Stuttgart is known for few exceptional things- the ones not involving major industrial corporations are A) Wine, and B) The Christmas Market.
Imagine a tiny rustic wooden village in the forest, filled with lights and overflowing with people, and all the shops on the narrow streets have lit windows full of cheerful Christmas displays and knicknacks for sale. This is what the Christmas market aims for, and if you have enough to drink, really comes close to nailing it.
In a Christmas market, numerous vendors set up semipermanent stalls and decorate them for the season. Generally speaking, these are very small businesses, traditionally handcrafts. However, in more contemporary times, the wares sold at the Christmas market vary wildly: there are stalls selling LED candles, wool hats, woven scarves and gloves, Christmas tree ornaments, pottery, spices, teas, household kitchen tools, carved olivewood things, silicon spatulas, neckties, etc. Some of this stuff actually comes from Germany; much else comes from China or Pakistan or Greece or wherever.
The Stuttgart market is pretty extensive, filling two of the major city center plazas and stretching along the cobblestone streets between them.
There are also tons of vendors selling food and drinks. In addition to tons of spiced nuts and chocolate stands, there are fresh Schwabish Maultaschen stands, french fries in sauerkraut, sausages, steaks, crepes, and fry bread. By far the most popular beverage, a near requirement to drink when you go, is Gluhwine. ("gloo-vine") This is a hot wine spiced with cinnamon, orange, and other herbs and spices, and also sold spiked with other spirits. It's served in small mugs which are nearly universally interchangable for the deposit. You can pick up a Gluhwine at one stand, walk through the market, and get your deposit back at almost any other Gluhwine stand.
It's really about the experience of drinking hot spiced wine on a cold wintry night or afternoon (it gets dark around 4:30 here now), surrounded by rustic fake log cabins, Christmas lights, and animatronic moose. It's absolutely thronged with people. Busloads of tourists arrive from the surrounding areas just to come to the Christmas market. The Stuttgart Christmas market is so well known, that even the Swiss who have made a cultural ideal of artifice and Alpine wintry wonder, throng here to eat up the atmosphere.
The biggest surprise to me, apart from the fact that they launch this thing before Thanksgiving, is the lack of representations of Santa Claus. Tons of wreaths, tons of reindeer, but really the big man is not to be seen. The market runs right up until Christmas. Nearly four weeks solid of Christmas three meters thick.
Definitely, it can be kitschy, uncomfortably crowded, and overpriced, but it is also really fun and and if you let yourself just a little bit, it is easy to get swept up in the fantastic whirl.