Germany is famous for its beautiful Christmas markets this time of year, but there are plenty of worthy examples throughout the rest of the continent. Get your last-minute shopping done in style on a tour of these winter wonderlands.
Brussels’ Winter Wonders festival is larger than life. Over 230 businesses across the city center get in on the holiday spirit. An ice rink, toboggan slope, and a Ferris wheel also feature prominently in the nearly two-kilometer extravaganza stretching from Grand Place to Place Ste. Catherine. Pan-European food and drink and quaint arts and crafts populate the wooden-roofed vendor huts.
A spin around the ice rink at Vorosmarty Square is a must-do at Budapest’s Christmas Fair. As many as 150 vendor cottages get set up at the start of the Hungarian capital’s Fashion Street for a traditional handmade shopping experience. Folk dancing, puppet theatre, and old-fashioned Hungarian food complete the Eastern European picture of Christmas.
The Danish capital’s famed Tivoli Gardens host a Christmas market every season with cultural influences from not just Scandinavia, but Russia as well, as evidenced by the replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral. Father Christmas anchors a 19th century pantomime theater, while a roller coaster and other theme park rides get the blood pumping. Nearly one million visitors brave the sub-zero temperatures each season to browse the handicrafts at Tivoli.
Prague, Czech Republic
If ‘Good King Wencenslas’ is your favorite Christmas carol, make a beeline for Prague’s Christmas Markets, held each December on the real Wencenslas Square. Many seasonal markets focus on arts and crafts, but the Czech capital’s show is all about traditional food and drink. Down a cup of grog and honey liquor before sampling the local Christmas delicacy, carp.
The vibrant facades of Stockholm’s Old Town give a little extra color to the holiday season as they overlook a Swedish Christmas market. The food vendors here really shine with reindeer, elk meat, and traditional Swedish sweets, like tasty spiced ginger snaps or saffron buns, all available for purchase. For gifts and souvenirs, try picking up an old-fashioned straw ornament.
Perched as it is on the German border, it should be no surprise that Strasbourg has the most impressive Christmas market in all France. In fact, this is one market that can hardly be contained. All December, 11 separate sites throughout the city center host over 300 vendor chalets at a market dating all the way back to 1570.
The Austrian capital doesn’t get just one Christmas market. Vienna has several! The Viennese Christmas Market in front of City Hall includes a hands-on area for kids to make their own candles and cookies while the grown-ups stay warm with a glass of local mulled wine. Baroque style is the name of the game at Christmas Village Belvedere Palace, peddling traditional handicrafts all season long. There are also markets at Maria-Theresien Platz, the former General Hospital, and Schonbrunn Palace.