Winter Wonderland – The Ultimate Christmas Market Guide
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! From late November onwards, town squares across Europe are decorated with giant Christmas trees covered in fairy lights, wooden huts selling handmade goods and festive music fills the air. Best of all is the selection of tantalising food and drink unique to each destination. From sugary waffles smothered in whipped cream and chocolate, warm spiced wine laced with generous helpings of rum or flaky apple strudel – you’ll want to try it all! While you’re feasting on tasty street food, you can browse the market wares and pick up one-of-a-kind gifts for family and friends to place under the Christmas tree. Nothing puts you in the mood for Christmas quite like a visit to one of Europe’s popular Christmas markets – so here’s a roundup of our favourite winter cities to visit:
Enjoy German Christmas markets in Berlin
As Christmas markets originated in Germany – head to Berlin for an authentic Christmas market experience. A thrilling toboggan ride, a pyramid of lights and buckets of Glühwein are just some of the highlights you’ll find in the heart of the German capital during the magical winter months.
Potsdamer Platz “Winterwelt”
- the only market in the city that opens from the beginning of November.
- Potsdamer Platz is transformed into a gigantic winter playground.
- slide down a huge toboggan with views of the Brandenburg Gate.
- free outdoor skating rink and huts selling seasonal treats gets the festive season off to a flying start.
Alexanderplatz Christmas Market
- every year it attracts hundreds of people from all corners of the globe looking for that special winter atmosphere.
- you can’t miss the huge pyramid covered with thousands of lights.
- drink Glüehwein (hot wine with spices), Glüehwein mit Schuss (hot wine with rum or amaretto), Lumumba (hot chocolate with rum or amaretto), Kinderpunsch (warm juice)
- eat original Nürnberger Rostbratwurs (grilled German sausage), Lebkuchenherzen (Gingerbread), Baumkuchen (a funnel cake rolled in sugar & turned on a hot spit), Schmalzkuchen (little German donuts).
Experience a white Christmas in Krakow
If you’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas, it may not happen at home but you can more than make up for this at the Krakow Christmas markets – where snowfall in December is almost a certainty! An enchanting backdrop to your christmas shopping experience, the Grand Square (one of the oldest Medieval town squares in Europe) and iconic Cloth Hall are filled with dozens of market stalls selling Polish delicacies such as dumplings, roasted nuts and poppyseed cake. You’ll be amazed by the range of intricately crafted and colourful nativity sets on display – a unique Polish tradition.
Christmastide Market in Rynek Central Square
- set in the Main Market Square, likely to be covered in a blanket of white snow in December.
- handcrafted items and jewellery in Baltiv amber, Bohemian glass, wood carvings, Christmas decorations, nativity cribs, woolens and furs.
- groups of carol singers and folk dancers entertain the crowds of locals and tourists alike.
- beetroot soup (barszcz) with mushroom dumplings (uszka / pierogi), gingerbread cake (piernik) and dried fruit compote (kompot) are among the local delicacies.
Feel festive in the fairytale setting of Prague
Prague Christmas markets attract dozens of visitors every year, where the charming main squares are transformed with bright decorations and classical concerts playing throughout the afternoon. The bright market stalls sell everything from handmade wooden puppets & Czech crystal figurines to snuggly winter accessories.
Old Town Square
- oldest & most famous Christmas market with the city’s official Christmas tree, a range of arts & crafts and a wide selection of food and drink stalls.
- highlights include a children’s pony-ride area at the back of the Jan Hus monument and a viewing deck in the middle of the square for selfies.
- school choirs from all over the Czech Republic sing every afternoon, dressed in traditional costume.
- Don’t leave without sampling quintessential Czech liquor – Becherovka – a true taste of Christmas!
- located in the lower half of the square but they often have stalls at the top end as well.
- local food and drink includes Prague ham, Pražská klobása (deep red sausage with added spices), Trdelnik (spiral of dough wrapped around a wooden pole, warmed, and rolled in sugar, cinnamon or other flavors), Svařák (hot wine).
Forage for gifts at Budapest’s Christmas fairs
With numerous vintage shops and craft fairs, Budapest is a fantastic city to visit for shopping at any time of the year. During the winter months, however, the main squares are filled with cosy market stalls and twinkling lights – making the atmosphere even more delightful. To pick up unique gifts that you can’t get at home, make sure to pop by the following fairs:
Budapest Christmas Fair at Vörösmarty Square
- a rustic market that embodies the quintessential winter wonderland.
- top-quality handmade products like wooden folk instruments, decorative baskets, and intricate ceramics.
- a 1,200 sq metre gastro terrace where you can sample regional delicacies like goulash with prunes and mutton sandwiches with roasted paprika cream.
- diverse entertainment includes jazz, blues, folk, and soul music, along with an art fair and a playground for tiny tots.
Fashion Street Advent Market
- Deák Ferenc Street – aka Fashion Street – welcomes shoppers with Christmas lights and quaint wooden stalls along this upscale pedestrian street.
- a mug of hot punch or a perfectly flaky strudel will keep you warm.
- kids can escape the bustling crowd at the play corner with a variety of games.
Advent in Budapest Winter Festival in Városháza Park
- one of the most festive spots in the city filled with people, music and Christmas lights.
- an art fair selling high-quality handmade gifts and showcasing a traditional show kitchen called the Glass House.
- on week nights, amateur folk groups, choirs, and theatre groups perform.
- on weekends, kids events such as puppet shows, concerts and handicraft workshops dominate.
Visit Vienna for a lavish Christmas display
One of the chicest cities in Europe, Viennese Christmas celebrations are an extravagant affair. As well as boasting some of the most glamorous Christmas market settings, Vienna offers culture lovers a whole host of grand events throughout the Christmas season. Shop for Christmas decorations and drink traditional mulled wine in the royal palace grounds, listen to an Advent concert at magnificent St. Stephen’s cathedral, then head to the State Opera House for a gentile performance of classical ballet.
Rathausplatz (Vienna Christmas World) – City Hall Square
- located on the square in front of Vienna’s iconic City Hall.
- a new archway decorated with thousands of candles will welcome visitors this year.
- in the Volkshalle at City Hall, children are invited to decorate gingerbread cookies, participate in craft workshops and write wish lists to Santa.
- this year, for the first time visitors can skate through city hall park over two large ice rinks and along numerous paths. They can also go curling next to the 4,000 m² ice rink.
- market stalls offer bread with hot cheese, oven potatoes, kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), langos (deep fried flatbread), würstel (sausage), chocolate fruit and waffles.
- the palace provides a spectacular backdrop for an idyllic Christmas village.
- festive concerts take place almost every day during advent season.
- there are many varieties of glüehwein and punsch at different stalls such as classic Austrian orangepunsch (a fruity rum drink).
- pick up wooden ornaments, knitted hats and gloves, wooden soldiers, pine cone animals, marzipan sweets and gingerbread hearts.
- sip mulled wine beneath the beautiful backdrop of the Karlskirche (Baroque church).
- enjoy open-air concerts, fire acrobatics and a “live crib” with real animals.
Without a doubt, these festive capital cities are places where Christmas celebrations are taken seriously. From Christmas markets held in the shadow of classical buildings & wondrous outdoor art installations, to concerts in some of the most memorable locations in the world and thrilling winter sports – the merrymaking possibilities are endless. For the best times to visit the Christmas markets, view our Christmas market page and be on your jolly way!
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