Dreaming of a white Christmas? What about Christmas in Europe?
The Christmas Markets offer a magical, traditional reminder of what the holidays are all about. The hand-built wooden stalls are decorated in garland and twinkling lights; vendors sell handcrafted gifts, painted ornaments, homemade candles, fragrant sweets like candied almonds and gingerbread cookies, and steaming heart-shaped mugs of gluhwein. It’s a bit like stepping back in time – the gifts are not expensive pieces of technology, but rather, wooden toys and wool mittens. It’s a surprisingly refreshing, heart-warming experience that allows you to understand what truly makes Christmas the most wonderful time of the year.
Here are 5 of our favorite European Christmas markets and reasons why you should visit them:
Strasbourg, France – As France’s oldest Christmas Market, Strasbourg is the self-proclaimed “Capital of Christmas”. The market is spread out across the city, with more than 300 vendors filling the streets. Alleyways are lined with lights and ornaments and building facades are embellished with festive decorations like giant red bows, glittery stars, colorfully-wrapped gift boxes, and Santa Claus figurines. Strasbourg is a food-dominated market, (probably the reason it’s so popular!) selling tasty treats like hot cider, nutella-stuffed crepes, and spiced biscuit cookies on every corner.
Cologne, Germany – Cologne boasts 7 Christmas markets, all with different specialties, however the main market is situated at the base of the city’s famous cathedral, circling around an elaborately decorated tree and a stage for holiday performances. Grab a bratwurst and a mug of hot mulled wine to enjoy while you stroll through the red-canopied tents. You’ll find goods from sheepskin socks to wooden Russian dolls to soaps made from honey. And be sure to try strudel and lebkuchen – a German gingerbread cake that is often shaped into hearts and decorated with icing.
Brussels, Belgium – The Christmas markets scattered around Brussels sell an abundance of sweets – hot waffles and candies and Belgian chocolates, steaming mugs of cocoa, glass bottles of Belgian beer and hot frites that the country is famous for. Hungry yet? Us, too. The markets here are spread throughout the city center – one features an illuminated ice skating rink, one has a ferris wheel, several feature charming carousels filled with children giggling and spinning round and round, and all feature dozens of wooden huts and holiday music and laughter filling the air. The city’s Grand Place also hosts a nightly light and sound show that will blow you away. It’s so spectacular you’ll want to see it twice – we’d suggest giving yourself a couple of days to indulge in the markets in Brussels!
Vienna, Austria – The Christkindlmarkt near Vienna’s Rathaus offers a little something for everyone – from food and drink choices including hot soup served in a bread bowl, bratwurst, and cream-filled pastries, to vendors selling ornate glass ornaments and children’s toys. There is also an ice rink adjacent to the market for those who wish to test their balance. We suggest visiting this market at night – it transforms when it is illuminated by hundreds of lighted snowflakes, angels and stars.
Prague, Czech Republic – Prague’s Old Town Square feels like a fairytale on an ordinary day, so when it transforms for the holidays with a giant Christmas tree, red-canopied huts selling simple ornaments made of Bohemian glass, and the smell of Trdelnik (dough dipped in cinnamon and sugar and browned over roasting coals), the square becomes a Christmas dream! Climb up to the top of the Astronomical Clock tower for picture-perfect snapshots of the market.