Twinkling lights and mulled wine, glittering baubles and advent songs – there’s nothing like a short break to some of Europe’s sparkling Christmas Markets to get you into the festive spirit. In fact, there’s nothing better to get you in the festive mood than visiting a Christmas Market. With markets taking place in different locations all over Europe it’s no wonder they are becoming increasingly popular.
Although some Christmas markets in Europe are as old as Galileo Galilei, they have lost none of their shine. On the contrary, between mid-November and late-December, thousands of market stalls offering seasonal arts, crafts, food, and drink pop up in festive-decorated villages, towns and cities all over Europe.
There’s nothing in the world quite like the Christmas season in Europe. There are wooden chalets in 13th-century towns, snow-capped cathedrals, seasonal cookies and cakes in display windows, and of course, all the hot mulled wine you can drink.
With the smell of cinnamon filling the air, the bright lights of the Ferris wheel, the sounds of carol singers in the background and the array of Christmas treats, Christmas Markets really evoke your senses. Sure, many of us are staying home this Christmas but it’s never too early to start planning for next year, right?
After visiting several Christmas Markets, I have determined several types of Christmas Market visitors:
- Foodie Visitors. Foodies are well off at a Christmas Market because of the plethora of different food stands. Fill up on authentic dishes such as tasty German bratwurst, roasted chestnuts, homemade gingerbread & traditional pastries. Then wash it down and warm your cockles with a mug of mulled wine for a sumptuous Christmas flavour. There’s nothing more enjoyable than walking around the market sampling the delicious Christmas offerings.
- Shop for that one special something. Christmas is the time for giving after all, and what better way to spoil your loved ones than with a handmade gift from a Christmas Market. Hand-made Christmas ornaments, carefully decorated Christmas baubles, home-knitted woollen socks and hand-crafted tablecloths, Christmas figures, home decor, puzzles and other toys, and cute sweaters. When decorating your tree in years to come you can be reminded of your special trip with Christmas decorations made by hand brought home.
- Try before you die-people. Try on a silly hat, a new scarf, hand-made earrings or festive glasses. At the market, it’s easy to dress up and try things on!
- People watch. Perhaps, my favourite pastime when travelling – watching other people going about their business. It’s amazing what you’ll see. From vendors to helpers, from locals to tourists and everything in between. Business-men eating a bratwurst after work, children stuffing their faces with Christmas sweets and street artists in between.
- Entertainment for the kids. Besides the twinkling lights, the food-a-plenty and the toys on sales, a Christmas Market can also be a great playground for the kids. For example, quite a few Christmas Markets have ice rinks or even a fairground – with Ferris wheel and everything!
- All of the above. When you visit a city in Europe for Christmas Markets, it is super easy to explore beyond the market. Pop your head in the main cathedral. Eat out in a nice restaurant off the grid of Christmas markets and take a river cruise to see the city from the water.
To have an epic time at a Christmas Market, especially when you’re travelling with someone else, make sure you have a clear idea what you want to get out of it.
- Wear warm clothes. Duh! It’s December. Although it might be nice during the day, once the night falls, temperatures plummet. Wear an extra pair of panties or thermo-pants under your jeans. Wear a hat because you’ll lose heat from your head and gloves!
- Look into the deposit jugs/mugs. At most Christmas Markets in Europe, you can get a mug or jar or glass for a deposit (2 to 5 or even 7 euros). Once you’ve emptied it, you can either give it back and claim your deposit, take it home as a souvenir or re-fill it and enjoy your drink! So don’t lose your mug/jug/glass for mulled wine, hot chocolate or beer/snaps/wine. Don’t throw it on the floor or leave it somewhere, it’s worth money!
- Research the best opportunities to move around. Some cities are big and have multiple December Markets and Christmas Markets can be too far apart to walk. Explore the local transport or consider renting a carriage and let the horses show you around town.
- And last but not least: have fun! It’s only Christmas once a year, so start planning your Christmas market trip and go!