It’s that time of year again! Christmas markets will be springing up all over Europe. Which ones will you be going to?
As I sit here trying to make my list, I dream of chilled noses and hot cups of wine warming up my hands. I spend more time thinking of the food than I should, but who would not drool in anticipation of some creamy mushrooms, grilled bratwurst, and of course a huge gingerbread heart?
Christmas markets are a centuries-old tradition in Germany and other parts of Europe. In fact, the first Christmas market wasn’t in Germany at all. It was in Vienna where they held their first market in 1294. Germany didn’t arrive on the yuletide market scene for another hundred years . In medieval Germany, the markets were a few days welcome change to the dreary, cold of winter.
Today most markets open the last week of November and go through Christmas Eve. From traditional hand-made ornaments to Chinese made nutcrackers, plenty of shopping therapy is provided, along with the food booths and live entertainment. Many of the larger markets have special days with parades, celebrities, and all kinds of special events. In Dresden, the town that made German Stollen famous, they make and sell slices of a huge Stollen each year .
So how do you make the most out of your visit to a German Christmas market?
First! You know it’s going to be cold outside and you have lost your mittens, don’t worry there will be stalls selling the warmest, prettiest hats, mitten, and gloves. Head to one of those stalls first and you’ll be all set.
Next – Seek out some fun! Take a ride on a horse and carriage or on the Ferris wheel. You can steel your nerves by stopping first at one of the many gluhwein stands. Take some time to check out the live entertainment. Who’s turn is it? The local children’s choir or the Rock n’ Roll band from the next village?
Finally – Get some delicious fest food to stop that stomach from growling. There are so many choices: potato cakes with applesauce, bratwurst, pretzels, baked goods, candy…what’s your favorite? Walk around one last time, picking up those last-minute wooden ornaments or a present for mom.
Transportation: If I were you, I would take the train, bus, or other public transportation the entire way. Remember the DB or Deutsch Bundesbahn has special tickets for customers staying in a state, like the Bavaria (Bayern) ticket, which will take you and four of your friends to another Bavaria town for around 30 Euros round trip. Ask the clerk what will be the best price. If you buy your tickets online, don’t forget to book early for the best prices. Parking at the larger markets is usually outside the city and will cost you. Plus then you still have to get to the center of town by public transport which is usually not a problem going, but let me tell you from experience, coming home it will take too long. You will be cold and tired, and if you are like me…getting grumpy!
Follow these links to more European Christmas Market information:
What Christmas markets have you been to? Which were your favorite? What hints can you add to this list of how-tos?