There’s nothing like a Christmas market to get you in the mood for the festive season and if this year you fancy getting your yuletide buzz on a little further from home then here are five of our top European Christmas market destinations.
The Christmas markets in Vienna truly are an age-old tradition, dating back to the Middle Ages when in 1298 Albrecht I granted Vienna’s citizens the privilege of holding a December Market or ‘Krippenmarkt’. Since then, the character and prevalence of these markets has changed considerably. Nowadays, over 20 official Advent Markets sell a vast array of seasonal gifts and mouth-watering treats. The Viennese Dream Christmas Market in front of the City Hall is an unforgettable highlight for those eager to get into the spirit of the season. The unique backdrop gives this market a charm of its own, and the delicious aromas are sure to lull all visitors into the seasonal joy.
Some would say the Bratislava Christmas markets are cosier and less overtly commercial than those in other parts of Europe and visitors to Slovakia’s capital city will find local residents as well as tourists enjoying a glass of mulled wine and a bite of something sweet as they gear up for the holidays. In fact it has become a custom for Bratislava’s bevy of office workers to grab lunch at the Christmas market stalls; visitors can mingle with residents while sampling the many local specialities to help warm empty stomachs in the crispy air of early winter. The most common things to eat are lokše, typical potato pancakes prepared in different salty and sweet varieties, cigánska pečienka, a hamburger-like fried pork steak served in a folded bread pocket – with lots of mustard and onion if you like – a sausage, or a simple šmalec, a wedge of bread with pork fat and onion.
When it comes to Christmas markets the Germans don’t do things by halves and in Berlin there are over 70 markets dotted around the city. They range from indoor and covered to those outdoors, ones especially for children with rides and fun fairs, to markets with historical themes. The largest is the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market in the old town of Spandau. This historical market offers stands with glassblowers, winter delicacies and origami art during Advent. A small tent city with numerous exhibitors and stands as well as more than 1,000 fairy lights provides a cosy ambience.
The Advent and Christmas Fair, held yearly at Vörösmarty Square, has been a favourite tourist attraction since 1998 and attracts more than 800,000 tourists annually. The Christmas fair offers craft products and artisan goods, as well as a unique and rich selection of traditional Hungarian dishes that visitors can choose from while enjoying the characteristic smells of chimney cake and mulled wine. Theatrical performances, the lighting of Advent candles and the fair’s Christmas tree all contribute to the unforgettable Advent experience.
Visiting one of the many Christmas markets in Gothenburg will definitely put you in the right holiday mood. Here you’ll find everything from knitted socks to locally produced food, cakes and of course the Swedish Christmas drink above all – glögg. For the festive season Sweden’s largest amusement part, Liseberg is transformed into a sparklingly winter wonderland but there there are many other cosy markets in and around Gothenburg well worth a visit.