27 November 2017

The loveliest Christmas markets in Europe

I love Christmas time in Europe. The streets are strung with glittering lights and little stands selling steaming mugs of spiced wine begin to pop up on every corner. My favourite thing by far however are the Christmas markets.

It might seem slightly early for this post, but as most Christmas markets open around the 24th of November, it's a perfect time to plan.

A couple of tips: Especially for markets in Germany and Austria - bring cash, as many markets don't accept card. In fact for those two countries I would extend this advice to shops and restaurants in general. You don't want to have to run around on a snowy evening to try and find cash to pay your restaurant bill.

If you hate crowds then avoid the markets at night on Fridays and Saturdays as they are normally at their busiest then.

Lastly, Christmas markets are popular travel destinations and many hotels can be booked out a month or two in advance. If there is a particular market you'd like to visit, I'd suggest booking your accommodation early.


Vienna Markets

Vienna was the first city I ever visited a Christmas market in, and it will forever hold a place in my heart. I immediately fell in love with the coziness of them, the food, the music, collecting beautiful decorations for my tree, and the fact that this is where my friends and I caught up for mugs of warm glühwein and a chat over the course of November and December. Why meet in a bar when you can meet at a Christmas market?

For me, Vienna is one of the Christmas capitals of Europe, and so there are a large number of markets sprinkled across the city. These are my favourite:

Rathaus Christkindlmarkt
The Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt is the largest and most touristy in Vienna, but it's definitely worth visiting. There are over 150 little wooden stalls selling Christmas decorations, glühwein, wooden toys, tea, chocolate and more. There is also a 3,000m2 ice skating ring, and activities just for children including a reindeer train and Ferris wheel.

Schönbrunn Christmas Market proves that good things come in small packages. There are 80 lovely stalls sprinkled in front of beautiful Schönbrunn palace selling goods ranging from exquisite hand decorated gingerbread, to ceramics and spices. Also, if you've never visited Schönbrunn, then add it to your list. Walking through the palace makes you feel as though you've just stepped back in time, and that those who live there have momentarily left the room. In summer the gardens are also incredibly beautiful.

The Art Advent Market on Karlsplatz sells beautiful handmade objects, including photographs, Christmas decorations, scarfs, paintings, stained glass, and makeup. I've also bought some beautiful Christmas cards here in the past. A word of warning - don't take photos of the stalls or you may be yelled at.

Zürich Wienachtsdorf at Sechseläutenplatz

This lovely Christmas market is located in the square opposite the opera house and is by far the best market in Zürich. The thing I especially love about it is the food selection. I've never seen another Christmas market where you can choose between options as varied as fondue, Thai, dumplings, and Sri Lankan street food.

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt

This Christmas market is one of Germany's oldest, starting around the mid 16th century and growing exponentially to it's current size. There is something very lovely about wandering the streets of Nuremberg's old town where almost every part is filled with little stalls selling glühwein, crepes, chocolate, leading you to the town's main square which becomes a Christmas market extravaganza.

Nuremberg itself is a beautiful town and there is so much to see, particularly for those with a passion for history.

Beautiful Innsbrück

Innsbrück Oldtown Christmas Market

Innsbrück is one of the prettiest cities in Austria, filled with colourful buildings and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The Christmas market in the old town is incredibly charming, and although quite small, it's one of the few markets left that sells genuinely beautiful Christmas decorations.

The Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market in Berlin

This market is located on one of the most beautiful squares in Germany nestled between the Französicher Dom and the Deutscher Dom. It's filled with delicious food and some sweet little shops selling Christmas decorations and other bits and pieces.

Although Berlin is packed with markets at this time of year, this is by far my favourite for atmosphere and food. There is a 1 Euro entrance fee which covers entertainment and a percentage of which also goes to charity.

Strasbourg Markets

We just visited the markets in Strasbourg this weekend, and fell in love with the beautiful old city centre. Although I didn't really see any nice Christmas decorations, there were some very pretty pottery stalls and sweet hand-carved wooden children's toys. Food was plentiful and delicious - mostly hearty wintry fare including potato and bacon in a creamy sauce, spätzle and toasted baguettes covered in cheese and bacon.

If you can't get to any of the markets this year, but you'd like to have some delicious glühwein at home, then why not try my recipe.


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