Get into the spirit of the season at charming Christmas markets
Nothing gets you in the seasonal state of mind better than a visit to a traditional Christmas market. Grab a steaming cup of mulled wine. Fill Santa's sleigh with local crafts. Eat your way through the sweet and savoury treats. Enjoy all the best European Christmas markets offer.
Vienna's Christmas markets date back all the way to the 13th century. Today Vienna is truly one of the capitals of seasonal markets, with over twenty of them across the city. Possibly the most captivating visually is the Viennese Dream Christmas Market on the Rathausplatz in front of the City Hall. The area is decked with fairy lights, candles, and trees with countless baubles. For present shopping try Spittelberg market where local artisans sell jewelry, knitwear, and decorations. You can enjoy a cup of punch while you are pondering what to get your loved ones.
Winter Wonderland in Brussels
In the centre of Brussels on the Grand-Place a Winter Wonders event combines a Christmas market with tons of activities for the whole family. The area has over 200 traders selling everything from hot snacks to hand-made gift items. The event offers much more than shopping though. There is an ice rink and a Ferris wheel, culture lovers can view art installations and film screenings. The area is also stunning in design, with creative lights, a huge Christmas tree and pretty-as-a-picture cabins.
Traditions in Munich
The Munich Christkindlmarkt offers an experience packed with history. The market is on Marienplatz in the picturesque old town. The offering is a traditional one. You can get a cup of mulled wine with some roasted almonds or a slice of stollen and listen to caroling. There is a wonderful nativity scene to explore, and the stalls sell hand crafted Bavarian decorations. A slightly spooky and odd tradition takes place at the market too; horned creatures called Krampus runs around the area scaring kids that behave badly! For the locals the tradition is a bit of fun - but if you are not prepared you could be in for a shock.
Carnival mood in Paris
La Magie de Noël in Tuileries Garden is a Christmas market merged with an carnival. The children will love all the amusement park rides such as the huge Ferris wheel and bumper cars. A big ice rink is also available for the fans of the winter sport. The grown-ups can enjoy the more traditional craft and food offering. There is a good selection of French produced artisanal gourmet products, such as cheeses and cured meats. In addition to mulled wine there is even champagne on offer - giving the whole experience a bit of that French je ne sais quoi.
Quaint in Stockholm
The Christmas market at Stockholm's open-air museum Skansen is a truly Scandinavian and cozy experience. There are bonfires creating a warm glow over the area and market stalls sell local delicacies such as peppermint "polka" sweets and saffron infused buns. You can also buy hand-made souvenirs and presents from candles to traditional little elves or "tomtar". Many of the sellers are dressed in historical costume. The kids will love the place since you can also meet some animals while you are there! If you get hungry for something more substantial, the restaurants of the area serve good quality seasonal meals.
Bustling in Madrid
Madrid's Plaza Mayor Christmas Market is a popular destination during the season with most of the visitors locals. Over a hundred market stalls are packed with nativity scene figurines, decorations, and kid's toys. The offering is more light-hearted, and party oriented than in the Northern countries and includes things such as fancy dress and joke shop items. On public holidays there are designer and craft stalls as well. There are no amusement park rides on the Plaza Mayor itself, but the city has an ice-skating rink and carousels in the Plaza de Oriente and Plaza de Santa Cruz close by.