Up until a few days ago I had only heard about the wonder of Europe’s Christmas Markets. I had been to a few versions of the German “Christkindlesmrkts” in America, but the descriptions I was hearing was nothing like what I’d experienced in Chicago and New York. So, I ventured to the Bavarian region of Germany to find out what all the fuss was about.
It didn’t take me long to fall into step with what the locals had been doing for centuries. I was soon on my fourth Christmas market in just three days with a steaming hot mug of apple cider in a keepsake mug. I felt like a regular as I weaved through the pedestrian markets.
Running the duration of advent before Christmas, Christkindlesmarkts are located in European city centers and are a place for people to gather, buy locally made crafts and ornaments, and indulge in larger than life pretzels.
Germany is where these markets, along with the most well-known Christmas customs, originated. One city can have multiple markets; in Munich alone there are twenty-four separate markets. Some are themed, such as the Middle Ages Christmas Market, whereas others are more commercial with ice skating rinks plopped in the middle of a busy thoroughfare.
A short train ride away from Munich is Salzburg, Austria, a city rich with culture and custom. The two main markets there, the Salzburg’s Christmas Market and the Christmas Market at Mirabell Square, are smaller but have their own character.
Even more remote was the Berchtesgaden Christmas market in the small alpine town of the same name. The night I was there it was snowing heavily, which only added to the charm of the idyllic town full of winding alleys, horse drawn carriages and young girls dressed as angels handing out chocolates.
In all the markets, it seems as if the towns folks gathered here in the evening hours, right after dusk, to enjoy a beverage or two at the many high-top tables before dinnertime. Though there is definitely food – bratwurst, potato patties served with apple sauce, spaetzle, and savory or sweet fried dough. These temptations are hard to avoid when you walk through these markets.
Whether you are a fan of Christmas or not, the Christmas markets are a fun and festive way to spend the holidays. They are definitely the place to be during the holidays with crowds keeping warm with good food, good drink and good company!
Popular Christmas markets to check out in Europe: