European Christmas Markets

Tips for Visiting

December 5, 2017

It’s December! And that means Christmas Markets across Europe are in full swing. If you’re reading this, chances are you are planning to visit some. Or maybe you’re just dreaming of it.  We had the opportunity to spend Christmas in Europe, and it was MAGICAL! Before our trip, I didn’t realize how lovely these places are. The reason for our cold-weather vacation was to celebrate Christmas with our relatives who live in Central Europe. Then we kept hearing over and over again, “Wait until you see the markets!” Indeed, it was a highlight of our time in Europe. In this post, I’ll share my top 5 tips for visiting a European Christmas Market.

Go at Night
While the Christmas markets are open all day, night is an especially great time to visit. The temperatures may be chillier, but the lights make it all worth it. Bundle up and go explore. Perhaps the best time to visit is right before sunset when crowds will be smaller. You can get some of your shopping in, enjoy shorter lines for food and then watch the lights come on.

Salzburg, Austria

Go Hungry
There are countless tasty treats to try, so do yourself a favor and go hungry. From local bakery specialties, to savory sausages, and hot-mulled wine, you'll have plenty to choose from. Each country and location has their own specialty, so don't miss out on unique bites. In Budapest, the chimney cakes are the highlight. You can watch the cakes being made right in front of you and add your own choice for toppings like cinnamon and nut mixtures.
My father-in-law considers what treat to buy
My father-in-law considers what treat to buy

Check Schedules
Christmas Markets across Europe begin on different dates and differ on how long they stay open. Most markets close at the end of December, but a few will stay open into the New Year. Also, they have special concerts and performances that are a must to see. Check local schedules when planning which days you'll visit. Austria is known for their scary Krampus creatures who frequent markets in early December. You can plan to be there if you'd like to participate in this tradition or avoid it (if you have little ones who are easily frightened).

Shop for the Local Specialty
One of the things I love about European Christmas markets are the hand-crafted items available at affordable prices. Each location has it's own specialty and you can see the local tradition and culture come through in the various booths.
Villages in Austria
Villages in Austria

Spread Out
Plan to visit a few different locations. Each city, whether large or small will have multiple locations for markets. Sometimes they are located in the central square of the pedestrian old town and sometimes they are in the courtyards of castles or churches. If possible, try to visit more than one country. The markets do differ quite a bit as you move from one country to another. We found the markets in Hungary to be very different from the ones in Austria.
Loved the market in Budapest!
Loved the market in Budapest!

Our favorites? Well, we haven't been to all of them, but out of the places we have been, Salzburg and Budapest were our favorites. We loved the beautiful city of Salzburg, and it was especially lovely at Christmas time. The market in Budapest felt the least commercial and most regionally authentic.

Where are your favorite Christmas markets in Europe? Where should we plan to visit next time?


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