By Soyeon Park
With Christmas just around the corner, European cities are starting to set the stage for the world’s best Christmas markets. Originating from Germany, Christmas markets are 4-week street markets celebrating the birth of Jesus. Most of them are set up in town squares, selling traditional food, drinks, and seasonal items accompanied by singing and dancing. Magnificently lit open-air stalls rouse Christmas mood and spirits in all around the streets and cities. Here are the top 7 Christmas markets all over Europe that can be your perfect destination for this Winter holiday.
1. Dresden, Germany
Dresden boasts nearly 600 years of tradition when it comes to Christmas markets. Being one of the first cities in the world to start off the tradition in 1434, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is consisted of 11 distinct, unique markets surrounding the Altmarkt Square in the old town. This area called “Christmas mile” is filled with hundreds of stalls selling festive handmade goods. Striezelmarkt is famous for celebrating Christmas by giving out slices cut from huge stolen, a traditional German bread filled with nuts, fruits, and spices and coated with sugar powder. Visitors can taste baked apple and gingerbread, and indulge in a warm cup of gluhwein.
2. Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg’s Christmas markets are often considered the best in Europe. Traditional French Christmas treats are found in more than 300 stalls set up around the world’s oldest and biggest Christmas tree reaching 30 meters in height. In fact, the tradition of decorating fir trees with ornaments in Christmas started from this city. Touring around the beautiful squares lit up by splendid lightings, people can warm themselves up with local Alsatian wine made by adding orange and cinnamon in red wine. This year the market will be open until the 30th of December.
3. Vienna, Austria
Vienna is steeped in festive spirit during Christmas. The Christmas market tradition continues in Vienna now for more than 700 years, so there is no doubt for it being one of the top 3 Christmas markets in Europe. The Austrian capital’s City Hall is embellished with ornaments and Christmas lights, and all the landmarks including St. Stephen’s Cathedral Schӧnbrunne Palace and Hofburg Palace are transformed into Christmas markets where thousands of stalls selling Austrian sausages and gluhwein. The neighboring Rathaus park is transformed into a 3,000m2 ice rink for families to enjoy ice skating and curling. Don’t miss the local choir performing carols and gospels every weekend during the Christmas market weeks.
4. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague has two big markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square which are only 5 minutes’ walk from each other, so they can easily be explored in one night. In the Old Square Town especially, endless christmas events such as christmas concerts and choir carol performances take place, starting off with the lighting of the majestic christmas tree at the center of the square. The stalls and festive mood might be similar to those of other European Christmas markets, but it is the Czech treats that really sets them apart from them. Almost all stalls offer klobása, or a traditional Czech sausage, with world-famous Pilsner Urquell and local hot mead, or honey beer, named medovina. What’s more, is that Prague’s Christmas markets open everyday until January 6, so the travellers visiting the city after Christmas can also indulge in holiday spirits.
5. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The reason for Amsterdam’s fame in Christmas markets can be solely attributed to its renowned Amsterdam Light Festival. The 53-day-festival already started in 30 November and continues until 20 January 2019, exhibiting tens of light artworks, sculptures and light installations that illuminate the night of Christmas markets and making them even more awe-inspiring. Don’t forget to take a photo in front of the symbolic 20-meter-tall Christmas tree in Dam Square as well as trying out some oliebollen, traditional fried Dutch doughnuts.
6. Budapest, Hungary
The oldest Christmas markets in Hungary are in Budapest, accompanied by Hungarian Christmas Fair and Winter Festival at Vorosmarty Square. The mood here is both festive and serious at the same time, since the ornaments and crafts boast high, authentic quality as they are produced by the Association of Hungarian Folk Artists with pride. Hungarian customs are really spotlighted with folk music performances along with traditional Hungarian food such as kürtőskalács, named “chimney cake” after its appearance, and mulled wine. When you finish your mulled wine, keep the mug that it was served in since there is a new designed commissioned every year.
7. New York, USA
Although it is not in Europe, New York’s Christmas market in Bryant Park kindles the festive mood as much as its European counterparts do. It is always bustling with visitors looking around more than a hundred jewelry and handicraft kiosks set up in front of Bank of America, ornamented with shimmering lights and decorations. It also features 17,000 ft2 outdoor ice rink – in fact it is the New York’s only free ice skating rink – where children and families are joined by the Santa and his elves. Their Europe-inspired food stands exquisitely merges American and European food styles, offering Swiss raclettes and German pretzels along with a bit more ‘American’ burgers and doughnuts.