The spirit of Christmas is unforgivingly intoxicating. You can’t help but sit back, relax, and revel in the holiday joy. Being surrounded by swells of Christmas decorations, swathes of snow, fervent Christmas carols, and twinkling lights from bustling Christmas markets. Christmas shopping doesn’t always have to be stressful. Below are some of our favorite Christmas markets from around the world where you can get unique gifts, delicious boozy punches, and wander through endless stalls of food.
1. Love Park Christmas Village (Philadelphia, USA)
Modeled after the Christmas markets in Germany, the Christmas market at Love Park in Philadelphia is a little known gem in Pennsylvania. The locals throng in large numbers here to discover wooden booths laden with Christmas decorations, baubles, and beautiful arts and crafts. Here, it’s hard to resist the wafting smell of warm waffles, gingerbread, bratwurst, and mulled wine that is heavenly enough to fill you with holiday cheer. This year, they are hosting 80 vendors and you’ll find fun activities such as beer tasting, lunch concerts, storytelling and more.
Vörösmarty Square Christmas market (Budapest, Hungary)
The Christmas fair on the Vörösmarty Square is the oldest, richest and most spectacular of all the Christmas markets in Budapest. It is a sensory experience full of colorful decor, delicious smells, and festive sounds marking the beginning of Christmas. The picturesque setting looks like something straight out of the Christmas postcard. In November and December, the square turns into a set of an old folk tale dotted with dozens of wooden stalls selling handmade gifts, mouthwatering chimney cakes and other pastries, street foods such as Langos (Hungarian fried bread) and dadolles (potato dumplings fried with onions in lard). The nostalgia of the market is in contrast with the sprawling backdrop, which is marked with buildings, old and new.
Strasbourg Christmas Market (Strasbourg, France)
We would be going against our very grain if we didn’t speak about a french Christmas market. The renowned Christmas market of Strasbourg has an undisputed reputation. Now set up in the heart of Grande Île in Strasbourg, the Christmas market, which is the oldest Christmas market in Europe, is recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The proximity to Germany gives it a palpable germanic vibe that is much celebrated by the locals. The magic fills the air with half old timbered houses grandly decorated, an abundance of fairy lights, smells of Christmas cookies and gingerbread, and sounds of classical concerts from the church. And when it snows, the traditional experience transports you straight to the North Pole.
Weihnachtsmarkt Christmas market (Florence, Italy)
Every winter, Florence hosts several Christmas markets that capture the old world charm. However, the grandest celebration to experience is at the den Weihnachtsmarkt Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce. Looking like a small Christmas village, the market features wooden chalets, typical of the South Tyrol region of Italy, as well as window displays and carefully decorated streets by the locals with traditional Christmas lights. They offer Italian handmade gifts, Christmas decorations from all over the world, candles, ceramics, and clothing. Of course, no market in Tuscany is possible without delicious cheese, meat, wine, and holiday specialties. For a more intimate experience, Florence offers a range of smaller markets. If you’re traveling outside Florence, be sure to explore the Christmas markets in Mugello, Chianti and Fiesole areas for an authentic experience.
Fira de Santa Llúcia (Barcelona, Spain)
Originally organized to celebrate the Feast day of Santa Llúcia on December 13th, the market, and also the oldest in Barcelona is a celebration that runs for 3 weeks. The first references of the festival date back to 1786. However, the festival has evolved over the course of time. In the first year, there were records of stalls selling mangers and figurines made of clay and paper next to the Barcelona Cathedral located in the heart of the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter). Today, packed with 282 stalls, you will find handmade gifts, artisanal figures for nativity scenes, and lots of traditional yuletide goodies. As you peruse the handmade gifts, ornaments and other knick-knacks, learn how the pessebres (Nativity scenes) are one of the most important Christmas traditions in Barcelona.
Skansen’s Christmas Market ( Stockholm, Sweden)
An annual tradition since 1903, the market is bursting with traditions that are a window into the lives of the ancestors of the locals. The Skansen Christmas market marks the official start of Christmas celebrations. Christmas here is frozen in time for a whole month beginning from the 1st of December till the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. The market square is filled with food, treats, and decorations. The area is peppered with bonfires and market stalls bursting with traditional sausages, cheeses, handicrafts, spices, leather goods, Christmas decorations, embroidery, Skansen’s own handmade mustard, glass, bread and cake, hand-knitted mittens, honey, sugared almonds, candy, marmalades and scads of other irresistible items that you can purchase from the creators themselves! Historical houses that are richly decorated surround the giant Christmas tree at the Bollnäs Square around which young and old dance.
In Lapland, practically every town has a Christmas market, each as beautiful as the next, brimming with holiday ambiance. This snowclad region makes Christmas truly a magical time to visit Finland. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, beginning with ‘pikkujoulu’ (Little Christmas) parties in early December, the atmosphere is exuberant. Busy markets that are lit up all night offer an abundance of unique gifts, delicious food and hot glögi (Finnish mulled wine) to take the chill out of the air. Holiday cheer is at every corner. St Thomas Christmas market in Helsinki’s Senate Square, Tampere Christmas market, Turku Christmas market in the old town district of Turku (often known as Christmas Town), and Suomenlinna Christmas event that is held on an island fortress just off the coast of Helsinki, are just a few of the many Christmas markets in the region. Technically a village and not a market, the area is interspersed with several markets that truly set the tone of the spirit of Christmas. It’s a dream come true for many to go Christmas shopping where it all began, the home of Santa Clause. The spectacular views of Aurora Borealis hanging over swathes of snow make the experience unimaginably incredible. They draw crowds of Finnish and international crowds each year, with stunning Finnish designs, authentic traditional cuisine, plenty of activities for kids, reindeer rides, excursions to the ‘forest of elves’, and the possibility of meeting Santa every day, it truly is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Prague Christmas Market
Vánoční trhy, christmas markets, are the key ingredients of the festive magic in Czech Republic, and the markets in Prague are the most impressive in the country. It’s a true winter wonderland setting that brings locals and tourists alike together. Complete with ceramics, wooden toys, scented candles, wool, this is the perfect place to purchase some unique souvenirs to decorate your house or use as gifts for family and friends. The experience goes beyond shopping. The food and drink prepared at the stalls offer a unique selection of Pražská Šunka, large hams roasted on spits; klobása, barbecued sausages; knedlíky plněné uzeným masem, smoked meat dumplings; and palačinky, pancakes. Post the feast, if you still have room for dessert, there are a variety of sugary sweets for you to choose from, the most famous being the Trdelnik, which can be found throughout the market. The drinks include honey wine, hot chocolate, and grog. However, the Czech beer such as Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen or Budvar are a must-try.
The true highlight of the market is the mighty Christmas tree that is decked with baubles at the Old Town Square transported from the forests of the Liberec Region of the Czech Republic. Gather round the tree sipping your hot beverage while counting down to see the tree light up to your favorite Christmas carol.
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