While it’s true there’s no place like home for the holidays, there’s no reason why you can’t start your holidays at one or more of the fabulous Christmas markets held all over Europe. This year when you gather for the holidays, start thinking about making some new holiday memories starting with a fabulous getaway that includes some stops at Christmas markets. Your travel advisors at GetAway can plan your trip including some stops for shopping and enjoying some new holiday experiences.
Markets got their start in Vienna
Christmas markets are street markets designed to celebrate the holiday during the four weeks of Advent leading up to and sometimes, depending on which country you are in, past Christmas into January. They are thought to have originated in Vienna, but were made popular in Germany.
The first Christmas market supposedly was in 1296 in December when Emperor Albrecht I of Austria granted shopkeepers a one-to-two day market so the townspeople could stock up before the winter. Christmas markets are held in town squares and the little, decorated wooden stalls offer arts and crafts items, candles, toys, Christmas decorations and figurines as well as food and drinks. Some town halls transform into giant Advent calendars with different windows lighted each night.
Now, virtually every country including Germany, Denmark, France, Austria, Portugal, Spain and England have Christmas markets. So your GetAway advisor can plan plenty of sightseeing in a country and have your trip end with a fantastic Christmas market experience. You can fill that second empty suitcase you brought with your holiday gifts, and, of course, a couple of items for yourself!
Festive sights, sounds and food
The most famous Christmas market is in Vienna, which actually has a dozen or more markets located throughout the city. The largest market is in Rathausplatz, in the square facing Vienna City Hall. Markets in Vienna are, well, grand — like the residents strive to match the fabulous, grand architecture of the city. There’s lots of light displays and Rathausplatz has an ice skating rink. And, just a note, when markets are described as having stalls with items, we are taking upwards of 200 stalls.
Markets, no matter what city in what country, serve a variation of gluhwein. Gluhwein is hot mulled wine spiced with cloves, anise, cinnamon and citrus fruits. Red wine is the most prevalent, but you can find it done with white wine. There is usually a version of apple cider if you want a non-alcoholic beverage and, of course, hot cocoa. Gluhwein, where ever you are, is served in a mug which you put a deposit on. You can return for a refill, or keep the mug for the price of the small deposit. They make great keepsake souvenirs.
Make sure to go to the markets hungry. In France, where you should wait until dusk to go shopping because the twinkling lights are magical, you can get oysters, champagne, caviar, poutine and freshly grilled meat.