10 Best Christmas Markets in Europe Slideshow
December 10, 2012
Oslo hosts many Christmas markets, which range from traditional markets selling handicrafts and offering horse sleigh rides to those selling local designer clothes, jewelry, and glassware. Three of the biggest markets are the Christmas Fair at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, the Christmas market at Spikersuppa, and the Christmas fair at Bærums Verk. Treats to try include aquavit (a potato-based spirit flavored with herbs such as caraway seeds, anise, dill, fennel, and coriander), gløgg (the Norwegian version of mulled wine has a syrupy mixture as opposed to an herbal blend with dried almonds and raisins), juleøl (a thicker lager with spices), and julebrus (a non-alcoholic red or gold carbonated drink).
Christ Church Cathedral’s Christmas Market is held at Dublin’s oldest structure, making for a magical backdrop for a winter wonderland. Open every Saturday in December, the market features local crafts, a visit by Santa, and food and drink. Try the hot chocolate and mince pies from the Christ Church Café.
Zurich is home to many wonderful Christmas markets, including Hauptbahnhof, Europe’s largest indoor market, which is held in the city’s central train station. The market features a 50-foot Christmas tree and more than 160 wooden chalets. Take a separate trip to the city’s Baur au Lac hotel, which has Zurich’s largest Christmas tree adorned with 38,880 lights.
England is host to many Christmas markets, including Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, the largest German-style Christmas market outside of Germany. Open from mid-November until Dec. 22, the Frankfurt Christmas Market features 180 glowing chalets spread across Victoria Square, Chamberlain Square, and New Street. Treats to try include moist marzipan, mulled wine, and rich gingerbread. One of the largest markets in the U.K. is Manchester’s Christmas Market, which features hundreds of twinkling market stalls across eight city-center locations all offering the requisite wintertime snacks like mulled wine and sweets, is open from mid-November to Dec. 23. One of the most accessible markets is London’s Winter Wonderland, a Bavarian village in Hyde Park. Revellers can check out the new Magical Ice Kingdom, 200 tons of ice and snow sculpted into a whimsical winter wonderland, plus sip hot cider and mulled wine while feasting on farmhouse foods . The Winter Wonderland is open from mid-November to Jan. 6.
A trio of Finnish cities — Helsinki, Turku, and Tampere — host Christmas markets. Turku, the "Christmas City of Finland," hosts a bustling weekend market in the Old Great Square that features hand-crafted products and Christmas treats like gingerbread cookies. The market is open until Dec. 16. Tampere’s Christmas Market is open daily from Dec. 5 to Dec. 23 and offers traditional Christmas handicrafts and other products from Finland and abroad. In Finland’s capital, there are several markets, including the St. Thomas Christmas Market at Senate Square, which is open daily from Dec. 7 to Dec. 22. A second market at Old Student’s House features 160 vendors selling candles, knitted goods, ceramic, and clothes daily from Dec. 9 to Dec. 21.
Christmas, called Jul, in Denmark is celebrated with visits to the Christmas Market at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. The market features a Christmas village with stalls selling traditional crafts, religious trinkets, gløgg (a potent variant of mulled red wine spiced with raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves steeped in aquavit or schnapps), Julebryg (Christmas beers), and æbleskivers, a treat similar to a donut that is dusted with icing, sugar, and a dollop of blackcurrant jam.
The Christmas Market in front of Schönbrunn Palace offers traditional handicrafts, handmade Christmas decorations, and an extensive children's program, including a Christmas workshop from the end of November until Jan. 1. Treats to try include items from the chocolate fountain, gingerbread, lebkuchen, Christmas biscuits, hot punch, mulled wine, and tea.
The Fira de Santa Llúcia in Barcelona’s Plaça de la Catedral is the most typical Christmas market in the city and is organized every year by the city’s cathedral. It’s where locals go to stock up on the Catalan Christmas essentials, including a Christmas tree, decorations, and caganer (a squatting, pooping Nativity scene figurine) and the Tió de Nadal, a festive log that "poops out" children’s presents on Christmas Eve.
Belgium’s best Winter Wonder Christmas Market is at the Grand-Place in Brussels and around the Bourse, the Place Sainte-Catherine, and the Marché aux Poissons. The market features 250 booths, rides like a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round, an ice rink and Winter Café, a Christmas tree and nightly light show. Treats to try at the market, which is open daily from Nov. 30 to January, 6 2013 include cuberdons (chocolates that are hard on the outside but soft and gummy on the inside that come in more than 30 flavors from apple to speculoos (a spiced biscuit), Belgian chocolates, and pots of moules (mussels), Belgian frites, Belgian waffles, seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts), and Belgian beer.
Located on Marienplatz, the Munich Christkindlmarkt dates to the 14th century when so-called Nicholas markets were held in Germany. However, it was not until 1642 that the first Christmas market, Nikolaidult, was officially recorded in the annals of the city. Lebkuchen gingerbread from Nuremberg, zwetschgenmanderl (nativity figurines and chimney sweep figures shaped from prunes and almonds), and little paper pictures of St. Nicholas were sold at the market. In the 16th century, as Germans began to move away from the figure of Saint Nicholas as the bringer of gifts in favor of the Christ Child, the yuletide market became associated with Christmas festivities. Since 1972, the Munich Christkindlmarkt has been held in Munich’s central square. Today the yuletide festival features a soaring 100-foot Christmas tree with 3,000 twinkling fairy lights, the Manger Market depicting scenes of the nativity, and many of the same goods of yesteryear including sweets such as lebkuchen and zwetschgenmanderl. Treats to try include mulled wine, mead, roasted almonds and chestnuts, grilled sausages, and Advent desserts like spicypfeffernüsse cookies and magenbrot cake.