It’s that time of the year again, when everything around looks like a fairy tale. The air fills up with children’s laughter; each chilly breeze brings about scents of gingerbread and mulled wine; and chimneys throw stories into the evening sky. When everything is about to go to sleep, a symphony of lights begins, making way for enchanted Christmas stories. But just before you let the night take you to wonderland, go to the heart of the city: the party is on.
Vienna’s Shinning Rathausplatz Market
Vienna never loses its magic charm -- it’s a year-round proposition. But at Christmas, the city’s coat of lights is the very definition of Christmas cheer. Everywhere you go, wherever you turn, Vienna celebrates Christmas like no other place on Earth. Beyond commercial hype, the locals preserved many hundred-years old traditions, and they are proud to display their crafts, albeit you’ll have to be happy with the season theme. Over 150 stalls crowd around Rathausplatz, all cheerfully decorated with garlands and lights, some selling gifts, others season delicacies. But the crowds gather around the very few stalls selling mulled wine -- that’s where the conversation gets going. And beyond shopping, you’ll have to remember that this is also a cultural tradition. Vienna’s best choirs take the stage and their crystal clear voices put the seraphim to shame.
Prague’s Christmas Story
If you have ever seen Prague, your soul is a prisoner of its charm. Considered by many visitors the most beautiful city in the World, at Christmas, Prague shows beyond any doubt why it deserves to be called the Golden City. The lights elevate the city’s beauty to superlative, but then, it’s the people who make it worthwhile. No other place feels more welcoming than Prague at Christmas. Traditional markets attract the crowds under the starry sky, to witness the wonders of old Czech traditions. Bakers roll delicious Trdelník before your eyes, and the aroma of fresh pastry intertwines with scents of svařák, creating that unbelievable, enchanted, and unique setting for Christmas shopping, as it should be.
Barcelona’s Fira de Santa Llúcia
Nothing quite compares to Barcelona’s Christmas lights, but then, nothing quite compares to its main Christmas market either. Fira de Santa Llúcia has been taking place, at the same location, Pla de la Seu, since 1786. It may not be as charming, or rustic, as other markets in Europe, but it compensates through an amazing display of traditional nativity scenes, hand carved by local artisans; entertainment… and oddities. Where else can you get a caganer? And where else can your kids beat Tió with a stick, till he “poos” a present? Yes, Barcelona’s Christmas market may be a bit odd for some, but that’s its lucky charm. The oddities make this shopping experience unlike any other in Europe.
Cologne’s Heinzelmännchen at Work
You can meet the Heinzelmännchen (elves) in Cologne’s Weihnachtsmarkt auf dem Alter Markt, but if you visit other Christmas Markets in the city, the sense of wonder makes you believe that everything around was built by these magic creatures, even the imposing Kölner Dom. No matter where you are, it feels like you’ve entered the Märchen world of Brüder Grimm -- you are a child once more. There are six markets in Cologne, one prettier than the other, all nostalgic and enchanted, bringing the best of German Christmas traditions in front of your eyes. It is not just children’s eyes lighting up when wreath binders and glassblowers demonstrate their art. Adults too are fascinated by these skilled displays of craft. Of course, the experience is complete with season foods, and the ever popular Glühwein.
Marchés de Noël in Colmar
The most famous Christmas market in France is Marchés de Noël in Strasbourg, but if you want the most beautiful, that would be the Christmas market in Colmar. The historic Old Town, illuminated and decorated like a fairy tale with a myriad of sparkling stars, hosts no less then five markets. The locals lit candles, to protect the city against evil spirits, and a magic, holy haze embraces the beautiful timbered houses and and rustic Alsatian chalets lining up the winding, narrow lanes of the city. Here you walk with the angels, and you feel the true blessing of Christmas like nowhere else in France.
So here they are, five of the most beautiful and amazing Christmas markets in Europe, each with an own, individual Charm. There are, of course, many others, as amazing, authentic and enchanted. Where will you go this year?
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