The Magic of Europe’s Christmas Markets
By Shay Harrington
Twinkling lights and the sweet, spicy smell of Gluhwein immediately welcome you to the traditional European Christmas markets. There’s nothing quite like bundling up and strolling through charming medieval towns amongst the locals, everyone enjoying the daily festivities!
The holiday street markets, known as Christkindlimarkt or Weichnachtsmarkt, originated in Germany but have become commonplace throughout Europe. After a brief visit to the Zurich market last year, I planned a journey to various others in Belgium, Germany and France.
Some markets are much larger than others, and many of them are dotted across various areas around the cities. The streets are lined with huts, each selling warm beverages, local delicacies and festive bites as well as various crafts and gift items.
The scent of mulled wine beverages such as Gluhwein, Kinderpunsch, Apfelwein and of course, hot chocolate, fill the air and are very popular with locals and visitors alike. Each market has their own special mug that can be purchased as a souvenir. A stop in the pop-up covered taverns to warm up or taste a local spirit is also a must!
I had the opportunity to visit the markets in Brussels and Bruges, where waffles and chocolates stole the show. I also stayed at the beautiful Rocco Forte Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt, visiting the local Christmas market as well as those in Nuremberg, Heidelberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. At these markets, the bratwurst varieties, Lebkuchen and carved Nutcrackers were spotlighted. I finished the journey at the charming Pavillon de la Reine in Paris and delighted in the merry lights around the Tuileries and the Champs Elysees.
There are many large and small Christmas markets throughout Europe; each have different opening and closing dates, but generally begin in late November and remain open through late December. Visiting the markets is a fun and joyful way to welcome in the holiday season while experiencing local flavors and customs.