A couple years ago in 2016, I had a chance to tour the town of Zwickau and write about its Christmas market. Located in the city center at two different market squares, the Christmas market presented a combination of anything that is typical of the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) combined with local folklore and local specialties that were not only typical of the region, but also very delicious. More on that you’ll find here. 🙂
Yet as the market expanded during my most recent visit in 2018, and in connection with the city’s 900th anniversary, there is another Christmas market in Zwickau that is just off the main highway and lured me there as I was with my family during a visit. Here, one needs no more than a 10 minute walk from the main market to this historic site…..
Mentioned for the first time in the history books in 1297, the castle used to be one of the centerpieces of Zwickau, housing three dynasties before it was vacated in 1770 and later converted into a prison, where prominent people, including writer Karl May, were locked up for their offenses. In the 1960s, the East German government converted the former complex into a washing complex, which lasted only 15 years. By 1980 the complex was abandoned, and for 26 years, it became a focus of a heated debate as to whether it was sensible to keep the complex and renovate it, or just tear it down altogether. Finally in 2006, the green light was given by the city council to restore the castle to its former glory, a project that took over two years to complete. The castle is a combination museum and center of the arts, featuring a courtyard, art gallery and an theater stage for performances by some well-known/ local personalities.
The Schlossweihnachten at the castle has been going on since 2010, but it is one that has received lots of visits and great reviews. The market takes place only on the Advent weekends from Friday through Sunday in the afternoon and evening hours. Originally, the market featured booths and eateries in the main court. The Christmas tree is flanked with Schwibbogen (Christmas arches) with the murals representing the cities in Saxony (Zwickau included) as well as the Ore Mountains, Vogtland and places along the Mulde, which flows through Zwickau. Booths offering food and handcraft items surround the tree in a circle.
Yet 2018 marked the first time that market extended to include the Schlossgraben on the west side, where the bridge to the castle is located. Some of the booths and other places were also at the eastern entrance facing the street and inside the building itself, thus allowing for people to have a closer look at the castle on the inside and out. Part of this extension has to do with the extensive renovations that were being carried out on one of the wings of the castle. Nevertheless, with parking scarce at the castle because of areas restricted to only customers of a local grocery store combined with residents of the nearby condos, it was highly recommended to use the city’s numerous parking garages encircling the market square and then take the 10-15 minutes to walk there. The nearest park house is at Centrum, just off the main highway.
Inside (and around) the castle there were a lot of products offered that had to do with handcrafts mainly from the region. Whether it was made from paper, stones or other materials, shoppers had a chance to either purchase them or even make some on their own. It depends on what they were looking for: Christmas cards, tree decorations, soap products, honey, braceletts and necklaces, or winter clothing. They even had ceramics either for dining or in a shape of figurines, such as Christmas angels and manger sets. Many of them carried white and red colors, which are typical colors for Christmas (alongside the green). And while woodworking was rare to find at this market, they also had the traditional Schwibbogen and pyramids on hand, both in the traditional form with candles and/or incandescent lights but also in LED. The main outtake from this tour was homemade and with some class from the locals who put a lot of time and effort into making them for the market.
And if it wasn’t enough, the market was loaded with fire bins, where people can warm their hands over the fire or even roast some of the local foods that were there. The market has a lot of meat and bread products that are handmade and from the fire-ovens, thus resembling memories of camping with an open bonfire. This was useful, especially for children, as the market had enough to offer them for both indoors as well as outdoors. For outdoors there is a sledding ramp, where kids can slide down with rafting tubes, yet they had outdoor performances on stage and were also greeted by Santa Claus, who came around to visit the kids daily. The visit is not complete without taking home a custom-made Christmas market ceramic cup with the slogan on there in either black or white with contrasting writing, again all homemade but a souvenir that represents a well-worth visit.
The Schlossweihnacht at Osterstein Castle in Zwickau represents a combination of history and locality, all in the city of Zwickau. It is different from the main market in a way that everything that is offered for eateries and products are homemade and from the region, but it is family friendly in a way that whatever the child (and the parent) is looking for that is not commercialized can be found here. Children can enjoy making or buying hand-made products, watching Christmas fairy tales on stage and doing some fun activities. Adults can enjoy a little bit of food and drink and some good company in a place that one can call “home” after many years of neglect. A visit to Zwickau’s Christmas market is definitely not complete without a couple hours at this castle- conveniently located so one cannot miss it.
More than 1.5 million visitors visited Zwickau to celebrate its 900th anniversary in 2018. With a population of 98,000 inhabitants, the city is famous for its churches, culture and even the bridges. A guide on the city’s bridges you wll find here.
You’ll find more photos of this Christmas market by clicking here. 🙂