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Dortmund: Germany’s Largest Christmas Market



My visit to Dortmund was short, a half-day hop from Essen, and limited to the city centre. Hence sightseeing was not really thorough, there is still a lot left for „next time“. The purpose was to get an idea of the city and - it was Advent season – to visit the Christmas market.

During Christmas market season, visitors to Dortmund will be greeted by Santa Claus. This tall figure (hard to estimate from my photos but 3 m at least) is standing on top of the stairs opposite the central station, on the way into the city centre. The sign in his hand announces the Christmas market.

The steeple in the background, by the way, belongs to the church of St Petri. Walk towards the steeple and then keep left for the shopping streets and the Christmas market. The pedestrian zone of Westenhellweg runs just behind the church.

Christmas Market



Dortmund's Christmas market is a destination for lovers of superlatives. It is listed in the rankings as the largest in Germany, with more than 300 stalls, and claims to have the largest Christmas tree in the world. It fills three squares and the streets in between. The market extends from Hansaplatz over Marktplatz to Willy-Brandt-Platz and around the two adjacent churches. There are also a few stalls around the church of St Petri along Westerhellweg.

The market begins already on Thursday during the week before Eternity Sunday, one week earlier than most other Christmas markets and one week earlier than tradition and the churches require, which has caused some discussions. On Eternity Sunday itself it will be closed, though. It then stays open until December 23.

The most impressive cityscape is found around the churches of St Reinoldi and St Mary. The other squares and streets are more or less completely accompanied by modern post-war architecture, so it lacks a bit of atmosphere. The goods on offer were mostly what you find in every large market, I missed local specials. The percentage of food and drink stalls and of fun fair stuff like roundabouts seemed rather high to me.

A small section by the steeple of St Reinoldi is a „fairytale forest“ with moving puppets and a strange „magical tree“ telling Grimm's fairytales.
Conclusion: not a market one would cross oceans for, but fine for a visit if you are in the area anyway.
Website: http://www.dortmunderweihnachtsmarkt.de/

Largest Christmas Tree in the World


The cup and the bowl

... or so they say! The Christmas tree in the middle of the market in Hansaplatz has the reputation of being a world record holder (which isn't really true - but in Dortmund no one cares). Of course this is not one single, naturally grown tree. It consists of a structure of metal scaffolding that carries lots and lots of little trees, 1,700 in total, which compose the shape. They are spruce trees from the Sauerland mountains.

The total altitude is 45 metres. It carries 20 giant candles, the angel on top and several larger decorations. It covers a ground of 14 x 14 metres and weighs 30 tons. I only saw it in bright sunshine; it must be even more impressive at night when it is illuminated with thousands and thousands of LED lights.

A close look at the decorations reveals that Dortmund's pride and joy is depicted on the tree: the double triumph of Borussia Dortmund at the end of the soccer season 2011/12 when they won both the German championship bowl and the DFB cup. (And aren't we glad any time it's not Bayern München!)


Hellweg - Medieval Trade Route and Shopping Mile


Hellweg is an ancient trade route that connected Rhine and Weser through the plains just North of the mountain ranges. The medieval Hellweg lead from Duisburg to Paderborn and Corvey and connected to other routes leading further East towards the Elbe. This route was one of the most important „highways“ for trade and travel. Along it, towns were founded which then developed into trade centres, imperial cities and proud members of the Hansa. Dortmund is one of these cities.

The Hellweg route is still clearly visible in Dortmund's town plan: the more or less straight street axis in East-Western direction that leads through the middle of the town centre inside the egg-shaped ring of „Wall“ streets, the line of the former city ramparts. The name is also still present: Divided into Westenhellweg and Ostenhellweg, it is the pedestrian zone and main shopping street in the city. If you intend to do shopping in Dortmund you will end up here. Between fashion and discounts, devote a thought to history...


Once upon a time Dortmund had a tram network. Public transport through the city centre has long been transferred underground, nowadays there are no more trams but subway trains. In Kampstraße, a stretch of tram tracks has been preserved, and there is a tram standing as if it was waiting for passengers at the end of line.

However, one should not fall for the trick. This tram will go nowhere. The tracks are blocked after some 50 metres. The entrance to the U-Bahn station was placed in its way. Since I like trams and appreciate cities that still have them, this forgotten streetcar evokes some nostalgic feelings.


“Churching” in Dortmund

Due to World War II the city centre consists, like in most cities in the Ruhr district, mostly of post-war architecture. In between there are a couple of old churches which tell of Dortmund's great past as imperial city and member of the Hansa.

Petrikirche is the first church you'll encounter if you arrive by public transport because it is located very close to the central station. The gothic church was built in the 14th century.



Two churches, both protestant, stand side by side in the very heart of the city: Reinoldikirche and Marienkirche. Reinoldikirche is the main church of the city. Its tall steeple with the onion-shaped baroque spire is a landmark, visible from many street corners and helpful to find your way. Its history dates back to the early middle ages when a first church was erected for the nearby royal palace (Pfalz); legends even connect it with Charlemagne. The present church has a gothic nave from the 13th century and a higher, late gothic choir that was added during the first half of the 14th century.


The „little sister“ of the large Reinoldikirche is Marienkirche, in former times the church of the city council. It is the more ancient of the two. The western front with the steeple and the nave, especially the side naves, are still Romanesque with thick and crooked pilars and walls. The gothic choir is a later addition.



The main catholic church of the city, called Propsteikirche, is not just a parish church but the central church of a Propstei (church district). From its foundation around 1300 until 1816 it was the abbey church of the Dominicans (Black Brethren, hence the street name „Schwarze-Brüder-Straße“). In the 19th century it then became the catholic parish church for the city.

World War II damaged the church badly. A closer look reveals modern elements that tell of the rebuilding in post-war times, like the shape of the spire. The cloister shows one old and one modern wing. The small square behind the church is surrounded by the modern buildings of the large parish centre.


Dortmunder U, and the Goldfish Bowl



„The Dortmunder U“ is a landmark of the city, not far and clearly visible from the station and from passing trains. It used to be the main building of a big and popular local brewery, Dortmunder Union. When the brewery closed down, the building was in danger of being demolished like the rest of the factory, but as it is a landmark it was saved and turned into a cultural centre, called „Zentrum für Kunst und Kreativität“. It now contains a museum of contemporary art and various artists' workshops, a cafe, and various other instalments around contemporary culture.
The windows at the top have been turned into a supersize goldfish aquarium with moving 'fish' that shine in bright orange.
At regular intervals they fade and disappear, and then return.

BVB Borussia - It's All About Soccer in Dortmund

Santa hats in team colours

In Dortmund it's all about soccer (football). Borussia Dortmund, or BVB 09, is one of the top teams in the Bundesliga. In the season of 2011/12 they won both the championship and the DFB cup, a rare double. About everyone in town, it seems, is raving about them. Fan scarves are worn not only at the time of matches but as everyday winter wear. The club's colours, yellow and black, are omnipresent. Soccer souvenirs are on sale at almost every street corner. They even have Santa hats in yellow and black (and a few in blue and white for the occasional Schalke 04 or VfL Bochum supporter who might venture over).


At the western end of the pedestrian zone of Westerhellweg there is a large BVB fan shop which sells a wide assortment of the weirdest fan articles. BVB garden gnomes... piggy banks that sing the fan song each time a coin is dropped into them... toasters that burn the BVB logo into your toast... rubber duckies in BVB jersey... and of course the usual stuff like t-shirts and socks, coffee mugs and keyrings. Here are some snapshots of the shop windows. The shop is quite entertaining to look at even if you are no soccer fan!


And here is the one song for real hardcore fans: Die zwei vonne Südtribüne - „Boah ey Borussia“.
Pure Dortmund intelligence… tee hee. Enjoy!

Posted by Kathrin_E 19:39 Archived in Germany Tagged dortmund nordrhein-westfalen ruhrgebiet

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