Christmas is just around the corner and you can feel it in the air. It’s a time about family, love, peace, friends, presents, carols and joy.
However, if you are planning a vacation for this time of year, you should definitely visit one of the most spectacular Christmas markets in Europe.
These places can bring the romance of the holidays to life. Additionally, you can experience the artisan crafts of a country and be delighted by the cheeriness that happens mostly in this Christmas time.
The interesting part is that some of these famous markets have been running since the Middle Ages, and nowadays they attract more than two million visitors during December.
You’ll fall in love immediately with the smell of gingerbread and roasting sausages in the cold air, handmade ornaments and the stress-free shopping in a traditional, festive environment. Don’t forget to enjoy all of this with a few mugs of mulled wine!
Brussels Christmas Market (Late Nov. – Jan. 1)
This place has been around since 2002 and takes over the Grand-Place, Brussels’ commercial hub. You will surely find here some good food stalls – don’t forget you are in a city famous for its cuisine and piles of Belgian chocolates.
The Christmas spirit will be brought to you by the lights, jugglers, street musicians and carols, which are filtered through loudspeakers.
At the end of your Christmas shopping, stop at the Fish market which is transformed annually into a long ice-skating rink.
Vienna Christmas Market (Mid Nov. – 24 Dec.)
Vienna’s venerable Christkindlmarkt is one of the most visited and best-known in Europe, attracting millions of visitors each year for beeswax candles, wooden toys, and glass ornaments.
Also, the tourists snack on cream-filled pastries, candied fruit, roasted chestnuts, and Weihnachtspunsch,a spiced “Christmas punch” of wine, brandy, or schnapps sweetened with warm fruit juices.
The market starts from mid-November and is one of the oldest in the world, dating back over seven hundred years. Another attraction is the park surrounding the market, with its trees decorated with themed lights, shaped like hearts or gingerbread men.
Vienna Christmas Market is definitely the place to be this season.
Prague Christmas Markets (Early Dec. – early Jan.)
If you didn’t know, you may as well find out that the Czechs take Christmas seriously and their Vanocni trh (Christmas markets) are family friendly and low-key. Although, several are dotted around town, the biggest is held in Old Town Square.
Visitors can buy here a large range of items, from the decorated stalls, wooden toys and Bohemian crystal to handmade jewelry and classic Czech marionettes.
And that’s not all – they can also find plenty of sweets – honeyed gingerbread, vánocvka (a braided pastry studded with raisins), and vosí hnízda’ (“wasps nests,” nutty cookies heavy with rum).
Kids can also enjoy the market, as they can play with ponies, goats and sheep in the central petting zoo, while their parents listen to the daily carol singers and music bands playing seasonal tunes.
Stuttgart Christmas Market (Late Nov. – Dec. 23)
This 318year-old market lies between the Gothic cathedral of the city and ivy-clad castle. Tourists can buy arts and crafts (glass baubles, wooden toys, nutcrackers) from the 270 stalls and eat waffles, roasted almonds, and gingerbread.
In the evening, they can warm up with some cinnamon and vanilla wine and visit the Old Castle’s Renaissance courtyard for the daily Christmas concert.
Nuremberg Christmas Market (Late Nov. – Dec. 24)
This market, which dates back from 1628 (original known as a regional centre for trading handmade wood figurines), is one of the famous Christmas markets in Europe.
Although it is neither the largest nor oldest, two million shoppers visit this place every year to enjoy the ornaments, crafts and toys found at almost 200 stalls.
Nowadays, Nuremberg market is best known for its food, gingerbread, and sweet with honey. In the evening, the place is lit with hundreds of lights and the musical bands would delight the visitors and locals.
Munich Christmas Market
Is set in the heart of the old centre, is filled with hundreds of stalls and dates back to the 17th century.
The market is opened on the Friday before the first Advent, when thousands gather in the square to watch the thirty metre-high Christmas tree light up for the first time. Here, visitors can buy decorations, jewellery, arts and crafts.
Salzburg Christmas Market (Late Nov. – Dec. 26)
Documents from the 15th century were found about this market, where crafts were being sold by elderly women in front of the Salzburg cathedral during Advent season.
This market is more intimate and smaller than others, but this doesn’t mean that tourists can’t enjoy roasted chestnuts and almonds, sausages, and sweet mulled wine. Just like the big, famous markets, the one in Salzburg thrills its tourists and locals with decorations, lights and carols.
Dresden Christmas Market (End Nov – Dec. 24)
This is the oldest market in Germany – its first mention was in 1434 and the locals are very proud and fond of their Striezelmarkt, named after the local ‘Striezel’ or Stollen, a sweet fruitcake baked in the shape of a loaf and dusted with icing sugar.
Dresden market has around 250 stalls selling strictly traditional wares and people say the shopping is better here than elsewhere.
If you know other interesting markets in Europe, we would love to hear about them.