The dark streets are lit by cozy lights, trees are up in all the windows, and the smell of gluhwein is in the air – its Christmas Market season!
One of the most beloved parts of any trip to or in Europe around the holidays is a visit to a Christmas market. Even if you’re a bit of a grinch, there’s no way you can turn down warming yourself up with mulled wine on a cold night.
So, if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration on which Christmas markets to visit, check out travel blogger’s top picks for the best five Christmas Markets to visit in Europe!
Mainz, Germany Christmas Market
The Roman town of Mainz is easily accessible by train from Frankfurt in just half an hour and although still a large and varied market, is a friendlier size than Frankfurt’s. The market square makes for an atmospheric setting with beautiful tall buildings with ornate facades on one side and the magnificent cathedral on the other. German Christmas markets often feature a life size nativity scene cared from wood and Mainz’s is a beautiful example, raised up above the market square for tranquil views over the hustle and bustle. Another feature is the impressive 9-metre tall Christmas pyramid in Höfchen Square. Amongst the famous citizens circling around are Gutenberg (he who invented the printing press) and the cutesy mascots of the local television station. Normal sized pyramids that go around a candle in the home are available to buy at many of the stalls.
For me, it does’t feel like Christmas unless I’ve a chance to grab a gluehwein (mulled wine) with friends and ensconce myself in one of the wine cask huts. All the wine is from local vineyards in the Rheinhessen region – just look for the longest queues. Oh and don’t forget the snacks – I usually opt for a curry wurst, sausage served in a ketchup-curry powder sauce with a large side of chips!
There are many goodies to try in Mainz’s market from caramelised nuts to mashed pancakes with powdered sugar (Kaiserschmarren). This Concierge’s top tip? Gingerbread biscuits from Lebkuchenschmidt are found in a pop-up shop in Gutenberg Square opposite the theatre and the intricate tins and top-notch cookies make them an ideal Christmas present.
For more info on the Christmas market, visit http://www.mainz.de/en/service/christmas-market.php
Check out this post for more tips on where to celebrate Christmas in Europe
Weihnachtmarkt in Dom of Cologne (Christmas Market in Dome Cathedral)
Cologne has been famous in its Christmas Markets in the city, there are 6 huge Christmas Markets in the city alone. These are Harbour Christmas Market, Old Market Christmas, Christmas Market on the Neumarkt and Rudolfplatz, lastly the Weihnachtmarkt.
Every year there are tons of tourists and locals coming to celebrate the Christmas season through spending time drinking and eating out with friends and family.
Weihnachtmarkt is the most authentic Christmas Market among the six, it is located just right beside the Dome Cathedral of Cologne. With its 150 pavilions filled with regional specialties, artisanal high-quality products such as woodcarving figurines, glass balls, ceramics, accessories, children’s toys etc. and certified local food and drinks.
It is said to have the largest Nordmann Fir (Christmas tree) in the Rhineland. It stands about 25 meters high in the heart of the market with its 50,000 LED lights.
On the stage of the Market, there are 100 live music performances to watch. A group of different choirs will perform and will give a wonderful ambiance in the area.
While enjoying the program you will surely scent the aroma of a special wine, so get a glass of the Original Christmas Mulled Wine, which comes with a specific decorated Christmas themed mug and glass. You can buy it together with the price of the wine or you can return the mug or glass back and the shop will give you back your deposit fee.
Watch Artisans make their artisanal products on the spot, you will definitely be astounded how the process of these products are.
Finally, for children, there are some places that they could enjoy like the children’s carousel and wheel of fortune.
Don’t forget to taste the gingerbread or speculoos biscuits and grilled chestnuts. (there are food tasting all over the pavilion so don’t miss it)
From LexieAnimeTravel by Alexine, www.lexieanimetravel.com
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For more info on the Christmas market visit https://www.cologne-tourism.com/welcome/christmas/christmas-markets.html
Strasbourg’s Christmas Market
Have you ever been to Strasbourg? You’ve missed out, because Strasbourg is known to be the “capital of Christmas”! Having been around since 1570, the Christkindelsmärik is the oldest European Christmas market. Not convinced yet? Here are some fun things for you to see and try while visiting this beautiful old market:
Stroll through the beautiful lighted streets, and enjoy the scenery. The smells, colors, and music will make you feel like you are in a winter wonderland. The ornaments also decorate beautifully all of the timber houses.
Eat some “bredele”, some traditional Christmas biscuits from the local Alsace region, baked during this festive season.
Drink some “gluhwein” or hot wine, this is also a local delicacy enjoyed during the cold Christmas month of December. It’s a nice “extra” when walking around the markets in the chilly weather.
- Walk on the Kléber square (Place Kléber) and admire the tall fir tree, chosen every year to celebrate the center of Strasbourg city and declare the official opening of Christmas season.
From Kelly Helmer, www.tinytripsandtips.com
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For more info on the Christmas market, visit https://noel.strasbourg.eu/en/accueil
The underground Christmas Market in Valkenburg, Netherlands
Mulled wine, Christmas decorations, colorful lights, gingerbread and many others are just a few of the things you expect to see and smell in December. Worldwide, every year, all cities are trying to prove which one has organized the best Christmas market. Obviously, you can talk about the most well-known, like Strasbourg, Paris, Munchen or Wien, but how many of you have heard about the little town near Maastricht, called Valkenburg? If you visit Netherlands for Christmas, this is the place to be.
I do not know if Santa Claus’s elves, reindeers, or any other aids have their toy factory in Lapland, in the sky or on Earth, but one thing is for sure, in the Netherlands, more precisely in the town of Valkenburg, Santa Claus organizes the Christmas Fair … underground, in a cave.
Here is the oldest and largest underground market in Europe.
Different from all the other Christmas markets, in this charming town, the entire market is underground, in Velvet cave, beneath the city. The market is open from 18th November until 23rd of December every year. Did you buy the tickets to go to Valkenburg Christmas market and to see this truly unique place?
From Gabriela, https://gabrielateisu.com/
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For more info on the Christmas market, visit https://www.kerststadvalkenburg.nl/en/inspiration/christmas-market-velvet-cave-valkenburg/
Medieval Christmas Market in Munich
One of Munich’s best Christmas markets is small, but its authentic medieval theme and charm make it a must on your European Christmas market journey. As soon as you step into this market at Wittelsbacherplatz, near the center of Munich, you’re met with lamplighters lighting traditional oil-burning torches, mulled wine in hand cast mugs, and handmade medieval Christmas gifts. I’ve found many of the Christmas markets in Europe often sell the same cheap trinkets, but you’ll find one of a kind gifts for your friends and family here, so bring your cash.
Make sure you drink the Feuerzangenbowle, which is a mulled wine, coated in alcohol and lit on fire from the charming mugs. Don’t get sticker shock though, half the price is returned with the mug. Pair your drink with one of the sausages roasted over an open flame, just like the old days. Come early, this place fills up quickly in the evenings.
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Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.