It’s almost time for the magical Christmas markets across Europe to open their doors (at least metaphorically) and spread some festive joy to visitors from all over the world.
From giant events in major cities to smaller ones in the more remote towns and villages, practically every destination has its own version of a Christmas market at this time of year. But what creates a good one? Here are a few things that make these yuletide celebrations so enchanting.
Regional Food and Drink
Christmas is a time of year when we all tend to overindulge a little bit, but that’s one of the best parts, right? Christmas markets typically offer a great chance to sample some of the local culinary delights, whether you buy them to consume there and then or to take home as gifts. There’s everything from German wursts that vary in size, flavour and historical importance depending on which city you are in, to sweet pastries, biscuits and fried goods that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
And let’s not forget the fantastic drink on offer. Whether you opt for a fruity glühwein (mulled wine), a soothing apfelwein (mulled cider), or a non-alcoholic hot chocolate, there’s plenty to warm your hands and heart.
Unique Gifts and Local Handicrafts
These Christmas events have been taking place for hundreds of years and, therefore, they often celebrate customs and traditions that started during medieval times. Historic trades such as blacksmithing and glass blowing are likely to be on display, with a keen interest in showcasing what once made that particular city great. This often makes for unique and intriguing gifts that just can’t be bought elsewhere. Even if they are not made via these classic techniques, regional quirks and beliefs (such as the Zwetschgenmännle above) can result in some interesting presents to take back home.
A Choice Of Markets
The larger cities will be able to offer a broad selection of different markets for you to choose from. These are usually spread across the city centre and often carry a theme that brings everything together. There’s Cologne’s Heinzelmännchen market, dedicated to the little people that once worked all night so the locals didn’t have to; Munich’s pink Christmas market, aimed at the LGBTQ community; and the Fairytale Ships of Hamburg, which grace the Inner Alster Lake every year and celebrate the city’s maritime prowess.
It’s not just the market stalls themselves that give you a reason to visit, there are also plenty of other exciting activities happening at European Christmas markets. These give you an excuse to stay for the whole day rather than just a few hours and can provide something for the whole family. Children will love the live nativity scenes, arts and craft centres, and fairground rides, whilst everybody can enjoy some ice skating together. Music often plays a big part too, with traditional carol services being held, live performances taking place on stage and even DJs carrying the party into the night.
An Appearance From the Main Man Himself
The guest of honour at these Christmas markets is usually the jolly guy in the big red suit. Sometimes he swoops down from above to officially declare the market open, others he sits and waits in his grotto to be visited by excited children, and sometimes locals even dress as him and stage a charity run through the city centre. However, the special guest is not always Santa Claus himself. For example, Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s celebrations begin with the arrival of the Reiterle, a hooded figure who appears on horseback.
If you like the sound of everything that a European Christmas market can offer, we can help you plan your trip. We can take you to Germany, Belgian, Croatia, Switzerland and many other countries besides, allowing you to tailor-make your own holiday. Call us on 0800 988 3369 for more information or to book your festive break.