Most people travel to Europe in the summer months, for the warmth and sunshine. Some study in Europe and return home before the holidays. Others travel specifically to experience the Christmas Markets, located all over Europe in late November and early December. I like to visit a city at different times of year because the experience can vary dramatically. During the holidays Europe takes on an enchanted feel that is not to be missed. People are out socializing in the main squares at these markets and it is one of the best ways I know to get in the holiday spirit.
Established in the middle ages, Christmas Markets were originally located outside of churches in the main square of the city. Today they are frequently located in the old town, with large cities often hosting several Christmas Markets in different locations. Each country has a different flavor of Christmas market, with different specialties offered, although most are modeled on Germany’s Christkindlmarket with some form of mulled, spiced wine and sausage.
Christmas Markets usually start after the beginning of Advent and finish up a week before Christmas. If you are planning a quick trip during Thanksgiving weekend, check to make sure your favorite market will be open. Advent calendars vary by year, and some markets open early and close later than others.
When choosing between urban and rural Christmas markets it’s a toss up, with larger cities offering huge markets spread across multiple main squares but smaller villages offering quaint atmospheres and a family feel. It is worth exploring both. Some of the oldest and most beloved markets are in Vienna, Austria; Nuremberg, Germany and Strasbourg France.
If you are going to Austria, an excellent holiday side trip is the Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf. It is where the carol was first performed and is just 20 kilometers north of Salzburg – another wonderful Christmas Market town. Salzburg is a beautiful city along a river with a castle high on a hill – it is the birthplace of Mozart and home of the Von Trapp family in the Sound of Music.
Christmas Market in Prague: