The Christmas market, as we have come to know and love it, got its start in Germany and Austria. Known as Christkindlmarkt, these festive and brightly lit street markets sell handmade holiday gifts, hot mulled wine, and sweet treats for the kids, and they’ve expanded the world over. From New York City to Strasbourg and from Chicago to Dublin, cities around the world host some of the most anticipated, historic, inventive, and family-friendly markets that give an Old-World feel to classic holiday spirit.
In Cologne, Germany, for example, the Christkindlmarkt maintains the native German tradition with sparkling lights strung up in trees and over canopies that top the local squares. The city actually boasts four markets, though Am Dom, with more than 160 stalls and traditional sweets, remains the most famous. Likewise, in Vienna, classic facets of Austrian Christmas markets are upheld every year, with wooden huts selling mulled wine and trees filled with little heart-shaped lights.
In New York City, there are a number of Christmas markets that pop up around the most festive parts of town, like Union Square, Bryant Park, and Grand Central Station. Union Square’s Holiday Market fills the area with red and white striped booths filled with artisanal crafts, locally made holiday gifts, and freshly baked gingerbread cookies washed down with apple cider. And in Budapest, the Christmas market continues the annual tradition of live folk music played in the streets. Warm Hungarian treats — sweet and savory — are sold throughout the market as the festive crowd moves from stall to stall.
Christmas markets are free and family-friendly, though they’re just as worth it for their warming holiday spirit as they are for buying presents, drinking hot cider, and snapping up sugary delights. Traveling abroad over Christmas should surely mean stopping into the nearby holiday market — particularly if it's on this list — if for no other reason than for a taste of the local flare and flavor.