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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Brame

EUROPEAN CHRISTMAS MARKETS

Updated: Jan 23

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.

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA

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, AUSTRIA

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.

Stephensplatz
  • 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.

Karlsplatz
  • 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.

Schonbrunn
  • 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.


BASEL, SWITZERLAND

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.


COLMAR, 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*


STRASBOURG, FRANCE

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!


KRAKOW, POLAND

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!

If you have more time in Krakow make sure to check out Wawel Castle,

eat at Babcia Malina and grab hot chocolate at E. Wedel.


FRANKFURT, GERMANY

Germany is the quintessential place for Christmas markets. They're everywhere and they're all unique and different; big and small. A great place to start and see a lot of Christmas markets close by is in Frankfurt. Frankfurt has a very colorful and vibrant town square which makes a beautiful backdrop for a Christmas market. It is also quite large, extending up into streets a block away.

There was a huge variety of things to buy, and make sure to get a chimney cake filled with nutella. It was life changing.

There is a large Kathe Wolfhart store on Frankfurt town square, but make sure to arrive early to get a good spot in the very LONG queue!


MAINZ, WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM, GERMANY

All of these towns are about 20 minutes apart from each other, making a perfect Christmas market triangle. We visited some in the day and some at night- but I would highly recommend all three markets! Mainz and Wiesbaden are decent sized towns with lovely markets. The items sold were very similar in these two markets. Ingelheim, on the other hand, was a very small local market but the ambience was off the charts. Trades people seemed more local with a variety of goods being sold.

We went to Mainz during the day and they had A LOT of twinkle lights that were not on yet. If you can, I would try and go after dark

to see the beautiful lights.

When in Wiesbaden, make sure to wander down the street to the town square full of carnival rides! We missed this and were already on our way out when we found this.

Ingelheim was a small market nestled into the courtyard of a church/castle and it was magical. There were musicians tucked into the wall coves, fresh waffles being made, and twinkle lights everywhere.

We loved this off the beaten path market.


HEIDELBERG, GERMANY

Another market that is an easy drive from Frankfurt is Heidelberg! This one is also very atmospheric with a large imposing castle up on the hillside. Truly stunning. This market is very large and takes up the most part of the historical downtown. There is market after market at each crossroad down the main pedestrianized street. At the end of the street lies the castle up above and a larger sqaure with an ice skating rink. The ice skates were terribly cold and uncomfortable... but is ice skating ever a super pleasant experience? I am embarrassed at how many sausages we ate this day... but you MUST eat one at least!


If we had more time, we would have taken the funicular

up the hill and toured the castle. Next time!


VILNIUS, LITHUANIA

We were blown away by this beautiful place! Not only is their Christmas market beautiful, but the walk to Old Town was also full of lights and decoration. The main market is small, but packs a punch. Be sure to try some of their sweet and savory crepe stands, and don't forget the hot cranberry jelly drink that had us OBSESSED.

We had incredible accommodations and would highly recommend the Grand Hotel Kampinski for its convenience to the

market and beautiful views.

RIGA, LATVIA

When we arrived in Riga, it had just had a fresh snowfall and things were as beautiful as ever. The glow of twinkling lights, the choirs singing at the market, the fires grilling sausages... it is a vibe isn't it? We opted for traditional Latvian food here and it did not disappoint. Make sure you get some sausages with potatoes and pickled cabbage and don't forget the dumplings! We had Latvian food at the market, and then later on in the evening stopped inside for dinner at Province restaurant. Phenomenal food!

You must, must, must walk through Riga and over to the other side of town to Esplanade Park where they have their kids market! More vendors, rides AND they also have a bunny habitat where you can feed them. It was such a fun and random treat! Obviously the kiddo loved it.

We ended up taking the Flix bus in between each city in the Baltic states and it worked out perfectly for Christmas markets. It is a great way to save money on transportation!

TALINN, ESTONIA

Another beautiful Baltic country with an incredible Old Town. Are you sensing a theme here? We would love to come back and spend more time! Talinn was very clean and easy to navigate. We found our Airbnb which was located RIGHT on the town square with amazing Christmas market views. You MUST stay at this Airbnb. Non-negotiable. It was amazing. This view from the window!

Before walking around the market we went out to eat at Olde Hansa which had incredible Estonian food in a huge medieval tavern with candle lighting and staff all dressed the part. It was a lot of fun and the food was excellent- albeit a little expensive.

Although I didn't know much about these Baltic countries, we found the people to be so friendly and helpful in English and the countries to be clean and easy to navigate!

 

Where will you find yourself at a Christmas market this year?



*Christmas Market videos on YouTube*





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