Dreaming of a white Christmas?
Europe is the perfect destination for the holiday season. The Christmas Markets offer a magical, traditional reminder of what this time of year is all about. The hand-built wooden stalls are decorated in garland and twinkling lights; vendors sell handcrafted gifts, painted ornaments, homemade candles, fragrant sweets such as candied almonds and gingerbread cookies, and steaming heart-shaped mugs of gluhwein. It’s a bit like stepping back in time – the gifts aren’t 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 our top 5 favourite European Christmas markets and reasons why you should visit them:
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, colourfully-wrapped gift boxes and Santa Claus figurines. Strasbourg is a food-dominated market, selling tasty treats like hot cider, nutella-stuffed crepes and spiced biscuit cookies on every corner.
Cologne boasts 7 Christmas Markets, all with different specialities. 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 and 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.
The Christmas Markets scattered around Brussels sell an abundance of sweets – think hot waffles, lollies and Belgian chocolates accompanied with steaming mugs of hot chocolate and glass bottles of Belgian beer… oh and of course the hot frites that the country is famous for! Are you hungry yet? The markets here are spread throughout the city centre; one features an illuminated ice skating rink, another has a ferris wheel and several feature charming carousels filled with children giggling and spinning around and around. All of the markets feature dozens of wooden huts and holiday music with 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!
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 the 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, browned over roasting coals), the square becomes a Christmas dream! Climb to the top of the Astronomical Clock tower for picture-perfect snapshots of the market.
Ready to experience a Christmas you’ll never forget? Check out our Festive Cruises here!