I know this has been asked before, and I've read through other forum posts. However, I would like some updated, recent opinions on gaining the best experience of Germany's Christmas markets. Lots of info out there on the biggest, oldest, most famous etc. Not such a lot on the smaller, lesser known, but probably more authentic and atmospheric ones. I'd be very interested to hear from people who have experienced special times at Christmas markets, be it as a result of the setting (old town backdrop etc.), food and drink, friendliness, Christmas spirit, music etc.
I suggest you the Xmas market in Bamberg, north of Nuermberg: bamberg.info/erlebnis/krippe...
My absolute favourite of Christmas Markets in small towns is the one in Bad Wimpfen. A small town, a beautiful setting and a market with a very long tradition.
My vote is for Trier, not far from the Luxembourg border.
I was going to say Nuremberg also.
My vote goes for all the Christmas markets in the Erzgebirge mountains. It's where the famous wooden Christmas items are manufactured. You can visit smaller and bigger manufactures, some of them in private homes, and see how they make the pyramids, nutcrackers, candle arches etc. Very special are the miners parades with lots of (brass) music. Every small town in the Erzgebirge has its own pyramid on the market square, almost all of the houses (and most of the windows) are decorated with the wooden Christmas items. Somehow it also feels less commercial than elsewhere. You can also visit related museums, there are concerts in churches, and get-togethers for the locals and visitors called "Hutzenabend" (singing Christmas carols while having a slice of Stollen or gingerbread or so plus sipping mulled wine) or festive meals (partially in old mines) called "Mettenschicht" (commemorates the last shift before Christmas).
Kurort Seiffen is where most of the manufactures are. Annaberg-Buchholz is the 'hub' in the Erzgebirge (see my page here), Schwarzenberg has the most atmospheric Christmas market IMO, and the best miners parade, Freiberg has the most outstanding sights beside the Christmas market (next to Annaberg).
We have visited markets 4 of the last five years. I think the best market each year comes down to chance. In 2010 we visited much disrespected Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Two things made it wonderful. First, it snowed. Second, as we returned to our Gasthof for the night, there was a group of seniors sitting in the restaurant singing Christmas hymns. They sang "Oh Tannenbaum" as sweetly as I have ever heard it. The sum of the experience was wonderful.
A bit of snow and a warm Gasthaus makes even a small place with almost no Christmas Market pretty magical. Last year we visited lesser knowns, Freising and Passau, and had great experiences in both.
I think that it is like soccer. You just try to take lots of shots at goal and occasionally one goes in. You can not merely go to the "best" town with the "best" market and be guaranteed to have a wonderful experience.
We will try Baden-Württemberg this coming year and hope for luck.
Only if you're in the area: Ober-Hilbersheim / Rheinland-Pfalz (all over the village and very authentic, you won't run into (m)any tourists there or Ingelheim am Rhein (beautiful setting) and maybe the Wiesbaden one (definitely nicer than the Mainz christmas market and less packed)