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Christmas Markets in Europe

Updated on September 18, 2013

Christmas markets are street markets which take place during the four weeks of Advent. Usually held in a town square, they have open-air stalls selling food, drink, gifts, decorations and other seasonal goodies.

You can usually find a Nativity scene, with a crib, somewhere at a Christmas market. Chances are you'll also find some traditional singing and dancing, there to put everybody in a festive mood.

The whole tradition of Christmas markets began in the Late Middle Ages in the German speaking part of Europe. They originated in Germany, Austria, South Tyrol (Italy) and Alsace (France). Some of the oldest markets include Frankfurt Christmas Market, which was first held in 1393, as well as Munich Christmas Market, which began in 1310.

Germany is the nation where you are likely to find the most Christmas markets. However, other countries in Europe have also taken on the tradition. Let's take a tour of some markets which are all well worth a look.


Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

There are seven Christmas markets in the German city of Cologne. The Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral is one of the most impressive, largely because of the backdrop provided by the Cathedral.

The aroma of mulled wine, hot chestnuts and gingerbread fills the air. The spirit of Christmas will fill you as you browse the 160 wooden stalls, selling gifts, decorations, sweets and other delicacies. As well as checking out great stuff to buy, you can watch pewter pourers, wreath binders and glassblowers all demonstrate their art. There is a great atmosphere at this market, which attracts millions of visitors from all over the world.

Other markets of note in the city include the Christmas Market on the Alter Markt, The Neumarkt Christmas Market and the Christmas Market on the Rudolfplatz.


Birmingham's Frankfurt-Style Christmas Market

A German style Christmas market can also be found in Birmingham in England. It is the largest market of its type in the UK and the biggest outside of Germany. Traders from Frankfurt, the city with which Birmingham has been twinned for over 40 years, run many of the stalls here. Handmade toys, decorations, jewelery and craft goods are all available to buy.

You can keep the winter chill at bay with German mulled wine, grilled sausages, vegetarian dishes, pretzels, German beer, crepes and sweets. There’s also a carousel for the children in the market, which takes place in Victoria Square.


La Fira de Santa Llucia, Barcelona

For a market which doesn't quite have the same German feel, but does provide plenty of festive spirit is La Fira de Santa Llucia in Barcelona. This is a very Spanish market, so don't go expecting German mulled wine and bratwurst. Instead, it is a great place to pick up your Christmas Caga Tio, a log with a friendly face, which is an essential element of a Catalan Christmas.

The stalls of the market are grouped into four different categories: Nativity Scenes and Figures, Greenery and Plants (with artificial trees, moss and lucky branches), Crafts (good for hand-made products clothes, jewelery and other decorative objects), as well as an area dedicated to musical instruments.


Spittelberg Christmas Market, Vienna

If you happen to be in Vienna during the month of December, you should head on over to Spittelberg. During the festive season, the historical cobble-stoned streets of this suburb become the scene for a romantic picture postcard Christmas market.

There is a bohemian feel to this market, which has more than 100 stalls spreading out through the narrow streets and backyards. When you tire of shopping, there are also plenty of cafes and small bars nearby.


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