prices on Eurail passes, click here.)
Plus, if you’re staying in nearby cities in Thuringia, such as Erfurt, Weimar or Gera, you can use the train ticket called “Hopper Ticket” after 9am on weekdays and all day on weekends for only 5,60 EUR one way.
(Don’t forget to punch it before getting on the train to validate it. You can buy them in advance. Pro tip: You’ll find it under the VMT section on the ticket machines. It’s a bit tricky to find. Ask locals for help if you’re unsure.)
An alternative train station that’s close to the city centre is the Westbahnhof. From here, it’s a 15-20 minute walk to the city centre. You just follow the road, it’s easy to walk.
5. It’s Right in the Old Town
The centre of Jena was heavily bombed during WWII and many historic buildings were destroyed completely. Luckily 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, both the town hall and city museum are right next to the Christmas market in Jena, too. Basically, you are right in the middle of the city and the Christmas action.
5. The Yummy Food & Drink
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).
Both are ABSOLUTE MUSTS. I’m not kidding. I insist you try them. INSIST. You’ll thank me later. ;-)
Other typical Christmas market fare in Jena 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 fresh crepes.
You might be interested in the drinks as well. You are in Germany, so a mulled wine (Glühwein) is the way to go. For the nonalcoholic version, ask for Kinderpunsch. Other drink staples are beer, hot cocoa and hot cider (alcoholic).
6. There Are Shopping Opportunities
On German Christmas markets, it’s common to find handcrafted items to decorate your Christmas tree and make your home festive, including wooden hangers, glass baubles and delicate paper stars.
They are locally made classics and you can invest in really great souvenirs this way. Don’t forget to get a classic wooden pyramid from the Ore Mountains, a staple in German homes.
Other than that, there are also hand knit clothing items, artsy wooden souvenirs, such as bird houses, or special candles and candle holders.
7. There’s Live Music
A special feature of Jena’s Christmas market is the program too. Yes, there are more modern live bands and some cute kiddie performances. (Nothing too exciting, if you ask me.)
But the highlight are the live brass concerts the windows of the Local City History Museum Göhre and the town hall. The “Turmblasen” happens daily at 5pm and is performed by the local society Blasmusikverein Carl Zeiss Jena eV.
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.
And at the historic Christmas market in Jena, you might be able to catch fire dancers and similar “medieval”-style perfomances as well.
Jena Travel Tips
How to Get There
You can easily reach Jena by train or intercity bus. The city has several train stations, the most central one being Jena Paradies.
Right opposite is the regional and long-distance bus station. From there, it is just one tram stop or a 5 minute walk into the centre (tram/bus stop: Löbdergraben).
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 have money on you to buy food, souvenirs, etc. Credit cards aren’t commonly used in Germany. More often than not it’s Germ an debit cards and not all stalls accept them either.
Free stuff: Get your printable 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!
Tell me: Have you ever heard of the Christmas Market in Jena before and would you like to visit?
More from the Germany blog
- The best restaurants in Erfurt (including mini dumplings on edible plates)
- What to see in Stuttgart in one day
- Scenic hikes around Jena’s mountains and wild orchids
- Amazing Christmas markets all over the state of Thuringia, Germany