The scent of cinnamon, the crisp winter air, and a cup of mulled wine in hand – there really is nothing quite like the joy of shopping at a Christmas market. If you’re lucky enough to be able to take a break away for Winter, checking out a Christmas market abroad really is a great way to get into the festive spirit. But be sure to leave room in your suitcase to fit in all your presents for people back home!
The Danish Christmas season only really starts when Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market opens for the first time, normally in mid-November. Here, twinkling lights make the scenery magical, and close to 1,000 trees are adorned with them each year. If you’re visiting, don’t skimp on trying the traditional Danish delicacy Æbleskiver, which is like a doughnut crossed with a pancake. Danes dip them in jam and icing sugar for that extra indulgence. Rumor has it Tivoli Gardens Christmas market sells 1,456,364 kg of them each year and 11,800 liters of gløgg (mulled wine).
Each year, the Strasbourg Christmas Market draws in approximately 2 million visitors. Located on the Grande Île near Strasbourg Cathedral and Place Kléber, this Christmas market is the oldest in Europe and has existed for four centuries. As Christmas approaches, the entire city is adorned in lights; the market is made up of over 300 chalets selling everything from mulled wine to French delicacies to traditional Christmas decorations.
Candied fruits, hot punch, roasted almonds, and gingerbread fill the air at this romantic Christmas market. With the medieval hilltop castle, Fortress Hohensalzburg, in the background, it really is a fairy tale setting. The Salzburg Christkindlemarkt has 95 stalls where you can fill your baskets with everything from flowers and ornaments to toys and textiles.
All shoppers at the Helsinki Christmas market have a smile on their face, probably because they have just told Santa what they want for Christmas as he appears every day at the market. Perhaps the smiles are also because of Helsinki’s famous glögi, spiced mulled wine, which you can also take a sip of amid the twinkling lights. What makes Helsinki’s Christmas Market is the antique carousel and brass bands – so be sure to check them out to really put yourself in the Christmas cheer.
Chicago’s Christkindlmarkt is a slice of Germany in America. Inspired by Nuremberg’s Christkindlmarkt, Chicago’s market is the largest German Christmas market in the United States. Here you can find everything from nutcrackers and cuckoo clocks to ponchos and handmade gifts sold from artisans sat in candy-striped stalls.
In Plaisirs d’Hiver or Winter Wonderland, 240 wooden chalets stretch from Grand Place to Place St. Catherine in Brussels. You could lose yourself for hours in this Christmas heaven, with everything from homemade goods to children’s toys and decorations for sale. But don’t skimp out on the traditional Belgian food on offer. If you’re into waffles and chocolate or cheeses and bread, there is everything at the market – all of which you can wash down with a Belgian beer.
The Mercado de Navidad dates all the way back to 1860 and is most famous for selling decorations and Nativity scene figurines. There are also some fun gifts sold at the market for The Day of the Holy Innocents (December 28th), which is similar to April Fool’s Day, where Madrid locals have fun by playing tricks on each other.
In Naples, creating your own Nativity scene is a tradition. Think beyond the normal baby in a crib and Mary adorned in a blue dress, here the locals try and have some fun with it. Whether it is exotic animals taking the place of a donkey or Jesus figures eating a pizza – anything goes! Walk the street to find your favorite figurines but don’t forget to tuck into some Italian treats while you’re there. Susamielli cookies, rococo biscuits, and deep-fried struffoli balls are particular delicacies.
One for the lovers out there, Piata Mare is truly a romantic market. You can find it tucked between three mountain ranges in the grand square of Sibiu’s old town. Wooden huts sell everything from children’s toys to furs and pottery. Romanian-Hungarian treats will also tempt you at the market, and be sure to try cozonac (sweet bread) and Kürtőskalács (cone-shaped spit cakes). If you’re for a break after all those nibbles, you can also head to an ice-skating rink for a few twirls.
The Christmas Market in Albert Square in Manchester was the first one in the UK. Each year it has grown larger, and now over 9 million people come there to experience some Christmas joy. The market is split into French, German, and world, which means you can experience a huge selection of treats, be it a Strudel, crêpe, or Flammkuchen. To top it all off, you might want to do more than shop and at this market, as there is also an ice rink in the Cathedral Gardens.