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Travel tips

What to do at Europe’s Christmas markets

Nov 20, 2017 by Jamie Gallerani

Whether you want to try festive food, pick up unique gifts, or soak in the sparkly seasonal ambiance, Europe’s many Christmas markets have something for you. While you can find a little bit of everything no matter which market you visit on a Special Event Tour, we’ve rounded up some of the go-to spots for the best and brightest. Read on to discover the top highlights for each holiday event.

For traditional food and drinks, visit…

Hamburg, Germany - Saunter through the historic Weihnachtsmarkt while sipping the iconic German tipple, Glühwein a hot mulled wine brewed with spices and citrus.

Dresden, Germany - Snack on the city’s sweet holiday invention, Dresdener Stollen, a traditional cake made with dried fruit and marzipan.

Nuremberg, Germany - Sample some Elisenlebkuchen, giant circles of flourless gingerbread that have been baked in the city for hundreds of years.

Prague, Czech Republic - Taste sugar-coated fried dough called trdelnik before warming up with Czech medovina, a traditional honey wine.

Innsbruck, Austria - Look for hot kiachln, specialty donuts served with sweet or savory toppings such as jam, powdered sugar, or sauerkraut.

Budapest, Hungary - Make your way to a food stall in Vörösmarty Square to try chimney cake, the buttery cylinders of dough coated with caramelized sugar, nuts, and cinnamon.

Strasbourg, France - Snack on Alsatian butter cookies called bredele, washed down with seasonal vin chaud in this charming Alsatian city nicknamed the “Capital of Christmas” (a fitting nickname, as it was home to the first Christmas tree!).

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg - Get a taste of the holidays at the Winterlights festival by trying traditional Luxembourgish sausages known as Lëtzebuerger Grillwurscht.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands - Head to Rembrandt Square to try typical holiday treats such as poffertjes, small powdered-sugar pancakes, and oliebollen, Dutch ball-shaped donuts.

To pick up heartfelt souvenirs, visit…

Freiburg, Germany - Snag traditional crafts such as cuckoo clocks or handblown glass in the city known as the entry to the Black Forest.

Warsaw, Poland - Pick up high-quality Baltic amber jewelry as you browse the holiday stalls in the picturesque Old Town.

Vienna, Austria - Bring home snow globes, which were invented in Vienna in 1900 and make the perfect Christmas souvenirs.

Bern, Switzerland - Head to the market in Münsterplatz to buy unique pieces handcrafted in the Old Town workshops, such as ceramics and beeswax candles.

To see sparkling displays, visit…

Berlin, Germany - See Charlottenburg Palace lit up with colorful lights, or visit Alexanderplatz to marvel at the soaring wooden Christmas “pyramid.”

Bamberg, Germany - Stroll through this UNESCO-listed “manger city” to see up to forty different Advent displays on the popular Route of Nativity Scenes.

Heidelberg, Germany - Enjoy views of the illuminated Heidelberg Castle atop the hill as you take a spin on the Karlsplatz market ice skating rink.

Kraków, Poland - Stop by the Historical Museum of Krakow to see szopki, Christmas cribs resembling small cathedrals, handcrafted for puppet Nativity plays since the Middle Ages.

Brussels, Belgium - Don’t miss the awe-inspiring sound and LED light installation that illuminates Brussels’ UNESCO-listed Grand-Place.

Maastricht, the Netherlands - Take in views of the bustling Vrijthof Square bedecked in lights on a ride to the top of “Magical Maastricht’s” illuminated Ferris wheel.

Copenhagen, Denmark - The historic Tivoli Gardens host Copenhagen’s most famous Advent market, where live reindeer and over two million “fairly lights” add to the festive feel.

To watch festive performances, visit…

Munich, Germany - Admire the 100-foot-tall Christmas tree in Munich’s Marienplatz as musicians play live Advent music on the Old Town Hall balcony.

Salzburg, Austria - Keep your eyes open for gold-robed figures with feathered wings, known as the Christkind.

Lucerne, Switzerland - Get in the holiday spirit as you enjoy free musical performances on the Engelsstimmen stage inside the railway station.

What’s your favorite way to get in the holiday spirit? Tell us on Facebook!

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About the author | Jamie Gallerani
It was Jamie’s homestay in Germany that made her fall in love with travel (and her studies in Florence that really sealed the deal). When she’s not writing and sharing the magic of seeing the world with others, she’s usually on the lookout for her new favorite memoir, testing out recipes at home, or visiting her family on Cape Cod.

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