Christmas festivities are just round the corner, and we are already in a jolly mood. Trees decorated with fairy lights, delicious cakes, mulled wine and the air of generosity — Christmas encompasses all these and beyond.
However, if you are planning to spend the remaining part of 2021 travelling, we have a special treat for you. Known for its festive spirit every holiday season, Europe is touted for some of the best Christmas markets in the world.
Colourful rows of decorations adorning the cobblestone streets, lip-smacking food to engage your palate, cute stores that sell figurines, ornaments, wine and much more, the Christmas markets in the continent also offer various activities for all age groups.
Although the Christmas markets were cancelled last year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries in Europe have opened their doors to visitors. So, put on those puffy coats and mittens to experience some amazing traditional Christmas markets in Europe.
These are the 10 most magical Christmas markets in Europe that you must visit.
Prague Christmas Markets, Czech Republic
During this time of the year, Prague is one of the best places to be if you want to witness the festive spirit amid the medieval architectural marvels, such as domes, castles and towers. Here, the Christmas markets will start from 27 November 2021 and go on till 6 January 2022.
Apart from enjoying the traditional nativity scenes and open-air concerts, one can enjoy the markets in Staromestské Námestie (the Old Town Square) and Wenceslas Square. These gorgeous markets boast melodious choirs, massive Christmas trees and stalls selling locally made ceramics, embroidered laces, hand-blown glass baubles, hats, gloves and scented candles.
Food lovers should definitely try the delicacies available in these markets. Visitors must try trdelník or barbecued pork — a pastry rolled in a mixture of cinnamon-sugar and grilled — sausages, garlic and cheese, flatbread, pancakes, hot chocolate, mulled wine, honey wine and grog, which is a drink made of rum, water, lemon and sugar.
Tivoli Christmas Market, Denmark
Tivoli Gardens is known for its vibrant stalls, gløgg or mulled wine and adventurous rides. This Christmas wonderland was turned into a market by John Loring in 1997 and is visited by more than a million people every year.
Beginning in mid-November, more than 500,000 fairy lights and decorated fir trees illuminate the dark gardens, adding a touch of magic to the surroundings.
For the ones with a sweet tooth, the Æbleskiver — spherical Danish snacks similar to pancakes, but light and fluffy like Yorkshire pudding — is a must-try Danish delicacy. This is consumed with jam and icing sugar. Christmas cakes from the famous patisserie Cakenhagen are something you must look out for too.
Tallinn Christmas Market, Estonia
The popular Christmas market was started in 2001 and this year, visitors can enjoy the festivities from 19 November 2021 to 2 January 2022. Located in Town Hall Square, there are 60 chic and cosy wooden huts, which are popular for selling handcrafted wreaths, lamps, sheepskin rugs, gingerbread, local honey and mulled wine.
While in summers, people enjoy visiting various cafes at the Town Hall Square, in winters, the place transforms into a haven for festivities with open-air concerts, fairs and much more exciting activities.
During the festive season, musicians and dancers enthral the crowd with their performances. Although the decorated snow sculptures look stunning, the showstopper is the giant Christmas tree, which has been standing tall since 1441.
This towering spruce tree in front of the town hall is the first Christmas tree to be showcased in Europe. As per the Visit Estonia website: “The tradition of celebrating Christmas festivities here dates back to 1441 when the Brotherhood of the Blackheads are thought to have erected the world’s very first Christmas tree.”
Edinburgh Christmas Market, Scotland
Christmas markets and Hogmanay celebrations come together to paint Edinburgh in the hues of joy and festivity. From mini-train rides and bumper cars for kids to a Christmas tree maze and a 108-feet-tall Ferris wheel — the Edinburgh Eye — this “Santa Land” has everything to entertain visitors.
The popular Christmas market will welcome people from 20 November 2021 to 4 January 2022 in Edinburgh’s sprawling East Princes St. Gardens.
Apart from the amazing rides, there are special projections, performances and artworks that bring out the local talent. People can also enjoy ice skating on Edinburgh’s famous George Street. Kids will love Santa’s Grotto, where they will get to meet Santa and also receive a gift.
One shouldn’t miss the scrumptious cinnamon-sugar chimney cakes and cotton candy. Also, the hand-carved wooden candle holders, Harry Potter-themed gifts, wooden toys and Tartan Christmas ornaments available here will be a beautiful addition to any house.
Mulhouse Christmas Market, France
One of the most exuberant Christmas markets in the world can be found in Mulhouse’s Place de la Réunion. The market is quite popular for its textile heritage, with Christmas fabric created each year to decorate the facades of 100 festive huts.
Apart from fabrics, one can also choose from an array of original gifts at Boutique aux Étoffes or experience a “Christmas of yesteryear” at Écomusée — take part in the various activities at Alsace Ecomuseum; Arrival of the Three Kings, where a procession of children walk around the village to gather offerings for New Year; and Meeting with Saint Nicholas. The market will open its doors from 24 November 2021 to 27 December 2021.
Dresden Striezelmarkt, Germany
Located at the Altmarkt Square in Dresden, the market will commence on 22 November 2021 and will go on till 24 December 2021. It was founded in 1434 as a one-day market and is the oldest one in Germany. Twinkling lights and delicious food welcome you for a memorable experience.
Shoppers shouldn’t miss a chance to feast on buttery fruitcakes, which are wrapped and feature a special seal depicting the city’s former king, August the Strong. Try out glazed apples and mulled wine as you shop at various fares, displaying wood carvings, pottery and glassware. The market has over 240 stalls that offer local products. But the highlight is the 45-foot-tall stunning Christmas pyramid.
Visitors will also love exploring the famous wooden houses, elf cottages, puppet theatre and Santa Claus’s House.
Plaisirs d’Hiver, Belgium
When in Belgium, celebrate Christmas like never before. Starting from 26 November 2021 and lasting till 2 January 2022, the market is known for its sweet treats. Shoppers can enjoy browsing stocking-fillers, hand-blown glass decorations and much more at the stalls.
Spend your time at the ice-skating rink and Ferris wheel before you head over to appreciate the brass band while gorging on fluffy Belgian waffles, caramelised apples and seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts). The market also offers a host of fun and creative activities, including concerts, board games, dances, choirs and projection of cartoons.
Plaisirs d’Hiver (Winter Wonders), which stretches from Grand Place to Place Sainte-Catherine, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. As per their website: “To mark the end of the European Year of Rail, we’re showcasing travel and trains, themes that are subtly present throughout the route.”
Skansen Christmas Market, Sweden
Located at the Skansen Open-air Museum on the island of Djurgarden, the market remains open from 26 November 2021 to 19 December 2021. Witness the beauty of Skansen as you walk around the historic homes and farmsteads, all decorated to complement the Christmas spirit.
Those who want to add a dash of creativity to their festivities can either participate in the traditional dances that take place around the festive tree at Bollnäs Square or create Christmas decorations at the workshop.
Take a break to relish some smoked turkey, waffles and roasted almonds, among other delicious foods at the market.
The historic Christmas market, that dates back to 1903, has hosts everything from handicrafts and sweets to homemade candles and secret Christmas presents.
Plaza Mayor Christmas Market, Spain
Just as Christmas approaches, Madrid’s Plaza Mayor — which dates back to the time when King Philip II moved his royal court to Madrid — transforms into a sprawling market featuring 104 stalls. These stalls, which were renovated in the 1980s and look like small huts, display nativity scene figures, Christmas decorations, musical instruments and toys.
Organised by the Plaza Mayor Christmas Market Association, the market typically starts from 26 November 2021 and lasts till 31 December 2021. This one is certainly one of the many Christmas markets in Europe that one should visit.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, UK
Kickstart your Christmas festivities at the Winter Wonderland that started on 19 November 2021 and will be on till 3 January 2022. Other than gorging on the many Christmas delicacies at the Bavarian Village, you can also shop for knick-knacks like candle votives, ornaments and crafts.
Hop on various rides, including the Giant Wheel and Christmas Tree Ride, and have a blast while ice skating.
With its fun rides and festive eateries, Santa Land is a haven for kids. Not to forget that one gets to meet Santa himself.
Zippos Christmas Circus and Cirque Berserk are other activities to enjoy.
Main and Featured image: Pixel Shaper/Wikimedia Commons
This story first appeared in Prestige Online – Singapore