Friday, October 11, 2013

Christmasmarkets - A Holiday Favorite in Europe

Imagine yourself strolling cobble stoned streets, the smell of gingerbread, mulled wine, roasted almonds or chestnuts following you around. Christmas music performed by choirs or bands. Laughter, happiness, joy and kids that cannot believe their eyes. People gathering around open fire pits meeting with friends, drinking a Jagatee (tea made with rum, red wine and spices) or a Gluehwein (mulled wine), even hot caipirinha is being offered. Hot punch for the kids. Millions of twinkling lights, the Christmas tree in the center of the square. Vendors selling their handmade goods such as wooden mangers, glassblown christmas decoration, candles,  tea and homemade culinary treats such as jam, honey (try the hot met, a honey wine), herbs etc.
This is a traditional Christmasmarket feeling! 
Also known as Weihnachtsmarkt, this is a tradition that goes back centuries in Europe. The Dresden Striezelmarkt has been mentioned first in 1434! The markets light up small villages or big cities with fun, laughter, companionship, great food and drinks during the Advent season. You will feel that special Christmas spirit in the air and we promise you will not stop marveling about the beautiful, unique handcrafted items. You love Kaethe Kruse products? Well, buy them for a fraction of the costs right here in Europe while enjoying an unforgettable time! The word Gemütlichkeit will often come in your mind!

The best known Christkindlmarket is in Nuremberg with the Nuremberg Children's Christmas just around the corner. It is a child's fairy tale dreamland with a magnificent two- tiered nostalgia carousel based on old originals with reindeer and Santa's sleighs, plus a mini Ferris wheel, a steam railway and a small merry-go-round. Santa Claus, known in Germany as "Nikolaus", listens to the children's wishes and poses for photos with the little ones.  Many decorative little stalls invite the children to join in handicraft acivities, such as baking, candle- pulling, glass workshop, wood burning, handicraft stalls, children's post office and the active playhouse. The Nuremberg Christmas Angel (called the Christkind) visits regularly the Children's Christmas. 

Some towns only open their Christmas markets for 1 or 2 weekends before Christmas, such as my hometown Wertheim. But this also makes it special. Locals together with tourists gather and have a wonderful time. See for yourself:

Or visit Rothenburg, where you will also find the very well known year round Christmas store "Kaethe Kruse". It is not as big as the other cities but the beauty of Rothenburg with its medieval city wall is so worth visiting!

Striezelmarkt, Dresden

Also very well known is the Striezelmarkt in Dresden. Since 1434, the market has preserved its distinctive character despite a few changes. The world's largest Erzgebirge step pyramid, which made its way into the Guiness Book of World Records in 1999, is 14.62 meters tall and can be seen far and wide. More than 2.5 million people visit the romantic Dresden Altmarkt every year.
The market's name comes from Stollen, the well - known Christmas bread which is here known as Striezel. Every year the traditional Stollen festival is celebrated to honor this delicacy starting with the ceremonial slicing the giant Stollen followed by a procession through the Baroque old town.

Noel à Colmar, France
While living in the Black Forest area of Germany, my favorite Christmas Market was the one in Colmar, in the beautiful Alsace region of France! 
Just a short trip over the Rhine river you will find the quaint little town. Hot cider and met, the hot honey wine, is their specialty. But not to forget about one of my favorite towns in Germany, Freiburg, which also offers a wonderful Christmas Market, actually you will find several throughout the city. My kids still talk about the delicious waffles, crepes and punch they had.

You see? Europe is well worth the trip during Advent! Also read our post about the Christmas River Cruise with stops in several countries to visit the Christmasmarkets. Or call us for YOUR custom designed Christmas Market itinerary!