As the holiday season approaches, shoppers are beginning to make plans to attend the fabulous European Christmas markets that bring the spirit of the holidays to life. With over 200 markets to choose from, you are bound to find the perfect gift, ornament or seasonal culinary delicacy to spark the magic of the yuletide season. Below are seven favorite Christmas markets that attract shoppers and revellers year after year with their delicious offerings and traditional ceremonies.
Bath Christmas Market
Specializing in the ultimate Christmas decorations, this elegant English market features specific themes each year so you can coordinate everything from candles to tree lights. This year’s theme highlights elegance with cream, peach and truffle colours and glittering ornaments that reflect the phenomenon of first frost and woodland settings. Over 180 festooned craft stalls compete for the yearly “Plum People” prize with the most inventive and entertaining displays. Beginning November 25th, the 117 traditional wooden chalets open daily until the 12th of December, so be sure and make it to this market early in the season.
The Dickens Christmas Market in Kent
The Rochester Castle in Kent makes the perfect setting for this 17 day extravaganza that begins with the Dickensian Christmas Festival the first weekend in December and runs through December 21. Besides the over 300 German-style chalet shops setup around the castle walls and along Rochester’s Victorian High Street, the festive atmosphere is enlivened by street theater, parades, carolers and people dressed as Dickensian characters joining in fun. Over 80,000 people attend the first weekend to enjoy the picture postcard perfect setting, ride the vintage carousel and admire the giant illuminated Christmas tree decorated with thousands of delicate bobbles, lights and streamers.
Cologne Christmas Market
Over two million holiday shoppers attend the Cologne Christmas markets each December to browse through the total of seven spectacular markets set up throughout the city. The Am Dom and Alta Markets are held in the heart of the old town city square amid gothic buildings around a vast Christmas tree. Over 160 stalls of gifts, sweets and entertainment offer visitors choices between everything from Christmas tree ornaments to gingerbread men to puppet theater. Beginning on November 22 and running through December 23, shoppers can even enjoy a steamer cruise on the River Rhine and a visit to the Cologne Chocolate Museum.
Christmas in Graz
This small Austrian town really gets into the spirit each year, hosting four unique Christmas markets and even hosts the “Office for Christmas Carols,” a research organization that addresses all questions regarding lyrics, stories and poetry related to the yuletide season. Homemade arts and crafts are featured at the Hauptplatz in the main square in front of the town hall, and local charities are supported by purchases made at the Eisernen Tor market. Stop by the Glockenspiel Platz and enjoy refreshments while you are serenaded by the strolling minstrels and admire the art exhibits. There is so much to see and do that the events began November 19th and run daily through December 24.
Dresden Christmas Market
Known as the Striezelmarkt, it is the oldest Christmas market in Germany, tracing its roots back to 1434. Steeped in tradition, this celebration has over 250 stalls that focus on old-fashioned gifts made by regional craftsmen such as beautiful cut crystal, ceramics and hand-blown glass. The highlight of the festivities centers around the 3000 kg Stollen (a ceremonial cake) that is paraded through town in remembrance of a 16th century custom whereby the Prince would cut the cake each year in pass out pieces to the poor. Beginning on the 26th of November, this market runs until 2:00PM on Christmas Eve.
Nuremberg Christmas Market
Although neither the eldest or largest, this Christmas market is undoubtedly one of the favorites in Europe, dating back to 1628. Up to 200 stalls offer beautiful delicacies, delicious treats and a fabulous medieval atmosphere that attracts over two million visitors a year. Opening on the 26th of November with the ceremony of the Christ child, this magnificent festival runs all the way through December 24 to accommodate last-minute shopping.
Salzburg Christmas Market
Locating in the charming of Cathedral Square, this market is steeped in legend and tradition that begin after the blessing of the advent wreath on November 18 and goes on to include special holiday programs performed by children’s choirs. Climb up to the courtyard of the Hohensalzburg Fortress for a bird’s-eye view of Salzberg’s Christmas decorations while you shop in this rooftop market that offers craft booths where children can make ice flowers, gift tags, straw stars and other festive decor. The ceremonies close on December 24th that the traditional “Christ Child Salute” by the Armed Fortress Guild at noon.