With our final holiday stop and a two and a half-hour drive each way, Ryan made a new rule: you must stay wherever you are going for at least as long as it takes you to get there. Normally, I would push for the roundtrip timing, but sometimes this is unreasonable for where you are going and Baden-Baden when you aren’t here for a spa day, was that for us. With probably our shortest one-market stop, we spent about 3 hours here which included two runs around the market and a 20-minute excursion around the nearby park.
Baden-Baden is a UNESCO world heritage spot as one of Europe’s top Spa locations which means over the course of the summer it becomes impacted with all of the tourists and locals flooding in. In contrast, the holiday season – at least in the post-New Year’s stages – is apparently a low season.
This market is small with only around 100 booths but it is strangely misleadingly large and small at the same time. When you first step out into the market – if you manage the parking maze beneath it but more on that later – the whole thing seems huge! You look right and left and the market looks like it goes forever in either direction and then you spot some cabins across the way with some lights and the potential for more grows.
If you go left, you hit a dozen or so booths with gluhwein and some traditional food as well as the regular festive wares; when you hit the merry-go-round you also hit the shopping district so you can choose to get lost in there or turn back. When you cross back to the right, you find the truely deceptive block. The way in is three long lines and alleyways of back to back booths with the biggest clusters of food and drinks booths that I have seen, especially for a market this size. Even though it doesn’t look like it, this is actually the majority of the market booths. At the point where this labyrinth of booths looks like it swings left into more maze-ways, it actually simplifies into a small circular ring surrounding a closed off and empty square of lawn.
There is a singular, straight path that crossed the lawn and this is one of the market’s most interesting features. this path is adorned on both sides by false-stain glass windows all drawn and painted by local school children with the sponsorship of local companies, both big and small. These depict all sorts of pastoral and religious imagery mostly focusing on Christmas.
Beyond this path and separated by a small strip of lawn you will find the second really interesting feature: The Trinkhalle. This is a beautiful brick building with an open collum lined hall that displays around 20 different nativity designs. This looks somewhere between a competition and an exhibition but most of the pieces (at least the ones I was drawn towards) were completed by a single artist: Sonia Demetz.
The third special element is this town is so proud of its history. There are signs throughout the market giving details about the local site and monuments you shouldn’t miss while visiting. Even knowing that most visitors to the markets are really there for one reason – we’ve had enough hotels and locals direct us to them without us asking – yet, they want you to leave knowing more than the 100 booths. To get more information without having to wander too far, you can go through the doors in the middle of the Trinkhalle venue and read all about why the city has UNESCO status. Most people only wander in because it looks like it has a toilet (it’s why we did and it’s a private toilet) but once inside, you should give yourself the time to stop and delve into the history this town is so proud of.
Like I have said in the past, each town we visit has something special – it’s own charm, a market theme, an atmosphere, or a tradition that makes them stand (at least a little) apart from the rest. These elements were so understated – displayed and yet set back – but they really made the impression that this celebration was about being here, being local, and how proud the community is to celebrate in this way.
We took a quick walk to see what the cabins across the way were and ended up taking a small excursion through the first bit of Lichtenraler Allee Park. When researching, I found two addresses for the market and the park was one of them so we didn’t know if there was an extension or a second market here. There is (what we decided to call) a quarter market. Really it is one booth selling drinks and food, an icerink (with real ice this time), and portable toilets. My advice: unless you are desperate to ice skate, stick to the actual market.
The last thing I have to say is don’t get lost! The neighborhoods are very windy and locals drive through them like bats flying out of hell which is concerning if you aren’t used to hairpin turns. If you find yourself in one of these neighborhoods, they do seem to loop around but take your time and get out safe even if not quickly. The parking beneath the market is convenient for your visit but not for parking so again, in Baden-Baden, it’s all about taking your time. This is the strangest parking lot I have ever seen because all of the spots and lanes go in the same direction. If you turn down one of the 8 different lanes thinking there is a spot but you don’t fit, you have too loop around the whole lot and start again. As always, the earlier you get here the better your options!
This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.