Christmas is that holiday time when the year is just about to end and the gusto with which the markets, hotels, cafe’s, shops, etc get into the festivities is just very uplifting. There was a time when I would make it a point to visit all the major 5 star hotels in my city at this time, to gawk at the gorgeously outlandish decor done to mark the occasion. I especially love the way fairy lights are woven around trees in the market places, making it not just very festive but warm and hug worthy too.
I make it a point to set up a Christmas tree in my house every year and one year I made it with just books. Also indulge in making some spiced up mulled wine which finishes pretty fast.
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I joined the FTB group on Facebook a few months back and seeing that there are such awesome travel bloggers from all over the globe; it only made sense to do a collaborative post on Christmas markets from around the world. Blown away by the beautiful guest submissions and I hope they enchant you too.
| Manchester Christmas Market | Cristina Reina | Instagram |
Being a big fan of Christmas Markets, I have visited many of them in the UK. However, none of these can be compared with the beautiful Manchester Christmas Market. The atmosphere of the Christmas market is amazing – couples holding hands and looking at the beautiful fairy lights, friends having a drink, families looking for gifts – it feels the market brings people together. But there are even more reasons why you need to go to this Christmas Market!
- Picture credit: Cristina Reina
Manchester Christmas Market is different from other markets as it is split into different areas around the city center (Albert Square, Piccadilly Gardens, etc.) Not only does it make you excited to see what’s next, but it gives you the opportunity to explore the must-see places of the city.
There are over 300 beautifully decorated stalls where you can buy unique Christmas presents, grab some mouthwatering international and local food or sip a warm mulled wine to warm you up from the cold breeze. Albert Square is one of my favorite areas as there are plenty of food options (including vegetarian), cute Christmas real trees and decorations as well as interesting gifts like bonsai trees and fine amber jewelry.
| Graz Christmas market | Nina Travels | Instagram |
Austria is well known for its Christmas market and one of the most popular can be found in the city of Graz – the capital of the southern Austrian province Styria. It is spread over 14 different locations, where stands are full with traditional holiday tastes, mulled wine, punch, ginger breads and charming decorations. The main place to gather is the Hauptplatz (main square), where we were admiring the 200-year-old Christmas tree, decorated with 25.000 LED lights.
Christmas market in Graz offers something for all tastes and age – even kids can enjoy its own location and fun activities from carousels, workshops to big ice-skating rink and the Christmas train ride. We really enjoyed the fact that visiting all the locations, show you the beautiful architecture of the city, which is even more special covered in lights and decorations.
As much as the beautiful and historical city center turns into one magical land for the festive season, the Graz Christmas market is mostly known for its ice nativity scene. Which is carved out of the gigantic block of ice, and the scary Krampus parade, where more than 400 masks of this anthropomorphic figure from Central Europe take part.
| Winter Wonderland, London | Greta Travels | Instagram |
Winter Wonderland in London is without a doubt one of the most incredible Christmas markets I have ever seen. Located in Hyde Park, this annual Christmas market has become a London tradition, and is so big it can be considered a proper fair.
| Advent Christmas Market, Zagreb, Croatia | Katja Mikos | Instagram |
The Advent in Zagreb, as the Christmas markets in Croatia’s capital city are called, has been crowned as the best in Europe for three years in a row, in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Unlike in many other cities across the continent, Christmas markets here are not happening in just one or two locations, but take place in over 20 markets, parks, streets, promenades, panoramic view points and even in an underground pedestrian tunnel which was used as a shelter in WWII.
Each of them has its own theme and atmosphere. Whether you are a foodie, a fan of live concerts, vintage lover, a family with children, a romantic couple, looking for awesome insta-worthy spots, like to shop authentic handicrafts and stroll between fairytale-like wooden huts or just want to have a few drinks, you will find one location to suit your taste.
Some of the traditional foods to try while strolling around this twinkly winter wonderland would be sarma, sausages, fritule and štrukli, accompanied by mulled wine, hot gin or a shot of local rakija. It is difficult to visit all of them in just one day actually, so I suggest staying over night and checking out some of the other sights Zagreb has to offer while you are there.
| Haarlem Christmas Market, Netherlands | Natalie Czarnota | Instagram |
I really wanted to visit a Christmas market while living in the Netherlands. Hearing good things about the one in Haarlem, I chose that one. I’m so glad I did, because I’ve never been to one quite like it before!
Located just 15-20 minutes away from Amsterdam by train, Haarlem is especially wonderful if you want a less touristy experience. Amsterdam is world famous for good reason, but most Dutch people avoid its tourist crammed city center. (BTW, if you want more great daytrips from Amsterdam, read about them here.)
That’s not to say the Haarlem Christmas market won’t be crowded too. As one of the biggest Christmas markets in the Netherlands it will be packed, but you’ll see more of a Dutch crowd.
The size of the market is what made it most memorable. Most Christmas markets are located in a city’s main square. This is true of Haarlem, with a big Christmas tree and old church in the center. But what sets it apart is that it also spills into the surrounding streets! This gigantic Christmas market has magical stalls set up all over the city center, so walking through those historic streets makes you feel like you’re in a winter wonderland!
| Chriskindlmarket, Chicago, USA | Carol Vasel | Instagram |
Experience an authentic German holiday market right in the heart of downtown Chicago. Christkindlmarket resembles an alpine chalet that is tucked between the skyscrapers and lights of the city. This quaint European style Christmas market has been a Chicago tradition since 1996. It was inspired by the 16th century Christkindlesmarkt of Nuremberg, Germany.
This market attracts more than a million visitors annually and is part of the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. This popular winter event is the largest Christmas market in the United States and sits near the giant Daley Plaza holiday tree.
Sip frothy cocoa, beer or Glühwein, hot spiced wine from a commemorative boot shaped mug while enjoying the live polka band. Over 70 food stalls offer traditional German favorites such as potato pancakes, brats, sauerkraut, roasted nuts and fresh soft pretzels.
Stroll the shops in the market to browse the displays of handmade traditional ornaments, nutcrackers, wood carvings, beer steins and other unique artisan gifts. More than half of the vendors are from Germany.
Christkindlmarket is usually open from mid November until Christmas Eve and is free. Most food and beverage stands are cash only. The 2020 market will be virtual only, with the vendor’s shops participating online.
| Valkenburg, The Netherlands | Cosette from KarsTravels | Instagram |
I’ve been to many Christmas markets in Germany and other European countries, but my favorite so far and most unique ones are the Christmas markets in Valkenburg.
Valkenburg is a small town all the way in the South of The Netherlands. In this area marl has been removed from quarries for years. This has led to a series of caves with corridors. The fun thing is that in November and December Christmas markets are set up in those caves.
Valkenburg counts 4 caves with Christmas markets in them. One of these is the Fluweelengrot or Velvet cave. In the fairy tale surroundings a nativity scene is displayed and stalls are placed with Christmas ornaments and food are set up. There are even Christmas ornaments from marl for sale. The oldest Christmas market underground is the one in the Gemeentegrot. The Mergelrijk cave has the Christmas story in miniature on display, reaching 25 meters. The fourth cave is the Wilhelminagrot, where the Winter Wonderland is being held.
A visit to a Christmas market in a cave is unique and pleasant. The temperature is always 12°C, so you won’t get too cold and it’s always dry. If you have the time, then head to Maastricht which is next to Valkenburg, for some dinner.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Are there Christmas markets set up in your neighborhood? Do you enjoy browsing through them? What’s the best part of this time of the year for you?
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A trained Interior designer who loves to travel, photograph and write, I have done some boutique stays in limited budgets and some in extravagant ones too. My forte is in using locally sourced/ made products which would provide support to the local community. I am also an advocate of using sustainable practices in housekeeping, laundry,etc which lessens the use of harmful chemicals. The water used for such chores is clean enough to be fed into the garden directly.
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