‘Tis the season: Europe’s best Christmas markets
It’s true that German Christmas markets are hard to beat, but there are a surprising number of markets dotted across Europe to really get you in the festive mood. So grab your mulled wine and a Christmas cookie or two, and brace yourself for a jolly good time!
Strasbourg, also known as the Capital of Christmas, holds one of the most traditional Christmas markets in Europe dating back to 1570. It’s no surprise then that Christkindelsmärik (Nov 27 – Dec 31) was chosen as the ‘Best Christmas Market in Europe’ for two years in a row by European Best Destinations.
Stretching along the city’s cobbled medieval streets you will find 300 wooden stalls selling arts and crafts, food and decorations from the Alsace area. On Place Kléber you will find the city’s piece de resistance: a giant Christmas tree with glistening ornaments and lights. Don’t leave the market without trying bredele, a biscuit which comes in all shapes and flavours ranging from hazelnut to cinnamon.
The Striezelmarkt (November 26 – December 24) is Germany’s oldest Christmas Market and is one you simply cannot miss. Its long history dates back to 1432! The market takes its name from the striezel or stollen a delicious German christmas cake.
You will find the Christmas market on the Altmarkt Square right in the heart of the historical centre which serves as a romantic and atmospheric backdrop especially at night. The market has all the ingredients you would expect from a traditional German Christmas market: stalls piled high with wooden toys and delicate ornaments and the aroma of gingerbread cookies, bratwurst and mulled wine filling the air.
It certainly pays off to look up every once in awhile at the roof of each stall which are elaborately decorated explaining what delights that stall has to offer.The decorations range from a traditional nativity scene to Santa having a bath!
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s Christmas market (November 28 – January 6) on Staromestské námestí, the old town square, has it all. A stage-set nativity scene, a huge Christmas tree shipped from the mountains of the northern part of the country and daily performances by choirs singing carols. Prague’s gothic skyline as the backdrop adds to the winter wonderland fairytale feel.
Warm up with a glass of svařené víno (mulled wine), browse through the huts’ displays of carved wooden toys, traditional puppets and dolls in beautiful costumes and traditional straw and maize decorations. There’s no better way to finish the day than with a klobasa, a Polish sausage or for those with a sweet tooth try trdelnik, a sugar coated pastry.
Even though the Christmas market in the famous Tivoli Gardens (November 15 – January 4) does not share the long history of the previously mentioned markets, it is certainly has its own wow-factor. With its 50 wooden houses, snow-covered trees with a myriad of Christmas ornaments and 500,000 fairy lights, the park certainly looks like a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.
The lake is transformed into an ice skating rink every year. The best time of day to skate is late afternoon or evening where you can watch the spectacular light show. What sets this Christmas market apart from the others is the amusement park, so once you have had enough of browsing through the 50 stalls stacked with tasty treats, decorations and presents, you can hop on one of the rides.
Are you spending your first Christmas away from home? Check out the Christmas markets in your new home and let us know which other Christmas markets are worth visiting!