Choosing the Perfect European Christmas Market
It’s time to plan a trip to the Christmas markets of Europe. The choice is huge so I have picked a few that may whet your appetite and point you in the right direction.
Traditionally you will find hot, spiced mulled wine or Glüwhein at most Christmas Markets. Gingerbread is another common delicacy almost always available and is often sold as tree ornaments to be consumed on Christmas Day. In addition to food and drink there will be stalls selling locally produced handicrafts for gifts or tree decorations.
The Strieszelmarkt consists of 250 stalls in Aldtmarkt and is named after the type of light fruit cake traditionally sold there. It was originally called Weinachtsstollen or Dresden Fruit Cake, but we are more familiar with it as stollen. Apart from stollen and the obligatory Glüwhein the Dresden Christmas Market is noted for its own version of gingerbread; a spiced confection filled with marmalade or jam before being dipped in chocolate.
Nuremberg’s Christkinlesmarkt is probably the best known of all Christmas markets. It was in 1628 that it was first mentioned in writing and it still has a very traditional ambience. There are plenty of handcrafted ornaments and traditional gifts as well as local food. These include the local gold foil angel, prune figures and lebkuchen, the spiced cake often covered in chocolate and hung from the branches of the Christmas tree.
Berlin wins hands down for the sheer number and variety of its Christmas markets. Gendarmenmarkt is the market for traditional entertainment, which includes acrobats, dancers and jugglers as well as choirs and other singers. Charlottenberg Palace and the parklands surrounding it are a great setting for a Christmas market. This market is full of gastro-stalls and is the place to go for some Christmas fayre in traditional surroundings. The largest and most traditional market is found in Spandau. The market in Potsdamer Platz is a modern Christmas market with a real urban chic feel about it.
You could be forgiven for thinking Cologne is one big Christmas market during the weeks leading up to Christmas. However, there are several distinct and different Christmas markets, each with their own appeal. The biggest and liveliest is the one in the square around Cologne Cathedral or Dom. This market has a large Krippe or Nativity scene and a lively cultural programme of music, shows and entertainment.
Traditional horse and carriages clatter and rumble over the cobbles in the streets surrounding Cathedral Square and Residence Square where the Christmas Markets are located. Stalls are crammed with Austrian goodies that both taste and smell wonderful. Glass baubles and decorated gingerbread hearts hang in such profusion in the stalls there is hardly room to move. Outside the cathedral are live performances by children from the schools surrounding Salzburg, choirs and brass bands.
The old town of Gamla Stan is truly delightful when the Christmas Market comes to Stortoget, the old town square. A young Christmas Market by European standards it began in 1915. The stalls sell the usual Christmas crafts and decorations but with a Swedish or Scandinavian flavour. Glögg, the Swedish version of Glüwhein, and gingerbread are the traditional food and drink along with cheese and candies. There are four Christmas markets in Stockholm including one in the open-air museum at Skansen.
When we think of Christmas markets we usually think of other parts of Europe but we have some very atmospheric ones here in the UK. One of the best is the one in the shadow of magnificent Winchester Cathedral. Once the capital of England and home to Alfred the Great it is a very atmospheric city at Christmas time. The Market surrounds an ice rink in the Cathedral’s Inner Close.
With so many Christmas Markets to choose from you are sure to find your prefect Christmas getaway. We know how exciting planning your next trip can be, but don’t forget your Travel Insurance. Our Quickcover or European Travel Insurance will offer you ideal cover during your stay.