There are approximately a zillion Christmas markets in Europe, several next door to each other in the bigger cities – so how to choose?!
I am a huge Christmas fan. I love every exciting minute of it: the anticipation of getting together with family, buying the perfect gift for everyone on my travels throughout the year, planning the menu, decorations, music and of course the smell. Randomly, for someone whose Christmasses have always been in NZ, Europe just seems “right”.
Here are the best Christmas markets I’ve rounded up:
The first Christmas market to be held in Munich was on the Marienplatz (main square) and can be dated back to 1642. But there are 20 markets in the city today including a medieval Christmas market and a gay pink market. Under a huge tree blinging with lights sprawls dozens of covered stalls and advent music from 5.30pm to get you in the mood and craft workshops for children. A few steps away in Neuhauser Strasse is the manger market – perfect for building your own nativity scene as you can also get lanterns, straw for the mangers, fodder for the donkey and gifts from the three wise men. Click here for a full list of links to Munich’s Christkindl Markets >>>
Open November 30 – December 24
There are several Christmas markets in Vienna, some are arty, some classy, others touristy. Rathausplatz Christmas Market is the biggest and most popular, spread out on the square in front of the Town Hall. It dates back to the 18th Century but moved to this location in 1975.
Estimates are as many as 3 million people visit the market which doesn’t bode well if you’re a crowd hater, but for the atmosphere and the chance to browse and shop from the 150 stands that have more recently morphed from selling cheap plastic knick knacks to classier, handmade items, it’s great. You’ll small chestnuts roasting on open fires (I had to go there), cream filled pastries, pretzels and ham, plus mulled wine to warm the cockles of your heart.
Open 17 – 24 December
The smell of toasted almonds, roasting chestnuts and freshly baked apples envelopes you as you wander through the Salzburg Christmas market sampling gingerbread hearts and finding the perfect nativity figure to take home. This Christmas market is mentioned as far back as the 15th century and is located at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress and around the Cathedral of Salzburg. You’ll hum along with the choir singing in front of the Cathedral and “Turmblasen” (wind instruments) on Residenz Square.
Open 22 November – 26 December
There are 9 gorgeous Christmas markets happening in Paris, so I’ve chosen the largest one on the Champs Elysee which has 160 little chalets made especially for the occasion selling Christmas decorations, festive items, local produce and handmade goodies. Stroll along with a glass of mulled wine and nibble on gingerbread or hot crepes under the twinkling lights.
Open 16 November – 6 January 2013
In the city’s largest square, Plaza Mayor, over 100 stalls burst with Christmas delight. Edged by the restaurants and bars that call the heart of the city home, this Christmas market is popular with locals as well as tourists. You’ll find all the wares of the traditional Christmas market: decorations, ornaments and gifts, but also a splash of the unusual with costumes, wigs and funny accessories ready to celebrate Spanish Fools’ Day on 28 December. However, the crazy side is nearby on Santa Cruz square.
Open 28 November – 31 December
Head to the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland to immerse yourself into the Christmas spirit after a hard day’s Christmas shopping on Oxford Street. Or if you still have some energy, strap on your blades and glide onto the ice rink. This is a market for the whole family with theme park rides and the -8˚C Magical Kingdom worth popping in to.
You’ll find 100 wooden chalets selling jewellery and accessories, clothes, handicrafts, decorations and plenty of food from dozens of bars, cafes and restaurants. Admission is free, but you’ll need tickets for ice skating, the giant ferris wheel and the circus.
Open 23 November – 6 January 2013 10am – 10pm (except Christmas Day)
This post is sponsored by Singapore Airlines, but as always, the views, (hours of research!) and opinions are mine.