A concept born in the 14th century in Germany, Christmas markets are a long tradition in Europe and have gradually extended to the American territory as well. Starting the last days of November, most European towns begin adorning their streets and squares with seasonal decorations and colorful lights. Small wooden huts or simple stalls make their appearance and all sorts of products are traded, to the delight of the youngest and of the oldest. Depending on your Christmas travel plans, don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the best Christmas European markets.
|Dresden – Germany||Valkenburg – Netherlands||Strasburg – France||Barcelona – Spain||Prague – Czech Republic|
|Vienna – Austria||Tallinn – Estonia||Trento – Italy||London – UK||Copenhagen – Denmark|
1. Dresden, Germany
Strizelmarkt, whose origins go as back as 1434, represents one of the reasons Dresden’s inhabitants are proud of their lovely town and of their long and well preserved traditions.
Although only meat was originally sold in this charming open air market that takes over Dresden’s Old Market (Altmarkt) each year from late November until Christmas Eve, nowadays you can buy here almost anything from delicious culinary products to crafted items, and seasonal decorations.
If you happen to be in Dresden for Christmas, don’t miss the opportunity to soak up the vivid atmosphere, to buy unique souvenirs such as the Pflaumentoffel and to taste traditional dishes like the Stollen yeast cake.
2. Valkenburg, Netherlands
A truly magical atmosphere is waiting for you in Valkenburg. Spending the winter holidays in this charming Dutch town means attending Christmas parades twice a week (on Wednesday and Saturday evenings), visiting the beautiful castle of Valkenburg aan de Geul and making your Christmas shopping in a unique setting.
Reaching its 29th edition in 2015, the Valkenburg Christmas market is organized in a cave (Velvet Cave).
During your visit, you can stroll among market stalls selling everything from food products to clothes and souvenirs. However, the major attractions are represented by the mural paintings, by the 18th century chapel and by Santa’s bedroom.
3. Strasburg, France
Ever since 1570, when it was first organized, Christkindelsmärik has become a benchmark when it comes to Christmas markets. Its size has also grown together with its popularity, going over Petite France and including the neighboring squares surrounded by timbered houses.
Located in Alsace, drinking mulled wine is one of the many things to do while strolling along Christkindelsmärik’s stalls. An interesting tradition refers to picking every year one country to be the focus of Christmas celebrations in Strasburg. In 2011, it was Switzerland’s turn. Why not taking the chance and discovering what this charming French town has to offer for this year’s holidays?
4. Barcelona, Spain
Overlooked by Barcelona’s imposing cathedral, stretching on a few streets of the town’s Gothic Quarter, Fira de Santa LLúcia is a traditional Christmas market organized in this vibrant Spanish town since 1786.
Organized in different sectors, Fira de Santa LLúcia is the place to go shopping for Christmas trees, or moss (the green area), music instruments, the Christmas crib, seasonal decorations and the typically Catalan figure – “El Caganer”.
Embodying a Spanish peasant with his pants down, El Caganer is the Catalan symbol of fertility. It is can be seen in all sorts of shops around this Spanish region and they often have the face of famous politicians or other public figures.
5. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s Christmas markets are known to be the most romantic in Europe and maybe in the whole world. After all, Prague is a romantic city in itself.
Four of them are really worth mentioning: two big ones organized in Old Town and Wenceslas Squares and two smaller ones in Havel and Republic Square.
Take the opportunity to find great bargains and buy lots of handcrafted objects, jewelry, scented candles, or ceramics.
6. Vienna, Austria
When the month of December is approaching, all the Austrian capital city’s squares are filled with decorations and lit by colorful lights.
Among the many other things you can do while spending your Christmas vacation in Vienna, these traditional markets constitute a great discovery.
If the city’s Baroque palaces will show you a face of the Austrian history, while strolling through the Christmas market’s stalls you will certainly discover the other one – an exquisite folk art and the some well preserved traditions.
If you are traveling with kids, Christkindlmarkt, organized in the Town Hall’s Square (Rathausplatz) is the place to go. The little ones will certainly enjoy the interactive workshops organized especially for them.
7. Tallinn, Estonia
Although we cannot speak about long history, the Christmas market organized every year since 1991 in Tallinn’s Town Hall’s Square certainly has its share of beauty and romance.
There is no other better place to soak up the Christmas spirit than in the romantic Estonian capital.
If its Old Town’s medieval atmosphere can be felt throughout the year, an extra touch of romance and a fairy tales charm adds up when the winter holidays approach and the whole area is decorated with lights, stars and other seasonal symbols.
8. Trento, Italy
70 wooden huts selling culinary delights, presents, souvenirs and seasonal decorations just fill the square spreading the pleasant Christmas spirit in the whole area.
A great place for a stroll as well as for a shopping adventure, Trento Christmas Market makes a great way of spending your afternoon or evening after a dynamic day filled with outdoor activities.
9. London, UK
It may sound like a stereotype, but spending Christmas in London is an experience you don’t want to miss.
The city itself is a Christmas show, all covered in lights and glitter and with the London Eye, the Big Ben or the London Tower beautifully decorated and ready for celebration.
A great Christmas market in London can be found in Hyde Park, but other good locations are Greenwich, Borough, Camden Lock and Southbank.
10. Copenhagen, Denmark
When you say Copenhagen, the name of Hans Christian Andersen certainly pops into some people’s minds.
Children fairy tales are the exact description for the Christmas markets organized in Denmark’s capital city, in a very scenic location – the Tivoli Gardens.
All the lights and decorations are just a pretext for the delicious dishes you will savor together with a hot drink.
The park’s lake becomes an open air skating rink that represents not only an opportunity to slide on ice, but also a great way to relax while watching the more daring ones.