Europe’s famous festive markets are a great way to infuse a little tradition, magic and authenticity into your Christmas (shopping). Here’s our pick of the best. The featured image of the Swing Carousel in Tivoli is by Stig Nygaard.
The oldest in Germany, Dresden’s Christmas market has been going almost 600 years. Craftsman from the region flock to its 250 or so stalls – as a result the wares here are more traditional and unique than most other markets. The highlight is annual fruitcake (stollen) festival held on the second Sunday in December.
Europe’s oldest amusement park is dressed with hundreds of Christmas trees and thousands of lights for its Christmas market. Frozen over, the park’s main lake is turned into an ice-skating rink. The food and drink here is as much a draw as the atmosphere and arts and crafts on offer – particularly the glögg (spiced mulled wine) and hot apple dumplings.
One of the most important aspects of a Christmarket is its sense of occasion. Loomed upon by an imposing church, looked over by a medieval hilltop castle and centred on a two-storey high fountain encased in an avant-garde glass cone, Salzburg’s market certainly has that. All floodlit, they make the perfect backdrop for browsing arts and crafts.
While there are lots of markets around town, we think the best is in the heart of the old town. Rows of colourfully decorated huts organised around a giant Christmas tree sell a mix of hand-crafted wooden toys (including classic Czech puppets), handmade jewellery, candles and crystals. Be sure to try the medovina, a honey wine known as mead in English.
With around 240 wooden chalets, Brussels’ market is nothing short of expansive. Many countries are represented here, though many of the stalls offer similar crafts and Christmas decorations. The real attraction is the traditional Belgian food: Waffles, doughnuts, free mussels, caricoles, you name it they’re all here, ready to be washed down with a typically strong local beer.
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