It’s that time of year: a cold chill in the area, short days with longer nights, and steaming mugs of hot chocolate making a more frequent appearance. Here’s some inspiration to brighten up those dark nights: pack your warmest sweater and head out to a German Christmas market fun.
Don’t live in/near Germany? No problem – we’ve rounded up some of the world’s best German Christmas Markets that aren’t in Germany.
Chicago, Illinois – USA
As the largest traditional German market outside of Germany, Chicago’s Chriskindlmarket packs a punch. The juxtapose of the Chicago Picasso modern lines looking down over old fashioned German market stalls, all under the shadows of the city’s skyscrapers, gives this event such a wonderful, unique atmosphere.
The crowds pack the place, which is good because Chicago is awfully chilly in winter. All the more excuse to grab your crafty gifts and then head for the bratwurst and gluhwein tent.
Getting There: The Chicago market runs from November 26th – December 24th. It’s held in Daley Plaza in the downtown center, easily accessible by bus or subway.
There are German Christmas Markets all over Great Britain, from London to Scotland, but the market in Bath is one of my favourites. It’s held in a gorgeous square in between the stunning Bath Abbey and old the Roman Baths, a place where you can feel and see the history that has happened here.
Between the full rota of Christmas carolers and the endless supply of food and drink, this is the one of the best places for the UK Christmas Market experience.
Getting There: The Bath market runs from November 26th – December 6th, so book soon. It is held in the main city square, so you can’t miss it.
Even if you can’t pronounce it, Ljubljana takes top marks for the enchanting Christmas market you’ll find in the city’s Old Town. Everything is lit at night, from the Christmas trees to the castle, historic buildings, and of course the many market stalls.
The whole scene is dreamy, almost surreal. On sale at the market you’ll find local handmade clothes and crafts; be sure to pick up a hot mulled wine and some tasty ginger biscuits, the only way to end a Christmas night in Ljubljana.
Getting There: The Ljubljana market runs from December 3rd – January 2nd. You’ll find every nook and corner of the historic quarter lit at night, but the market stalls can be found at Prešernovtrg square.
For a more Mediterranean Christmas, head south to Bolzano for an Italian “mercatino di Natale”. This was one of the first Christmas markets in Italy and quickly became popular with visitors because of the South Tyrol cuisine served in the stalls, a wonderful blend of cultures that just works as a Christmas Market.
Another great feature of this market is the massive advent calendar, made from the windows on the façade of a nearby historic building. Unique yet still true to the traditional German markets concept, Bolzano is a must-see.
Getting There: The Bolzano market is held in Piazza Walther from November 27th – December 23rd. Wander through the nearby courtyards and alleyways for additional places for food and drink.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – USA
Miles away from Germany on America’s Atlantic coast, the city of Philadelphia has obsessively recreated and then improved on the German market concept for their annual Christmas Village http://www.philachristmas.com/. Their inspiration is the market in Nuremberg, one of Germany’s most popular.
Hosted in Dilworth Plaza, the four week event is packed with things to see and do: live music events, Santa’s house, market stalls and timber houses are all beautifully lit at night, offering tourists plenty of Christmas joy in a great setting.
Getting There: The Philadelphia market runs from November 26th – December 24th in the hard-to-miss location of Dilworth Plaza. It’s just in front of Philadelphia City Hall and accessible via bus, subway, and regional trains.
Prague, Czech Republic
By heading to Prague for Christmas, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Not only do you get to avoid the hordes of tourist that descend on the Czech capital every summer (although it’s still a bit crowded at Christmas), you’ll get not one but four markets!
The combination of Prague’s iconic architecture and thousands of twinkling lights is romantic way to experience the city. Children can pet the sheep and goats on display in Old Town Square, whereas the adults will enjoy fresh Czech beer and hot wine on tap.
Getting There: The four markets in Prague are in Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, Havelske Trziste, and Namesti Republiky. The festivities run from November 28th – 1st January.
You might say that choosing Alsace is cheating, given that it’s just across from the German border. But the region is so charming during the festive season I’d be remiss not to include it. The fun starts in Strasbourg, where you’ll find France’s oldest Christmas market (over 430 years old) just in front of the glorious Strasbourg Cathedral.
But Alsace in general has around 35 markets, plenty to keep you busy regardless of the weather – you’ll find a list of them on the Alsace Tourism website.
Getting There: You can arrive in Strausbourg by air, train, or car but having a car is easiest to visit the other smaller markets. Most markets in Alsace run from November 25th to January 6th.