European winters vary from freezing cold to fairly mild and you’ll never really know which type you’re going to have to put up with. What is for sure though – it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable, if it wasn’t for the fairy-tale like Christmas markets, which ring in the festive season every year! Tastes are different and we understand not everyone is into heavily commercialised Christmas markets that overflow with loud visitors, drunk on mulled wine and sweet punch.
With Christmas just around the corner, we feel like showing you our selection of the most charismatic, well hidden Christmas markets across Europe.
1. Bergischer Weihnachtsmarkt, Rhineland, Germany
Over the past years this fascinating little Christmas Market which started out as an experiment at a local tree nursery in a small town called Kreutzhäuschen near Overath, has grown to (unwanted) fame in Rhineland, Germany. Here you’ll find things to buy, which you usually wouldn’t find at your regular Christmas market. In dozens of wooden stalls, partly hidden behind or underneath fir branches, exhibitors sell their home made ornaments, all types of local culinary treats and other small works of art. If you get lucky you might bump into St. Nikolaus himself! Of course nobody wants to do Christmas without a lovely tree – which is why you could pick out and fell your own conifer right here in the woods.
2. Santa Clause Village, Rovaniemi, Finland
The legend has it that Father Christmas decided to make Rovaniemi his home, when the location of his old home at Ear Mountain (Korvatunturi) was revealed about a century ago and spread across the world – which is why the elf folk built a place here for him to meet visitors from all over the globe. Here, you can meet the man himself on a daily basis or even cross the Finnish polar circle and catch a glimpse of the aurora. Each postcard dispatched here get’s the highly wanted polar circle stamp and numerous souvenir- and workshops offer you to make and buy your own handmade gifts – or the perfect travel memory! You might not have many outdoors mulled wine or snack stands, but we believe this to be a good thing – for temperatures in this part of Lapland can easily drop down to – 25 C.
3. Spittelberg Weihnachtsmarkt, Vienna, Austria
A hazy atmosphere, more than a hundred exhibitors offering their goods and just a few visitors from all over the world – mainly locals come to this part of town. With Vienna having beautiful, large but also very crowded Christmas markets all over the city centre, this market located in the romantic, narrow streets of the boho Neubau district offers a very lovely alternative. The Spittelberg quarter used to be a rural neighbourhood on the outskirts of Vienna, mainly inhabited by then poor students, artists, writers and prostitutes but has evolved to a highly demanded living area among locals over the past century. Only a ten minute walk away from buzzing shopping streets, time spent here still feels like a walk through a wintery village. Many Austrians come here for an after work drink and a hearty Viennese meal to go with it.
4. Enzianalm, South Tyrol, Italy
At 2061 meters above sea level, the Enzianalm in Martello Valley is home to the highest located Christmas market in the Alps, which makes it a little tricky to reach – not many make the effort to come all the way up here. A homely atmosphere awaits everyone who comes up to marvel at the unique natural backdrop of the Stelvio National Park in the Italian Alps. Thoughtfully decorated stalls with culinary delicacies from local products, traditional peasant art and alpine advent music await all Christmas lovers here. By a horse-drawn sleigh you can easily get to Lyfi Alpine pasture, where you can attend a “Live Nativity Scene”.
In Bruges , the so called “Venice of the North”, you’ll probably find one of the most atmospheric of all Christmas markets. In the medieval old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, intoxicating scent of hot Belgian chocolate, fresh waffles, Belgian fries and mulled wine lies in the air. Twinkling fairy lights in the trees and on medieval houses and stalls are reflected in the canals and it seems this place, despite its tourists, is hard to beat. Not only can you eat, drink and purchase Belgian products here, but you can also borrow skates and show off your skills on the ice rink – for a fair price! Brussels and Antwerp are a short train ride away, should you want to explore yet another Christmas market. All in all, plenty of seasonal jollity to enjoy!