The holiday season is upon us, and, as Andy Williams famously sang, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Cinnamon-flavored everything, people wishing you “happy holidays,” and oh yes, all the shopping. Browsing gifts for your loved ones is even better when you’re surrounded by twinkling lights, the smell of warming mulled wine, a live band, and free samples of delicious deep-fried dough. After giving you my first list of our five favorite Christmas markets in Europe, I felt like there were still more great markets to visit. With a bit of travel and some recommendations from friends and family, here are five more amazing Christmas markets you need to check out.
1. Brussels, Belgium
If you happen to find yourself in Brussels from November 24th to December 31st this year, then you’re in luck! Head to the center of Brussels to enjoy the winter village or “Winter Pop” as they call the city’s five weeks of festive fun. There’s a two kilometer stretch of snow-dusted chalet markets, bars to fill you up on mulled wine and plenty of places to enjoy the culinary delights that Belgium is best known for, like waffles. There’s also an ice-skating rink, a large decorated Christmas tree, and a magical light and sound show. For a bird’s eye view of the market, I recommend going on the Ferris wheel.
2. Paris, France
Ah oui, the City of Love. But in December, it’s also known as the “City for Loving the Holidays,” or at least that’s what I call it. Get a taste of France’s eastern region of Alsace by going to the Gare de l’Est to drink wine, and eat choucroute, sausage and tarte flambé. If you’re familiar with German cuisine, you’ll notice similarities between these dishes and German sauerkraut, wurst and flammkuchen, which emerged from the German occupation of France during WWII. Looking for something more traditionally “French”? Head down to Montmartre for snow-covered chalet stands and a carousel ride. And while you may not spot the famous Hunchback of Notre-Dame, you will find plenty of artisanal arts and crafts at the Rene Viviani Square near the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Again, since France is all about food, be sure to thoroughly indulge in foie gras, sausages, macaroons, and chestnuts.
3. Helsinki, Finland
Finland is so much more than just saunas. They also have a pretty great Christmas market culture. In Helsinki alone, there are about 140 little huts full of boutique gifts. Since I’m a big foodie, I highly recommend trying out: Piparkakku (gingerbread cookies), Omenaloersty (apple doughnuts), Korvapuusti (cinnamon buns), and Puolukkapiirakka (lingonberry pie). Can you tell I have a sweet tooth? There’s also a beautiful old carousel in the market center that adds to the joyous ambiance. It’s an amazing event, but just keep in mind that the market is only open from December 15th until the 22nd.
4. Berlin, Germany
Germany takes the cake when it comes to Christmas markets. And while there are literally hundreds of fantastic markets to choose from, some of the best and largest markets can be found in the German capital. Since Berlin is massive, there are Christmas markets in literally every corner of the city. Beginning in the Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt, you’ll join more than 600,000 people as you shuffle through the weaving maze of unique handmade trinkets and delicious food stands selling tasty treats like white chocolate milk, fried apples, and special cheeses from around the world. Looking for the best, and most efficient, market experience? Head to Alexanderplatz, where you’ll find not one, but three markets within walking distance of the train station full of mulled wine stands and high-flying carousels.
5. Budapest, Hungary
From November 24th until January 1st, you can feel the spirit of Christmas at the Advent Feast at the Basilica. Every evening the impressive facade of the Basilica will be illuminated by a 3D light show while visitors parade through the square of the Basilica and along Zrínyi street between over 80 stands selling hot and sweet delicacies, including flodni – the delicious Hungarian chimney cake with a thick filling of walnuts, apples, poppy seeds and plenty of warming cinnamon.