Ready from some Christmas revelry or are you a self-proclaimed Grinch? Either way, there’s nothing like some European Christmas Markets to get you in a festive mood. It’s not too late to plan a European Christmas Market trip for this year! Here are a few of our favorites to get your juices flowing.
We booked a Christmas Markets Tour from Gate One Travel and it really took all the guesswork out of our planning. You can see the itinerary of the trip here. We have traveled with Gate One on several occasions and their trips are top notch and a great value. Check it out if you want a high quality tour that also offers time for your own wanderings at an amazing price.
Our first stop was Munich, Germany. There are many Christmas markets sprinkled throughout the city of Munich, but the largest is held on Marienplatz Square in the shadow of the cathedral. Christmas trees covered in lights, nightly live music, and plentiful gluhwein stands are among the offerings here.
Each Christmas market has it’s own gluhwein mugs. You pay for your gluhwein or hot cider plus a deposit for the whimsical ceramic mug that the hot concoction is served in. If you want to keep the cup, simply do so! If you want your deposit back, return the empty cup and you will receive your deposit money back. Many tourists enjoy collecting mugs from the various Christmas Markets they visit and we were no different.
We enjoyed wandering the market – it’s a feast for the senses! Sausages and cookies, gluhwien and candied nuts….something for everyone. And the gifts! Bring an empty suitcase to carry all your treasures home with you!
Germany was a bucket list location for Daniel and me and we wanted some special photos to remind us of our adventure so we booked a Flytographer session. You can read our blog about that here. We had a lot of fun with our photographer, Gloria, who took some amazing photos, gave us a nice walking tour, and some awesome ideas on sights not to miss!
The sights, sounds, and smells of the Munich Christmas Market did not disappoint. We enjoyed our time to explore, picked up a few gifts, and were ready for our next stop!
The scents of mulled wine, roasted almonds, Nuremburg bratwurst, and gingerbread waft through the air….you’re at the Nuremburg Christkindlesmarkt!
Nuremburg has several noteworthy specialties. They are especially known for their bratwurst, a 700 year old tradition that is devoured with gusto every day of the market and all year long. These bratwurst tend to be smaller than the ones you see at other markets and come three to a bun. Try them and see what you think!
Another craft unique to Nuremburg’s market is their prune men. These little dolls are created out of – you guessed it – dried prunes! They come in all different themes. We got a kick out of the nurse ones!
Nuremburg is a beautiful walled city with epic views from the top. We explored streets and alleyways and found ourselves overlooking the entire city. What a beautiful sight!
‘…..the hills are aliiiiiive……’yep! That’s the place! Salzburg delights all who visit and it was one of our absolute favorite stops.
Home of the famous movie, ‘The Sound of Music,’ Salzburg was one of our favorite cities and Christmas Markets. You just can’t beat walking the pedestrian only shopping areas with views of the river and surrounding mountains.
There are many different stalls to peruse as you wander the walkways, alleys, and streets of Salzburg. Even the most dedicated of Grinches will find themselves humming Christmas carols while holding a hot cup of mulled wine in this town!
One thing we loved most about visiting the Christmas Markets was watching the interactions between the people. Here, Christmas is not primarily about the material items. This is a time when friends and family meet to celebrate the joyousness of the season, share a sausage and a cup of gluhwein, and perhaps wander the stalls together, shopping for a gift or two. This is so much a part of their culture, and it really brought to mind the true meaning of Christmas and how precious it is to spend time with the people we care about.
How can you not embrace the magic of the season while exploring a place like this?
Off to Vienna! Vienna is such an amalgamation of history and culture. We were excited to explore the Markets and the City Center. First things first….it wouldn’t be a trip abroad without getting lost on public transportation.
Wanting to head downtown, we boarded a street car. When it seemed like we were going in the opposite direction that we wanted to go, we hopped off and regrouped. Somehow we managed to navigate the German signage to find the subway station where I promptly got myself locked in a bathroom stall. How does this happen? I don’t know, but I was standing there in this fully enclosed stall – no slot on the top or bottom of the door to crawl over or under – and the door just would not unlock! I stood there laughing at myself, imagining how I was going to retell this story if/when I actually escaped. How do you say ‘help’ in German? I had no idea. After rattling the door quite loudly for several minutes, a bathroom attendant came to my rescue. When the first girl was also unable to get the door to open, she enlisted more help, and finally with the aid of three bathroom attendants, I was freed! We all laughed and they said something in German and I took off to find Daniel who was wondering what the heck had happened to me!
We did finally make it to the market! The Vienna Market had more of an Eastern European feel with crafts from countries like Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia.
Leaving the market square, we walked through the streets of Vienna, window shopping and people watching. To my complete delight, we stumbled across a Steiff store!
Steiff is a German-based plush toy company, founded in 1880 by Margaret Steiff. These high quality stuffed creatures are loved by children and collectors alike and are infamously know by their Knopf Im Ohr – button in ear. Each animal has a special fabric tag attached by a button to it’s ear, or somewhere else if it is an animal that doesn’t have ears, to prove that it is an authentic Steiff. Needless to say, these guys are pretty pricey. I browsed and browsed and couldn’t decide whether I wanted to commit. Bless Daniel’s heart, he chose the best teddy bear for me, and I went home with my very own Steiff. Lucky girl!
It was almost the end of the night, but it wouldn’t be a visit to Vienna without a horse drawn carriage ride though this beautiful city. We hopped on the buggy, snuggled under wool blankets, and sipped our gluhwein while we took in the sights of this city ready for the holidays. An amazing way to end the day!
Bratislava, Slovakia was our last Christmas Market stop of the trip, and it was actually an optional tour that we added to our itinerary. Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital since it’s independence in 1993, is a mosaic of Eastern and Western Europe, boasting a population of around 400,000. Dominated by the local university, the average age of the population is 35 years old, so this town has a unique fun vibe. Even on a wintery December day, people were seated at outside tables eating, drinking, and socializing.
Each Christmas market seemed to have its own food specialties, and Bratislava was no different. We found these spiral cut potatoes-on-a-stick especially delicious!
The sights and scents of this holiday market were especially beautiful and delicious!
Meet Cumil, Bratislava’s infamous sewer worker! Installed in 1997 in an effort to spice up the look and feel of a formerly communist-dominated area, debate rages on as to Cumil’s intended significance. Is he just chilling out there in the street? Is he poking up for a breath of fresh air after working in the bowels of the city? Or is he a peeping Tom waiting for the next skirted lady to walk by? No one really knows, but he is a popular fixture of the city to this day.
Over eight days we visited five different Christmas markets and managed to fill an entire suitcase with the precious treasures we collected in the process. Overflowing with Christmas spirit and a renewed love for this season, it was time to head home.
Have you visited any European Christmas Markets? Which ones were your favorites? Comment below and don’t forget to like, share, and follow our blog. More adventures to come! Thanks for reading.