There really is no other season so heartily and extravagantly embraced than Christmas. From November all the way through to New Year’s Eve (and sometimes beyond) cities all over the world are transformed into illuminated winter wonderlands selling a collection of beautiful trinkets and treats. For those looking for a short break this year, we’ve compiled the best selection of Christmas markets over the world to experience…mulled wine, anyone?
With so many wonderful markets popping up all over the country, where better to experience the festive atmosphere than in Germany’s captivating cosmopolitan capital? Hundreds of stalls fill the city centre selling an array of trinkets under a majestic 30m-high Christmas tree; choose from a selection Bavarian food or an abundance of arts and crafts (wooden mangers, or krippel, are particularly popular) as you sip on a blissful cup of mulled wine. Perhaps the most famous of Munich’s markets is found at Marienplatz, which carries a strong traditional theme in front of the city’s Town Hall. Along with the market, Alpine music is played for a short period every evening while free guided tours of Christkindlmarkt’s history occur every Sunday.
Perhaps one of the oldest markets to exist on this list, Vienna’s Wiener Christkindlmarkt is about as traditional as they come. With hundreds of bustling stalls placed in front of the city’s historical Schönbrunn Palace, this place has a beautiful setting for a winter wonderland, dazzling the millions of people who have flocked to this corner of Europe since the 13th century. Decorations, handmade gifts and international choirs are an impressive touch, creating a sense of tradition unrivalled by many other markets around the world – be sure to try local delicacies such as lebkuchen (gingerbread), gebrannte mandeln (toasted almonds) and maroni (sweet chestnuts).
One look at this market in action and you’ll be hooked. Located over a two-kilometre stretch covering the World Heritage site of Grand-Place, the markets illuminate the city in astonishing fashion, with a glowing big-wheel and 200 foot-long skating rink completing the winter wonderland aesthetic. There’s also plenty of room for almost 250 wooden chalets selling everything from Christmas ornaments to pots of mussels (seriously); it’s no wonder why exhibitors all over Europe are coming to this market to set up shop.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
One thing’s for sure: Europe knows how to hold a Christmas market, and Prague’s tradition is up there with the very best. Famed for its beautiful music and wide range of truly scrumptious traditional Czech food, the main festivities are set amidst some truly stunning snow-laden architecture including the city’s grand astronomical clock. The largest and most popular markets are held within touching distance at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square (yes, from the song), both of which feature delicacies such as meats, pastries and hot wine – why not indulge in some bramboracky (savoury pancake) washed down with one of the Czech Republic’s famous selection of beers. If you’ve had your share of food (and we suspect you will) head to the vibrantly-coloured wooden huts selling traditional handicrafts such as embroidered lace, wooden toys and decorative Christmas ornaments, or simply stand and admire the square’s Christmas tree, shipped in from the Krkonose Mountains in the North of the country.
Held in the city’s beautiful Tivoli Gardens, up to one million people flock to Denmark’s capital every year to sample the very best of a traditional Scandinavian Christmas. The Nordic setting is illuminated by thousands of glittering Christmas lights, 50 stalls containing a host of souvenirs and festive treats (be sure to sample glögg, a Nordic spin on mulled wine) and a wonderful colour show on the Tivoli Lake. There’s even live reindeer to add to the Christmas feel – just in case you were still under the assumption that they only worked on Christmas Eve.
With the Europe dominating the Christmas market scene, it’d have to take something particularly captivating from the rest of the world in order to muscle its way into this list. Fortunately, Canada has managed such a feat with its cobble-stoned streets and beautiful setting tailor-made for Christmas cards. A relative infant compared to some other markets, Quebec’s Christmas market has been a fixture on the nation’s festive calendar for the past four years. Numerous treats are on offer, so go ahead and treat yourself to some delicious Santa-shaped chocolate or traditional raisin-studded gingerbread. Drinks are also flowing, making for a perfect accompaniment to the festive weather.
The majestic Our Lady of Strasbourg Cathedral overlooks this city’s Christmas market in one of the most picturesque settings you could ask for. As the largest and oldest of its kind in France (over 400 years old, in fact) people are welcomed in their masses to sample delectable delicacies (think spiced bread, mulled wine and foie gras) and its beautifully-crafted festive decorations and figurines. With 300 stalls and an ice skating rink included for good measure, it’s safe to say that a visit to Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmarik will live long in the memory of any visitor.
The Christkindlmarket in Chicago is inspired by Germany’s famous selection of festive markets. Washington Street is where you’ll find the main action, with vibrant tents packed full of festive delicacies and traditional handcrafted gifts that will satisfy any visitor. Traditional German delicacies like sausages, sauerkraut and potato pancakes are a nice (and tasty) touch, but don’t forget to sample the delicious assortment of gluehwein and German beers.
This popular Christmas market was originally set up in connection with sister city Munich, and it’s been heartily adopted by natives ever since. Unsurprisingly, there’s a distinct Bavarian atmosphere to this market, but the city makes the festivities its own with stalls selling gifts, decorations and an amazing selection of food – there are also a wealth of other attractions including choirs, shows and Christmas themed workshops. What really makes this market unique is the coinciding Sapporo Illumination Festival, igniting the park’s trees with thousands of lights in a dazzling display. Despite celebrating its eleventh birthday this year, this market can definitely cut it with the best of them.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
With so many markets filled with eager visitors during the day, Mexico City’s stalls really come alive at night. Cropping up in various locations around the city, night markets bring a unique twist to the tradition selling everything from Christmas trees and displaying nativity scenes as well as traditional food and drink – try the ponche navideño, an extremely popular fruit punch that’s sure to keep you warm.
There’s more than enough here to satisfy those on the hunt for a genuine Stockholm Christmas experience. Take to the Old Town’s market held in the historical square of Stortorget and make your way round the little red stalls selling warm glögg, gingerbread and cheese among other things. Alternatively, the Skansen market on the park island of Djurgården is just as wonderful with its old-fashioned stalls selling sweets, traditional craftwork and a soothing cup of mulled wine. Held annually since 1903, visitors have been delighted by the Swedish craft products, traditional Christmas ornaments made of straw and hand-dipped candles, and we haven’t even mentioned the smoked sausage, eel, salmon and saffron buns on offer. For a Christmas break, the markets here are a must for any kind of festive celebration.