The hustle and bustle of the holidays is starting to wind down, children are headed back to school, and New Years’ Resolutions are in full swing. A holiday by definition is “day of festivity where no work is done,” but rushing to overcrowded shopping malls, midnight gift-wrapping, and running around for holiday traditions can be more exhausting than it is enjoyable. If you’re ready to rest, rejuvenate, and experience the most wonderful time of the year, it’s time to start planning an enchanted getaway sure to put twinkle back in next year’s holiday season- visiting Christmas Markets in Europe. It can be hard to choose just one market, so I’ve created a “top five” list of destinations and ways to explore them by train, bus, or boat.
One of the most magical Christmas Markets is in Strasbourg, France. In 1992, the deputy to the Mayor decided to open up market stalls across the city, naming it the Capitale de Noel, or The Capital of Christmas. The markets return to the city each year, along with a famous Christmas tree, illuminations, wooden chalets, bredele cakes, and hot wine. Whether you have one day to visit or plan to extend your stay, you’ll find plenty of local culture and warm unique sights at the Capital of Christmas.
The capital of Hungary has not one but five Christmas markets for visitors to explore during the holidays. The Christmas Market on Vorosmarty Square is dubbed the “oldest, richest, and the most spectacular” of the markets in the city. This market stays open during the Advent period, offering handmade gifts until Christmas Eve, with gastro stalls, folk art, and design stalls open a little longer. This market offers many delicious smells and tastes, including sausages, grilled vegetables, potato dumplings, Chimney Cake, and mulled wine. While warming up with these traditional eats, you can experience old-fashioned Christmas lights and musical performances.
A smaller, but just as popular Christmas Market also centrally located in Budapest is the Basilica Market, offering mulled wine, Hungarian snacks, laser-mapped Christmas displays, ice skating, and folk dancing. If you’re looking for a quieter getaway off the beaten path, the Advent Fair in Obuda is held during the Advent weekends.
Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt also offers hundreds of years of history, and a list of “must see/must enjoy” items while visiting. The market is known for its festive eats and drinks, like Nuremberg sausages, gingerbread, and hot mulled wine. Guests can explore the market by stagecoach tour, purchase unique gifts from around the world, and even pay a visit to a Children’s Christmas Market, complete with Merry-go-round, a Christmas Bakery, and a Santa Claus house.
Vienna also offers multiple Christmas Markets with shopping, eats, and activities that appeal to all ages and all personalities. One of the most striking parts of Vienna’s Christmas markets are the backdrops. There are markets in front of City Hall, in front of the baroque architecture of the famous
Belvedere Palace, in front of the famous Schönbrunn Palace, and more. Experience traditional Austrian culture sure to awaken the holiday spirit at any one of these attractions.
The roots of Munich’s traditional Christmas Market dates back to the 14th century, making it a unique attraction for both locals and tourists. At the Munich Christmas Market, visitors can enjoy Advent music, sip berry mulled wine and snack on fruit cake while browsing German Christmas decorations and Third World Fair trade goods. The biggest draw of the Munich Christmas Market is the tree in front of the new town hall and the 2,500 candles lighting the entire square.
If you’re intrigued to book your vacation to any one of these Christmas Markets, there are a few ways to tour them. If you want to travel by train, a rail vacation will take you to the heart of the city, with independent or guided tours of multiple markets, a chance to enjoy all of the local eats, and hotel stays included. If you would prefer a cruise, you can spend anywhere from 5 to 16 days on a river cruise exploring some of the top markets with guided tours. You could also take a bus tour of the Markets, with the option to add in a short river cruise to see the wonder from the water.