Christmas Markets Around the World

By Miruna Corneanu on December 12th, 2016
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Christmas Markets are one othe most beautiful German traditions, dating from 1400, and spread all over the world. Little fairytale villages, traditional food, amazing Christmas decorations, merchandisers selling pieces of wonders in their stylish wood stalls –are all part of this European concept. Entire cities are dressed in lights and doused in a sweet cinnamon fragrance, designed to instill the Christmas spirit and to bring smiles and cheerfulness in our souls.

Europe, the land where these many of these markets began has some of the best Christmas Markets but the tradition has grown and expanded over the year to criss-cross the planet.  Here are some great Christmas markets to check out around the world.

Germany


Traditional Christmas Markets have more and more visitors every year. People from all over the planet are traveling (locally and internationally) during the months of November and December to see them. These magical fairs are taking place all over the country-in the big cities and cozy towns and villages.

Starting with the last week in November, the entire territory is adorned with beautiful and unique Christmas Markets, running until Christmas Eve. It’s hard to make a selection with the best, especially when each of them is unique and has its own charm, borrowing traditions of the place where it belongs.

Berlin, the capital of German Christmas Markets, is one of the best choices for this time of the year with its over sixty different Christmas Markets.  Wood-carvers, stonemasons, artisans of all stripes, roasted almonds, mulled wine, traditional delicacies, amazing Christmas decorations, unique gifts, Advent landscapes and memorable fragments of Christmas scenes welcome visitors this year as they always have, to Berlin.

“Allow yourself a journey back in time, let the lights and the scrumptious smells take you back to childhood’s sweetest memories of the holidays.”

The gigantic Christmas tree in Dortmund, the magic land of Europa Park Christmas Market, the old Frankfurt Christmas Fair, Düsseldorf’s gingerbread houses, the unique “Nicholas Market” in Munich, the charm brought by the “Christmas Angel” in Nuremberg, the romantic Reiterlesmarkt in Rothemburg and the most beautiful Christmas celebration in Europe – Stuttgart Christmas Market, are just a few of Germany’s offerings when it comes to Christmas Markets.

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United Kingdom


The Germans may have started it but British took this tradition and made it their own.

About 30 years ago, Lincoln was the first city in UK to host a traditional Christmas Market and the place where the German tradition first caught on.

London’s Regent Street is a lovely place for Christmas Market shopping and Manchester has more than 5 different Christmas Markets.

“The UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath hosts one of the UK’s most beautiful Christmas Markets with more than 130 wooden chalets filled with unique handmade items, traditional goodies and Christmas decorations.”

Edinburgh boasts 3 different Christmas Markets: a German one with merchandisers from Frankfurt, The Ethical Christmas Fair where you can find the most elegant and original presents between 12 December and 22 December, the Traditional Highland Village Market featuring the best of Scotland, from whisky to cheese and the Dickens Christmas Market at Rochester Castle which will offer over 300 gift chalets where Scrooge, Pip, Oliver Twist and other Dickensian characters have wares for sale.

Winchester, Oxford and Leeds are also great destinations for great Christmas shopping if you are in UK this year.

The Nordic Countries


Scandinavia hosts an abundance of Christmas Markets from mid-November to Christmas which is celebrated  on 24thDecember.

The North is beautiful during the winter period, when everything is covered with snow, when husky dogs and reindeers carry their sleighs over snow and ice in the wild and the miracle called “Northern lights” is revealed in the night sky.

The Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen host a beautiful Christmas Market every year where everybody can taste great Danish food, buy exceptional gifts and enjoy the amusement park in a spectacular yuletide atmosphere, open until midnight.

Sweden boasts several Christmas Markets like Stockholm’s Old Town Christmas Fair with its traditional Swedish Glogg and Lisenberg Christmas Market in Gothemburg -the biggest amusement park in Scandinavia and the most impressive decoration of lights.

“Finland’s best Christmas Markets are St. Thomas, Esplanade Park and The Old Student House-all situated in Helsinki, creating an enchanted winter display in the Finnish capital.”

Oslo, Norway is likewise home to quite a few lovely Christmas Markets, while further north in Lapland travelers can visit the Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle of Rovaniemi, perhaps the world’s most beautiful living Christmas card.

France


Christmas Markets in France, also called “Marche de Noel” are extremely beautiful and have so much to offer from sweet carols, traditional crafts and delicate Nativity figurines for sale near Notre-Dame Cathedral, to the dazzling range of Christmas Markets on Champs Elysees to the colorful and fairylike atmosphere of Lille and Bethune.

Travelers interested in visiting France’s most historic Christmas Market (founded in 1570) can head to Strasbourg, France, near the the German border for a charming mix of French and German Christmas traditions on offer.

Switzerland


From Basel, which hosts the most famous Christmas Market of Switzerland, to the beautiful Advent concerts in Zurich’s Christmas Market, there are lots of Christmas Markets in Switzerland where travelers can browse traditional stands bursting with toys, and arts and crafts.

Trendy accessories, classy Christmas decorations and culinary delights can be also found in Lucerne, Bern, Rapperswil and Montreux.

Belgium


“Winter Wonders,”the best Christmas Market in Belgium, takes place in Brussels from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day and it was chosen by the British as “Europe’s most original Christmas Market”.

Christmas markets in Liege, Bruges or Ypres are also very charming, and sometimes less crowded than the Winter Wonders market.

One thing all the markets have in common is offering some of the world’s best chocolate for sale.

Holland


Christmas Market Valkenburg aan de Geul is the largest and the oldest underground Christmas Market of Europe.

Taking place in the Velvet Cave between late November until the day before Christmas eve most years, this market will be an unforgettable experience for the entire family with beautiful Christmas gifts and ornaments, music and food.

More good destinations for Christmas Markets in Holland include: Deventer, Valkenburg and Winterland in Maastrich.

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Italy

Attending a ”Mercatino di Natale” is definitely an unforgettable experience especially in the North (Trento and Bolzano) where the mountains create the perfect snow-capped backdrop for Italy’s traditional holiday fairs.

” Even in the bustling ancient city of Rome, handicrafts and Italian cakes transform Piazza Navona into a special Christmas fair.”

Verona’s market has more than 300 stalls and in Venice, Campo Santo Stefano develops a Christmas Village with excellent Venetian handicrafts and regional music food and drinks.

Others popular Christmas Markets in Italy take  place in Trieste, Naples, Sorrento and Florence.

Austria


It’s easy to find all sorts of Christmas Markets all over Austria, from small traditional fairs in every town and village to large-scale holiday fairs taking over the most famous fairgrounds in Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg and Graz.

“The December Market,” founded in 1290 is the oldest in Vienna. There are also another 24 Christmas Markets where Austria’s artisan wares, roasted treats, fresh-baked pastries original decorations and the magic of Advent create some of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in the world against a unique baroque background.

The Old Town of Innsbruck, the highlights of Graz and Salzburg-the city of Mozart are also picturesque backgrounds of charming Christmas Markets.

Eastern Europe


Maybe the Christmas Markets in Eastern Europe are not as well known as those of Western and Central Europe but they’re charming, and each one is as beautiful and distinct as the countries that host them.

Prague has two of Europe’s best Christmas Markets: The Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square which are open four Saturdays before Christmas Eve and end in the first days of January. Here, in the golden city, the Christmas Markets offer hand-crafted gifts, bohemian crystals, classic Czech Marionettes, fresh food and warm drinks with a medieval twist.

Sibiu, a small city  surrounded by mountains and a capital of culture in Romania, offers a stylish Christmas Market in the main square called “Piata mare”, where merchandisers barter their goods in a dramatic scene of history.

Others delightful Christmas fairs take place in Budapest, Ljubljana, Tallinn, Bratislava and Riga-where the Christmas tree tradition has started long time ago, in the Middle Ages.

Spain


It might be hard to believe but Spain has an abundance of Christmas Markets. The best are: Plaza Mayor Market in Madrid, Santa Lucia in Barcelona, Granada’s traditional Market and Seville Christmas market.

For almost 150 years, Plaza Mayor has been decorated with hundreds stalls full of Christmas items, statues, Christmas trees and “Belen” (the Spanish nativity scene) pieces, keeping alive the Latin spirit.

Santa Lucia Christmas Market is a beautiful event despite its unusual mild climate. The Catalan traditions are going hand in hand with the Christmas feeling, enchanting any visitor.

Outside Europe


Vancouver, Toronto and Quebec are providing great traditional Christmas Markets mixed with a cosmopolitan flavor. Beneath explosive lights and soft snowflakes, Canada looks amazing and so its elegant Christmas Markets.

New York, one of the most beautiful cities in the world becomes a romance during this time of the year. The Holiday Market at Columbus Circle turns into a spectacle between 2nd and 24th December, smelling like Christmas cakes, sounding like a carol and offering special Christmas products from all over the world.

Chicago holds the largest German Christmas Market in United States – Christkindlmarket. And who said that a Christmas Market could not be exotic? Dee Why Christmas Market is more than unusual since is held on the beach in Sydney, Australia.

Mexico City hosts some interesting Christmas Markets like: Grand Bazaar Navideo and Lazaro Cardenas Market, where the paper marche and the colorful decorations are the major points of interest. Japan also boasts a superb German Christmas Market on the island of Sapporo. The mix between Munich traditional crafts and dishes and the elaborated scene of Sapporo White Illumination event are creating a one of a kind spectacle, symbolizing the affiliation of almost 40 years between the two cities.

South Africa’s Christmas Markets are a strange combination between Christmas and the summer flavor but the city of Cape Town is filled with numerous fairs where merchants are selling original handmade objects, Christmas decorations, delicacies and where the carols are creating the most peaceful ambience. Christmas Markets in Cape Town are so diverse-some of them have a traditional German flavor, others are just for kids and others are organic. Surprisingly, Guatemala has to offer a unique array of Christmas Markets. Besides their impressive art of handmade which can be admired in its entire splendor, Guatemalan people know how to transform Christmas into a spectacle using natural products, colors, textures, aromas, Nativity scenes and a lot of imagination.

The most beautiful thing about Christmas Markets is that, no matter the place where they happen or the merchants’ language, they will always bring back our best moments, too soon gone.

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Photo credits: pixelawaysciascia, -12C,  Mark Howells-Mead,  chris friese,  -12C,  Tom Gill