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Christmas is almost here, and I am sure you are all already planning your holidays. Well, ladies and gentleman, I think the time has come for me to give an alternative to your usual holidays. Have you ever thought of a Eurotrip? Let me present the top 10 European Christmas markets that are a must see this year. Large and small, they promise conviviality, food, drink, music and more. Best of all, each reflects the culture of the region. So, choose a market the suits your mood and head off on a joy-filled break.
#1 Strasbourg, France
It was in Strasbourg in 1570 that the very first edition of the oldest Christmas market in Europe took place, called the “Christkindelsmärik” (market of the Infant Jesus). They say “Strasbourg, the Capital of Christmas” and from what I hear, I can’t blame them. Caroling choirs, nativity plays, an ice rink and mulled wine served in boot-shaped mugs. Edible specialties include pretzels, roasted chestnuts, bredele cookies, and Flammekeuche (“flamed cake”). Now you’ve had a tiny taste of what it includes, I guess you can understand why it continues to enjoy such success.
When? 28 November 2014 – 31 December 2014
#2 Dresden, Germany
If you like Christmas, you’ll love Dresden. Dresden’s christmas markets transform the city into a winter wonderland, filling the city with sparkling lights and festivities. Eleven completely different Christmas markets lie right at your feet: From the very traditional to the merry medieval to the après-ski charm of the Hüttenzauber – you’ll find it all. The heart of this magical place is the Striezelmarkt, one of the largest German Christmas markets. It is also the oldest in the world, having been established in 1434. This market boasts the world´s largest Erzgebirge wooden pyramid and a candle arch you can actually walk across. In addition to this, the area is also known for the pflaumentoffel, a good-luck charm made from dried plums, and famous for selling crafts from all over Saxony. Mmmh, can’t you already smell the enticing aroma of baked apples…?
When? 27 November 2014 – 24 December 2014
#3 Brussels, Belgium
Brussels’ Christmas Market has only been around for a few years, but it pulls off its Plaisirs d’Hiver/Winter Pret (“Pleasures of Winter”) festival with elegant style. The Christmas market extends along the streets from Grand Place to the Place Ste-Catherine, covering almost 2 kilometres. In keeping with the Belgian spirit of a united Europe, the 240 wooden chalets host artisans from around the world selling a kaleidoscope of Christmas wares, handmade crafts, and souvenirs. By the time you reach the Place Ste-Catherine and the quays beyond you are at the heart of the festivities. The quaint stalls continue, punctuated every now and again by a 35m toboggan slope, a ferris wheel illuminated with 18,000 lights and, of course, the famous 200 foot-long skating rink. Don’t forget to try the Belgian waffles, caramelized apples and seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts).
When? 29 November 2014 – 5 January 2015
#4 Stockholm, Sweden
With a dusting of snow, the market looks like a Christmas card, Scandinavian-style. Although the first Christmas market on Stortorget Square in Old Stockholm was held 500 years ago, the modern event only dates back a century. Cheerful stalls are filled with crafts made only in Sweden, such as glass, pottery and jewellery. The musts of Stockholm’s Christmas market include glögg (mulled wine) and pepparkakor (thin gingerbread biscuits). Be sure to bring home a taste of Sweden!
When? 24 November 2014 – 16 December 2014
#5 Nuremberg, Bavaria
With the rececnt opening of the world-famous Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt, it is already beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Smells of mulled wine and rum punch, roasted almonds, Nuremberg bratwurst and gingerbread fill the air. Market officials enforce traditions with Teutonic efficiency: no plastic wreaths, recorded Christmas Muzak, or gaudy carousels allowed.
When? 28 November 2014 – 24 December 2014
#6 Basel, Switzerland
The Basel Christmas market at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz is considered to be one of the prettiest and largest in Switzerland. Plenty of events and amazing special exhibitions also take place during the Christmas period in the city’s many museums.
When? 27 November 2014 – 23 December 2014
#7 Vienna, Austria
Vienna’s Christmas markets are an age-old tradition that definitely should not be missed. Here you can find over 20 official Advent Markets, each of them selling a huge variety of seasonal gifts and mouth-watering treats. About three million visitors go to Vienna each year at that time for the beeswax candles, wooden toys, and glass ornaments. You definitely need to try the cream-filled pastries, candied fruit, roasted chestnuts, and of course Weihnachtspunsch (a spiced “Christmas punch” that consists of wine and brandy or schnapps sweetened with warm fruit juice).
When? 15 November 2014 – 24 December 2014
#8 Cologne, Germany
Every Christmas, the city center of Cologne is surrounded by the magic of all the festivities. Christmas music, arts and crafts, toys, Christmas decorations and the smells coming out of the Christmas bakeries create a harmonic atmosphere. The aroma of mulled wine, hot chestnuts and gingerbread fills the air.
When? 24 November 2014 – 23 December 2014
#9 Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s Christmas markets takes place in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Here you’ll find unusual food and drink rather than gifts and decoration. During the week that leads up to Christmas holidays, the streets sport huge tubs of water filled with carp, the traditional Czech Christmas dish. Czech carols are sung all over around the market. You’ll also get to enjoy the view of the beautiful surrounding architecture and dazzling lighting at night!
When? 1 December 2014 – 1 January 2015
#10 Barcelona, Spain
A fairy-tale like Christmas market takes place every year in Barcelona since 1786. Here, you can buy all manner of handcrafted Christmas decorations and gifts, along with mistletoe, poinsettias and Christmas trees. But it’s all the objects you can buy to create the nativity scene that differentiate the market. The most popular figure on sale for nativity scenes is the curious Catalan figure of the Caganer (a figurine depicted in the process of defecating) so don’t miss out!
When? 28 November 2014 – 23 December 2014