I’m a huge fan of Christmas markets. There is something special in the air that makes me forget just how cold it is!
During the four weeks leading up to Christmas (associated with Advent) and sometimes even into January, people throughout Europe all seem to bond over twinkling lights, regional foods, and homemade trinkets.
While the oldest markets are in Germany, dating back to 1384, many have popped up all throughout Europe, such as the Christmas market in Bolzano, Italy, which has only been around for 3 decades. While they do not hold as much history, they are still worth a visit.
Wondering what to do at a Christmas market?
Don’t worry! There are plenty of things to do. Most cities have hundreds of stalls – each stall a unique opportunity for shopping, eating, drinking, entertainment, or the kids. Check out my suggestions below for some ideas!
Pick up Festive Christmas Decor
If you’re looking for that special souvenir, collectible, or a unique gift for friends back at home, have a look at the abundance of hand-made ornaments, nutcrackers, and more!
Try the Local Delicacies
Depending on which country – or even city – you visit, cuisine will vary, especially the delicacies. For example, Colmar, France had an entire stall for Dijon mustard, while Zurich, Switzerland had a pop-up fondue restaurant, and Innsbruck, Austria had apple strudel.
Snack on some Gingerbread
Lebkuchen has been around for more than 600 years in Nuremberg. At just about every Christmas Market now, you’ll get them in a variety of shapes and sizes, all with unique icing decor. Lebkuchen is the original “gingerbread,” made with honey, cloves, ginger, allspice, coriander, and occasionally nuts and dried fruit.
They are surprisingly more spicy than sweet, so if you aren’t keen on eating one, they still make a perfect souvenir or stocking-stuffer to gift later!
Call it as you’d like: Glühwein, Vin Chaud, or Vino Caldo – a hot mulled wine when it’s freezing outside is the perfect way to warm up after your stroll around the Christmas Market.
If you don’t drink alcohol, you can always have an apple cider. It’s scotching hot, so I recommend taking off your gloves to warm up your hands!
Many places charge 4.50 euros, but you will get a two euros refunded if you return the mug.
Watch the kids!
Whether or not you have kids of your own, the children’s areas of the Christmas Markets are well worth a few moments of your time. There is honestly nothing cuter than seeing the way children light up during Christmastime.
In the most non-creepy way possible, watching kids is a great way for me to appreciate care-free days and an excellent reminder to us all on how to truly appreciate the Christmas season.
Come back at night!
Last but not least, after the sun sets (at 3 or 4 pm, UGH!) return for a night at the Christmas market. The atmosphere is much more lively and some markets even had live music.
Eating the street food at Christmas markets, especially in Switzerland, is a great way to try local food without having to pay an arm and a leg.
Be warmed – it gets really cold at night, so dress accordingly.
I was wearing leggings, long underwear, jeans, two pairs of socks, a long sleeved shirt, a sweater, then a coat, as well as a beanie, gloves, and a heavy scarf.
Have you ever been to a European Christmas Market? Planning to go?! Let me know in the comments below!