by: Giulia Pezzin
If you think about Christmas in Europe there is one thing above all that comes to mind: Christmas Markets! The smell of glühwine in the air, Gingerbread and delicious hot chocolate, can make anyone fall in love with this season (even the ones that don’t really like the cold weather).
Several cities decorate their center with the most beautiful Christmas lights and trees, usually from last week of November till the first week of January. We've compiled the 5 Best Christmas in Markets that you MUST go to.
1 - VIENNA
From mid-November until Christmas, Vienna is a city transformed by the arrival of the festive season. The Austrian capital hosts one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets where everyone can find their favorite Christmas treats and kids can fully enjoy this festive season: you can find lights, hot punch, toasted almonds and glühwein in every corner of this beautiful city.
On the Rathausplatz, from the Schönbrunn castle to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, takes place the characteristic Wiener Christkindlmark, which is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Vienna, with about 150 stalls displaying Christmas gifts, Christmas decorations, sweets and hot drinks. Kids will love the Ferris wheel, the 12 meter-high multi-level carousel, the reindeer train, the nativity scene trail and the designated skating ring.
A must-drink tradition for adults is to warm up from the cold by sipping a special mulled wine or punsch, a mix of wine, fruit juices and spices - beware as these drinks are potent! Some stands offer special decorated cups to drink the wine and visitors can pay a deposit for them and get it back once returned them or just keep the cup as a souvenir. Ice-skating lovers can also find in the Rathaus Christkindlmarkt the “Vienna Ice World”, a 96,000 square foot ice rink.
Although this is the largest Christmas market, you can also spot other typical markets in the city center: In Freyung square, the old city market, you can listen to good live music while between the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum there is the Christmas Village on Maria-Theresien-Platz, with stands offering traditional handicrafts and original gift ideas are set up here during Advent.
But the best thing about any Vienna Christmas market is the promise of food and a mug of something hot. On the food front, there’s kartoffelpuffer – potato pancakes, krapfen – yeast dough pastry filled with jam, bauerngröstl – bacon, egg, and potato fry up and of course pretzels and bratwurst.
2 - DRESDEN
Dresden’s Christmas Market is one of the most famous since it’s also the oldest: the first edition was held in 1434 and it was called "Christkindlmarkt". Here you can find puppet theaters and ginger bread decorating workshops.
The Striezelmarkt, with around 600 years of tradition, is located within the walls of the Royal Palace of Dresden with a magical atmosphere: strolling through the city center, in the Altmarkt, you will find 250 wooden houses where exhibitors will offer the general public wooden works, handicraft products such as lace, refined Lausitzm fabrics, ceramics, glass Christmas balls blown and candles.
Standing at Guinness Book of World Records 14.63 m in height, the large Erzgebirge region-style rotating Christmas pyramid dominates the center of the Striezelmarkt. Christmas pyramids are made to showcase the German craft of woodworking and they are typically made with a spinning wooden base and scenes that depict Christmas motifs like angels or animals. These items are special because they are typically passed down from generation to generation.
The Pyramid Festival is celebrated every third Saturday of Advent and helps keep the art of handmade wooden crafts alive.
3 - KRAKOW
The Christmas atmosphere in Krakow has something extremely magical, the snow whitens the large main square of the old city and the illuminated bell towers emerge from a melancholy blanket of fog.
The Krakow Christmas Market is called "Jarmark Bozonarodzeniowy" and is held in Rynek Glowny, in the heart of the Old Town district (Stare Miasto) from the last week of November till the first week of January. Visitors can find typical dishes, sweets and homemade cheesecakes, local handicrafts and jewels in the main square of Krakow.
Near the railway station, located on the north side of the Old Town, there is a small market where visitors can find the large ice skating rink of the Galeria Krakowska. In the stands, you will find local artisans (such as blacksmiths and carvers) crafting Szopki - small works of art that represent the nativity scene, with miniature buildings inspired by the most famous monuments of the city. A real Szopki competition takes place in the Market Square on the first Thursday in December and the winners are then displayed in the Krakow History Museum.
Food-lovers can taste typical food and hot dishes: local cheeses such as smoked sheep cheese from the Zakopane area (oscypek), sausages, pierogi (fried dumplings filled with cheese accompanied by various sauces), but also Christmas specialties such as caramelized nuts, Hungarian puff pastry cannoli (kurtoskalacs) and gingerbread, hot Galician wine and local beers.
4 - STRASBOURG
The Strasbourg Christmas Market, called "Christkindelsmärik", is held in the Place Broglie and it is considered the oldest Christmas Market in France. The city, located in the Alsace region, celebrated in 2017 its 27th anniversary as “Capital of Christmas” and it won this title as hundreds of events are hosted in the city during the festive period.
It is indeed the most famous market in France and hundreds are the stalls that are set up every year in Place Broglie and along the streets of Place de la Cathédrale and Rue de la Comédie up to the square Place Klébler, where you can admire one of the largest Christmas trees in Europe.
In the historic Petite France district, located on the Grande Île and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is possible to find the characteristic Christmas Market set up in the fascinating scenery of the characteristic half-timbered houses. Here you’ll find the best food markets, selling fresh pretzels, spätzle, knack sausage and crepes and craftsmen demonstrate their skills and sell their wares.
Naturally, visitors will find hot mulled wine at the Strasbourg Christmas markets, where it is known as vin chaud. But you can also find special Christmas beers that have been brewed for the season. In Place des Meuniers, there is a market organized by small local producers from Alsace dedicated to delicious local products, where visitors can also taste the Alsatian biscuits, Bredele, which are made with various spices and tarte flambée.
5 - PRAGUE
Living the magic of Christmas in Prague is one of the experiences you must try at least once in your life. The city will light up for the party and beautiful wooden chalets will be placed in various locations.
The Prague Christmas markets, called Námestí Míru Christmas Market, will take place every year from the last week of November to the first week of January in the main squares of the city and will offer numerous handmade crafts, Christmas decorations, toys, jewelry, accessories and culinary delights.
They are held in In the Old Town square (Staromestske Namesti), in the long and symbolic Wenceslas square, but also in Miru and Republiky square, in the Holesovice district or the Kampa, the peninsula on the Vltava river.
In Wenceslas Square, called Little Champs-élysées due to its resemblance to the famous street in Paris, the wooden Christmas houses are next to the neo-Renaissance building of the National Museum. Alongside the classic Christmas decorations, Christmas toys, scented candles and handcrafted jewelery are precious Bohemian crystals.
At the food stands you can taste roasted corn on the cob, peéena klobasa (grilled sausages), pernièky (honey gingerbread), peéena kastany (roasted chestnuts) or vanoèni cukrovi (Christmas cookies). To warm up you can sip a little svrené wine or svarak (mulled wine), some horky punè (hot punch) or a glass of medovina (mead).