A Christmas Market Winter Wonderland

Christmas Markets, Vienna

In the lead up to Christmas, Christmas markets spring up all over Europe.  If you’re travelling in Europe this time of year, you have to make sure you attend at least one or two of the markets.  But what are the best Christmas markets in Europe?  Based on visiting a number of Christmas markets last Christmas, here is my pick of the best.

Best Shopping: Budapest, Hungary

Christmas Markets, Budapest

So many beautiful handicrafts to buy at the Budapest Christmas Markets

Many of the stalls are Christmas markets sell similar items, even in different cities.  I much prefer to find stalls selling unique, locally handcrafted items, even if many of the ornaments are made from glass and not practical for getting home in a suitcase!  However, at the Christmas markets in Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square, all stalls selling gifts are selected and approved by a special jury of folk art experts.  Find beautiful ceramic ornaments, excellent notebooks, and delicate leatherwork, that you won’t find anywhere else.

Best Food: Innsbruck, Austria

Christmas Market, Innsbruck

Cobblestone streets lined with food stalls in Innsbruck

There are two constants at all Christmas markets: stalls selling glühwein (mulled wine) and punsch (a slightly stronger alcoholic beverage), as well as various plates of food suitable for standing up and eating.  The food on sale differs from country to country, although sausages are usually always on sale.  Head along in the evening and put together dinner from the different street food, all as a reasonable price.  The best food out of the markets I went to was in Innsbruck.  As well as regular bratwurst, there were also Bonsa, long spicy sausages smothered in curry powder and onions.  Absolutely delicious!  Also highly recommended are the Kiachln, a doughnut-like fried bread with various filling, Käsespätzle, a pasta dish with cheese, and the various sweets.

Best Entertainment: Munich, Germany

Carol singers, Munich Town Hall

Carol singers on the balcony of the Munich Town Hall

When standing around and relaxing with a mug of glühwein, often it’s nice to have some musical accompaniment.  At most of the Christmas markets there’s a calendar of concerts, and my pick out of the various ones I saw would be the music in Munich.  Every evening at 5:30pm, Christmas carols are performed on the balcony of the Town Hall by various choirs, wind players and string groups.  Because it’s on the balcony up above the square, nearly everyone can take in the beautiful music.

While in Munich, consider taking a day trip to the fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle

Best Variety: Vienna, Austria

Many cities have more than one Christmas market, with different markets in different parts of the city.  This is certainly the case in Vienna, that has over 20 different markets, all with a different character.  One of the most popular with tourists are the markets at Schönbrunn Palace, with handicrafts and original gifts.  For families, the pick are the markets in front of the Rathaus (see photo at top), with its lights, pony rides, merry-go-round and toys on sale.  Scattered around the streets of the old town are various small markets that focus on food, or else head to trendy Spittelberg for narrow streets full of revellers, jewellery and local jams and mustards.

What other Christmas markets would you recommend?

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