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Experience the best of Europe's traditional Christmas markets this November and December. Explore the world-famous holiday markets in popoular European cities such as Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Lille, Bruges and many more.
Absolutely brilliant. Well, that’s the short answer. But we know you probably want to know a little bit more, so we asked our in-house German experts (between them we think they’ve been to about 20 different ones) for their top tips on visiting German markets.
So here’s how to do it in style, with our guide to what to wear, eat,drink and buy there.
The traditional seasonal drink infused with oranges, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon, mulled red wine (also known as glühwein) can’t be missed at the markets. Other festive drinks to try include lumumba, a delicious hot chocolate drink with rum, punch, a hot mixture of alcohol, spices lemon juice, sugar and water. As well as eggnog, a combination of eggs, white wine, sugar, rum and cinnamon.
For hearty, traditional delicacies, bratwurst, schupfnudeln, tarte flambée, and chestnuts are a definite must. For more of a sweet treat, waffles, baked apples, roasted almonds, candied apples, donuts and gingerbread are a delicious indulgence.
You’ll find plenty of gifts, keepsakes and souvenirs to buy, such as Christmas decorations and ornaments, homemade crafts, and confectionary. Also keep an eye out for stalls specialising in the German tradition of products made purely from honey, including soaps, figurines, health products, candles and much more.
Our German colleagues suggest you make like an “onion” - by this we think they mean it’s all about the layers. Pay particular attention to your footwear. You can find yourself standing around outside a lot, so warm socks or boots are recommended.
Don’t carry huge bags with you, it gets crowded. Take a “bag for life” along if you want to shop. Otherwise be careful with your money and phones. While the markets are definitely family-friendly places, always be wary of pickpockets in a crowd. Also if you’re taking the kids, large prams can be cumbersome and difficult to push round the tight stalls, so think about something smaller and more flexible.
And finally remember, this isn’t Oktoberfest - no need to get out the lederhosen.
The big Christmas markets mostly run for about three weeks, typically opening at around 10am-noon, and staying open until 9pm or midnight, depending on the city and size.
During weekdays the markets are a bit quieter, but after dark (from 5pm)
and all day at the weekends, they can get very busy. The small Christmas markets are sometimes only open on weekends or for a maximum of one week.
The big Christmas markets often have live bands playing traditional carols and Christmas songs. At least during the day - when the kids have gone to bed, you’ll get more pop, rock and jazz hits mixed in with the festive tunes.