10 Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Where to Search for a Winter Fairytale?

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The end of November is the traditional time for opening Christmas fairs in many major cities of Europe. If your excitement about this long-awaited holiday has to do with the noisy atmosphere of traditional Christmas markets, we might come in handy. This is our top 10 Christmas markets in Europe worth your visit this winter.

 

1. Strasbourg, France

No Christmas market seems more original than the one in Strasbourg. Not for vain – the city hosted the very first Christmas fair ever! Back in 1570, when the Strasbourg fair was called “Christkindelsmärik” (the market of the Infant Jesus), it was little similar to what the city inhabitants are used to see now.

Since then, Strasbourg is unofficially considered a “capital of Christmas”. The city is famous for its pretzels, roasted chestnuts, Christmas “bredele” cookies, and tart flambé. Christmas chants, nativity scene, ice rink and hot wine bottled in the form of boots – come and see for yourself what kind of warm and hospitable Alsatian Christmas can be.

When in 2018?

From 23rd November to 30th December 2018.

Strasbourg, France

 

2. Vienna, Austria

During the traditional Viennese celebrations, the City Hall Square turns into a glittering country from a fairytale. Almost three million revelers come here every year to buy candles from beeswax, wooden toys, and Austrian glassware. The smells of yummy pastries with filling, caramelized fruit, roasted chestnuts as well as Weinachstspunsh, wine or brandy with spices fill the surrounding air making every passerby stay.

For children (and not only), there is a particularly large selection of entertainment – merry-go-rounds, live musical performances and fun craft workshops in the Poldi’s Christ Workshop.

Fun fact: Santa Claus figures considered here as a Hollywood commercialization of Christmas, are prohibited in Vienna. Instead, there are everywhere Christkindls – an image of a baby Christ always depicted (according to a strange Germanic custom) as a girl with long blond hair.

When in 2018?

From November 13th to December 26th.

Vienna, Austria

 

3. Rome, Italy

When in Rome, do as Romans do. For instance, when you a local Christmas market, stop and watch at least one “presepi” – a nativity scene performance. There is a plenty of presepi that in size, from the largest on the Spanish Steps and in front of the Cathedral of St. Petra, to countless small one in the chapels with papier-mâché figures.

The heart of the Roman Christmas market is Piazza Navona with Bernini’s fountains surrounded by dozens of Christmas counters. Here you can find handmade Christmas figures, carnival games, ciambelle (sort of an Italian donut) and various kinds of nut sweets.

When in 2018?

From December 8th to December 24th.

Rome, Italy

 

4. Aachen, Germany

Every single year, with the beginning of Christmas holidays time, the small Germany city of Aachen turns into a huge spot of lighting. The squares and streets around the main city cathedral and the town hall of Aachen shine from bright colors and festive lights supplemented with all kinds of sounds, and seductive smells. All the Christmas cabins installed during the market time organically fit in the city architecture to please the eyes of its citizens and tourists.

Meanwhile, a huge selection of original and unusual gifts can turn your Christmas shopping into something magical.

When in 2018?

From November 23rd to December 23rd.

Aachen, Germany

 

5. Prague, Czech Republic

The Prague fair is easily recognizable. Beautifully decorated Christmas cabins with a wide variety of souvenirs like straw and wooden dolls, Bohemian crystal, handmade jewelry, knitted items, classic Czech puppets and, of course, honeycomb candles – the shopping choices are huge. The air is filled with smells of mulled wine, traditional Czech trdelnik, grilled sausages, and roasted chestnuts.

Meanwhile, the Old Town Square hosts open performances of international bands that create a special Christmas musical mood in the center of Prague.

When in 2018?

From December 1st to January 6th.

Prague, Czech Republic

 

6. Dresden, Germany

Glittering stars, gingerbread and mulled wine scent, Christmas songs – at first glance, the oldest Christmas market of Germany “Striezelmarkt”in Dresden doesn’t seem to differ from other European Christmas fair. But actually, it’s not.

Take the “Stollen festival” for example. Stollen is giant 4-ton fruit bread that Stollenmädchen – “The Maiden of Stollen” carry across the medieval streets of the city in early December. After entering the Striezelmarkt, the stollen cake is cut into pieces and shared among all people visiting the fair, which symbolizes the beginning of the Advent time. Stritzelmarktand its strange traditions go back to 1434, making it the oldest Christmas market in Germany.

When in 2018?

From 28th November to 24th December

Dresden, Germany

 

7. Brussels, Belgium

The major Christmas market of the Brussels city has more than 240 chalets, selling local delicacies, drinks, Christmas tree decorations and other souvenirs. The food stalls are filled with spicy mussels, clams or sea snails, roast Belgian and soft Belgian waffles, sugar donuts, as well as two of the world’s most loved food products: high-quality chocolate and excellent strong beer.

A carousel illuminated with hundreds of lights is located in the center surrounded with the eating and resting area from one side, an old Ferris wheel with the sledding space on the other, and finally a craft fair and even an ice dinosaur. Brussels also hosts theatrical performances, which include a light and sound show on the main square that lasting for almost the entire night.

When in 2018?

From November 30th to January 6th.

Brussels, Belgium

 

8. Copenhagen, Denmark

In Copenhagen, the Danish Yule is celebrated with a Christmas crafts fair and a huge number of trees decorated with lights in the famous Tivoli amusement park. If you want to become a real Dane this winter, don’t forget to buy an Æbleskiver – glazed donuts with currant jam and Glega – hot red wine with raisins, almonds, cinnamon and cloves (everything listed is also impregnated with aquavit – caraway vodka).

Visit Tivoli Gardens after sunset, when the festive lights turn on. The Moorish castle, the Chinese garden, the “St. Basil Cathedral”, and other park constructions look colorful from fantastic lighting. Several times during the evening, visitors can watch a fountain show – the water jets lightened by laser “dance” to the solemn parties from the “The Nutcracker” ballet.

When in 2018?

From November 16th to January 25th.

Copenhagen, Denmark

 

9. London, Great Britain

The Christmas shopping season in London opens in November when Regent Street lights up with Christmas lights for the upcoming festivities. Every corner from Trafalgar Square to the ice skating rink near Somerset House is filled with the holiday atmosphere. The trees are also covered with lights that forecast the opening of the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park with the largest open-air ice skating rink in London, a sleigh track, a Ferris wheel and finally, the traditional Christmas market.

The Medieval Christmas performance in the Tower of London takes the audience back to the year of 1284 during the Edward I times. Everyone can also take part in the “Great Christmas Pudding Race” where participants overcome obstacles on the Covent Garden street while holding a spoon with pudding on it.

When in 2018?

From November 22nd to January 6th.

London, Great Britain

 

10. Munich, Germany

Munich is packed with souvenir counters surrounding the glittering 30-meter-high Christmas tree on Marienplatz. While staring at this fabulous view, people can enjoy sausages and potato pancakes sipping on some mulled wine and snacking on gingerbread cookies.

During Advent time in Munich Ratstrinkstube pub of the town hall, every child from 6 to 12 can dress up as an angel and practice drawing, modeling, and baking traditional cookies. Every evening at 5.30 pm, starting on Friday before Advent and until Christmas Eve, live music artists sing Christmas songs from the balcony of the neo-gothic town hall.

When in 2018?

From November 27th to December 24th.

Munich, Germany

 

So, which of these 10 Christmas markets is on your must-visit list now? Share with us in the comment section.

Ho-ho-ho! Happy Christmas holidays 2018!

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