EUROPEAN CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Christmas markets are a popular thing to experience these days.
I too have fallen victim to the quaint nature of them.
It's hard not to!
There is loads of information about Christmas markets on the internet. Hundreds and hundreds of blog posts about them. My aim is to bring you some practical information about visiting them, what went well for us, and what to avoid if possible.
This one is small, yet quaint and intimate. There is usually some type of Christmas performance going on in the evening and it really feels like a community affair on the square. One thing we loved about Bratislava is that it is very walkable. Their old town is small and there was only main Christmas market (that we found). It made it very manageable and not too overwhelming. If you visit Bratislava, you may as well add on Budapest or Vienna to your Christmas market itinerary! They are both just a short train ride away.
If you have more time in Bratislava make sure to check out the castle!
Its location is impressive with great views over the city.
Vienna is a magical place to visit at Christmas time. I think this city is one of our favorite Christmas market locations that we have been to. It has markets all over! We went opening weekend and it was insanely crowded after dark. I would suggest getting to some of them before dark OR not going opening weekend. I will list them below with some tips and tricks!
Rathaus City Hall
This is their main Christmas market and it was PACKED! I would suggest doing this one earlier in the day (especially if you are bringing kids). I felt like we would lose our kid in the sea of people and we were desperately holding onto her hand.
This one is at the heart of Old Town at the base of a massive cathedral. It truly is an incredible site. I loved the way this Christmas market wrapped around the bottom of the cathedral. Make sure you get all the way around as the back of the cathedral is less crowded and has some treasures.
We visited here before it was dark and it was lovely. Calm and very family friendly. They had a whole area dedicated to activities for children. This market had a lot of unique handicraft type items. It felt very homemade and genuine.
This one has a great vibe and feel to it. It is located in front of Schonbrunn Palace so you can make a day out of this Christmas market by visiting inside the palace and going out back to the palace grounds. We loved this. Again, we visited earlier in the day and so the Christmas market was fairly quiet. Crowds and noise sometimes overwhelm the kiddo so we were grateful for this beautiful place to explore.
If you have more time in Vienna... Check out a Mozart concert, an opera or the Vienna Boys Choir.
I think this is one of my all time favorites. A lot of factors combined to make it truly lovely. One- we saw it in the snow. Magical. Two- we were there on a weekday so it wasn't very busy. Also magical. Three- I was on a girls trip and it was magical not worrying about my kid being cold or getting lost! So there you have it. The gluhwein mugs were ridiculously cute also. The Basel Christmas market on Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz with just a short walk between to the two squares.
For this trip we flew into Basel and then did day trips to Colmar and Strasbourg. In theory, this was a good idea. I think logistically it worked very well. HOWEVER, hotels and food are much more expensive in Switzerland than in France.
This little town is straight up out of a fairy tale. The buildings are so colorful and insanely cute and THEN they are all decorate with teddy bears and gingerbread for Christmas. It's too much. Except it's not. And I loved every single Christmas-y detail. Love, love, love. Come here on a weekday and during the DAY and you will find it enjoyable. Come on the weekend and I have heard it is hell-ish-ly busy. Now here I go sharing too many pictures below of this cute place.
*Click through the slideshow*
Unpopular opinion alert... I did not love Strasbourg. To be fair, we were there on a Saturday. It was SO crowded that we really couldn't enjoy it. It wasn't just crowded, it was like chest smashing elbow to elbow, people breathing on my neck crowded. I could tell it was a beautiful city, but it was just tainted by so many people. We got there right at opening but it didn't matter. It was busy from hour one.
One of the standout places of Strasbourg is the cathedral. It's hard to fathom how massive it is. We would have loved to go inside but there was a queue that looked like it wrapped around the cathedral twice so that was a "no" for us. It is hard to visit a place that everyone else in Europe also wants to visit!
Did you know Poland has Christmas markets? Yes, they do! You can't go wrong with visiting Krakow's Christmas market. It is already such a pretty city and the twinkle of a Christmas market just makes it that much better. Why go to Poland for a Christmas market? Their goods are quite affordable. We bought Polish pottery, wool socks, beanies and gloves for cheap prices!