Swap the bustling department store crowds for the charming, festive atmosphere of some of the world’s best Christmas markets this December. The chaos of Christmas preparation will seem a distant memory as you browse traditional gifts, souvenirs and delicacies whilst sipping a warming glass of mulled wine.
Dresden, Germany – Dresdner Striezelmarkt
Founded originally as a one-day market in 1434, Striezelmarkt in Dresden is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. In the past this market’s sole purpose was to provide the people of Dresden with their Christmas meat following the pre-Christmas fasting that took place. The famous cake we all know as Stollen was formerly known as Strüzel or Stroczel at this time, was responsible for influencing the naming the festivities ‘Striezelmarkt’.
Today, Striezelmarkt opens its doors for an entire month and is home to the world’s largest usable Christmas arch with a breadth of 13.5 metres.
Visitors can also expect to find a varied assortment of culinary delicacies and traditional products. The folk art of the Erzgebirge region is an essential feature – loving craftsmanship produces miniature pyramids, Räuchermänner ("smoking men") and other small figurines. The market stands are also always popular, selling blueprints and pottery from Lausitz, Lebkuchen from the gingerbread city of Pulsnitz, and Herrnhut stars.
Christkindelsmärik Strasbourg France
The locals have been perfecting their game when it comes to Christmas markets and their 400+ years of experience definitely shows! As one of the oldest markets in Europe, Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik consists of 300 wooden chalets spread across 11 themed villages.
Visitors are guided through the streets by dazzling lights hung from windows and the sound of choirs can be heard as you make your away around the traditional nativity scenes that are scattered across Strasbourg.
A new addition to the festivities is the ‘OFF Market’ which offers an alternative approach to Christmas with talks about mindful consumption and delicious organic, fair-trade dishes available.
The Red Square Moscow, Russia
The Christmas market on Red Square is one of the best markets in Moscow and is a definite must-see Christmas lovers and scrooges alike. Here you’ll find more than 20 stands which are filled to the brim with Russia’s traditional foods, toys, ornaments and souvenirs. The younger members of your party should head straight to the centre of the market where they can ride the carousel and slide to keep them entertained.
Arguably the biggest draw to this market is its convenient location around one of Moscow’s largest ice rinks. Take to the ice to warm up after your day browsing the quaint, picturesque market stalls.
Salzburg, Austria – Christkindlmarkt
Salzburg’s Christmas market can be found at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress and stretching around the Cathedral of Salzburg. As well as the abundance of products and delicacies to try, the organisers also ensure that visitors are treated to a colourful events programme throughout the holidays. The market hosts children’s reading sessions, traditional wind music performances and even offers visitors the chance to take to the stage in a choir ‘Sing-Along’ open to the general public.
Visitors and locals alike flock to the festivities each year to wander amongst the traditional huts with lighting stretched above the stands to recreate a dazzling nights sky; the perfect setting for a romantic getaway.
Naples, Italy – San Gregorio Armeno street
San Gregorio Armeno Street is more commonly known as ‘Christmas Alley’ and is definitely worth a visit! Unlike many Christmas markets, this traditional festive themed street is open all year round, allowing visitors to enjoy its magical spirit at any time of year. Christmas Alley is alive with bustling crowds during the 12 days of Advent, so you may choose to visit outside of these times to witness the true beauty and craftsmanship take place at a slightly slower pace.
Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, Prague, Czech Republic
The Christmas markets at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square are ranked highly as some of the best in the world. The magical holiday atmosphere can be enjoyed over a glass or two of mulled wine and a little shopping for gifts and souvenirs. Children will enjoy a more hands-on approach with plenty of workshops, demonstrations and folks crafts available to keep them amused.
Be sure to stick around for the Christmas tree switch on in Old Town Square every day at 4:30pm!