The most wonderful time of the year is almost here, and what better way to celebrate the holiday season than by exploring the enchanting Christmas markets of Europe? These festive markets bring out the true essence of winter wonderlands, filling the air with the sweet scent of mulled wine and gingerbread. In this guide, we'll unwrap the treasures of three European Christmas markets that promise unforgettable memories and a touch of holiday sorcery.
3. Cologne, Germany - Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
(Nov 23 - Dec 23, 2023)
Germany is renowned for its Christmas markets, and Cologne hosts one of the most spectacular. Set against the backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this market is a sensory extravaganza.
Cathedral Illumination: Take in the spectacle of its breathtaking light projections.
Gluhwein Galore: Dive into a world of warmth and flavor with an exquisite variety of Glühwein (hot mulled wine) options. Explore the culinary delights on offer, including the irresistible Reibekuchen (potato pancakes).
Christmas Carousel: Don't miss the historic Christmas carousel which promises joy for both young and old.
2. Vienna, Austria - Imperial Elegance
(Nov 11 - Dec 26, 2023)
Vienna, steeped in imperial history and renowned for its classical musical heritage, undergoes a magnificent transformation into a winter wonderland during the festive season. The Vienna Christmas Market at Rathausplatz (City Hall Square) is a visual symphony, bedecked with breathtaking decorations and an ice-skating rink that glimmers like a precious gem, beckoning all to partake in the enchantment of the season.
Music: don't miss the chance to attend a classical concert or opera performance. The city's musical heritage is an integral part of its Christmas celebrations, and experiencing a live performance is a burst of cultural delight.
Traditional Austrian Delicacies: Savor a warm slice of Apfelstrudel or try Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) while sipping on punch.
Artisanal Crafts: Encounter an array of intricately hand-painted ornaments to exquisitely crafted ceramics.
1. Strasbourg, France - Capital of Christmas
(Nov 24 - Dec 24, 2023)
Located in the heart of Alsace, Strasbourg proudly claims its title as the "Capital of Christmas." The Strasbourg Christmas Market, known locally as "Christkindelsmärik," dates back to 1570 and exudes a fairytale charm. As you stroll through the quaint streets lined with half-timbered houses, you'll be captivated by the twinkling lights and festive decorations.
Strasbourg Cathedral: The magnificent backdrop for and centerpiece of the market. The Gothic architecture is illuminated with a mesmerizing light display.
Place Kléber: Home to the city's towering Christmas tree, a perfect spot to sip on vin chaud (mulled wine) and indulge in some regional treats.
Handcrafted Treasures: Shop the delicate wonders of hand-blown glass ornaments and Alsatian handicrafts to add to your collection of souvenirs.
These three European Christmas markets offer but a glimpse into the holiday enchantment awaiting your discovery. Each market weaves its own unique spell, from the fairytales of Strasbourg to the imperial opulence of Vienna and the captivating backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral. So, bundle up and embark on a journey to these festive sanctuaries. The spirit of Christmas awaits you.
Happy holidays & safe travels!
Written by Guidee team member Ave Sandstrom, an avid traveler and marketing major at the University of San Diego.