The Christmas Markets of Europe
All across Europe, ‘tis the season in which locals and tourists alike stroll along festive streets and town squares to browse handmade crafts, toys, and decorations at local Christmas markets. The smell of fir needles, along with the aroma of roasted chestnuts and freshly baked goods, fills the air as carols quietly hum above the sounds of people bustling and gathering around tables enjoying hot chocolate and mulled wine.
Germany has more than 2,500 individual Christmas markets that all share Germany’s festive spirit. Munich boasts some of the best, and oldest, Christmas markets in Europe. Munich’s markets are personal favorites of many due to the large variety and superior goods that are offered. You’ll typically find festive gifts, decorations and local food and drink as you walk through the bright lights and market stalls located in the shadow of the Rathaus building.
Poland’s most popular Christmas market, in Krakow, offers fantastic value and the chance to pick up some real festive bargains. Held in the heart of the Old Town in the large market square known as the Rynek Glowny, wooden stalls offer a variety of gifts such as woolen clothes and slippers, handmade Christmas decorations, and local treats. Many consider Krakow to be Poland’s most beautiful city and, due to the time of year, there is a very good chance you’ll see snow.
Prague’s Christmas market is also very popular due to the location and atmosphere. Between the central square in Old Town and Wenceslas Square, you’ll find row after sparkling row of decorated stalls. Visitors will find concerts and short plays on an open-air stage along with a live nativity scene with donkeys, sheep and goats in this very festive setting.
Over time, each market has developed its own distinguishing characteristics, reflecting both local traditions and the exclusive historic environs. A typical Christmas market lasts about four weeks and starts around the same time as the Advent season begins.