Landeshauptstadt Dresden/Sylvio Dittrich/Dresden Marketing GMBH
The Experience: At Striezelmarkt, the oldest Christmas market in Germany, tradition reigns. Nearly everything has roots that date back centuries, from the crafts to the foods to the Pflaumentoffel that you’ll see everywhere—a jolly chimney sweep figure crafted from dried prunes. Another longstanding institution is the Christmas pyramid, which you’d be hard-pressed to miss. While the tiered carousel decorations are usually less than 2 feet tall, this one soars 45 feet in the air.
Unique Finds: Wooden figures from the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge in German) come in many forms, from a flying buttress that displays candles to iconic nutcrackers to a smoking man, a typical Erzgebirge Christmas figure who’s designed to hold an incense candle. The Lusatian pottery is also worth seeking out.
Must-Tastes: Stollen (originally known as striezel) is the trademark food at Striezelmarkt—and its namesake. The bread-like fruitcake is made with rum-soaked raisins and dried fruit, then coated in powdered sugar. The real deal is baked only by registered members of the Dresden bakers’ guild, who follow a historic recipe. During the Stollen Festival, a several-ton version is paraded through the streets, then sliced into individual servings with a 5-foot-long knife.