With Christmas around the corner, shops are already overflowing with tinsel, candy canes and shiny baubles of every shape and hue. While it certainly awakens the Christmas spirit, making us dream of nutcrackers and sugar plum fairies, the items from one shop to the next tend to be very much the same, and when they’re crammed in right next to the toilet paper and the toothpaste, it deflates the mood somewhat.
Rather head to a Christmas Market and step into a wonderland that will transport you back to your childhood, reminiscing about Christmas cookies and stockings upon the mantelpiece. If you’re on holiday, it’s a great way to join in the festive mood; or if you’re still wondering where to travel this festive season, the Christmas Markets across the world may just inspire your next destination.
Although they are found in many different countries today, the idea of the Christmas market comes from the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe, and several parts of the former Holy Roman Empire that include the eastern regions of France and Switzerland. They are variously referred to as Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël and Weihnachtsmarkt.
Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland
27 November – 23 December 2014
As the largest Christmas market in Switzerland, located at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, you can expect more than just the usual stalls selling Christmas wares; although with more than 190 traders set up in charming chalets, you can still shop till you drop.
One of the best things about Christmas is the abundance of good food. Some of the traditional treats you can sample include waffles, glühwein, Basel Läckerli (a type of gingerbread), Swiss raclette and grilled sausages.
The city’s museums, meanwhile, host events and exhibitions and there is a splendid Christmas tree on the Münsterplatz, helping you usher in the Christmas spirit.
Düsseldorf Christmas Market, Germany
20 November – 23 December 2014
Not to be outdone, Düsseldorf also boasts a sprawling Christmas market, which is hosted in seven different locations and even offers a Christmas tour.
Keep warm with glasses of glühwein and mugs of hot chocolate, while nibbling on lebkuchen (gingerbread), stollen (cake filled with dried fruit and marzipan) and Reibekuchen (potato fritters).
Christmas markets are ideal for children, and with Düsseldorf’s close on 100-year-old merry-go-round, children will remain enchanted.
A multitude of stalls sell all your favourite Christmas goodies, and you will also find glass blowers, wood turners and various other artisans and craftsmen. There is also a fantastic light display watched over by wrought iron angels on Heinrich-Heine-Platz.
Salzburg Christmas Market, Austria
20 November – 26 December 2014
Drinking glühwein at Christmas is delectably unavoidable, and it is a stalwart of Christmas markets. In white Christmas countries such as Switzerland, Germany and Austria, this hot, mulled wine is particularly welcome.
Music is another Christmas staple and the Salzburg Christmas Market is filled with the sounds of traditional choirs, carolling school children and the Advent brass concerts.
On Saturdays, angels walk through the market, entrancing market-goers with their fine wings and soft hair. Other seasonal visitors include Father Christmas, who rewards the well-behaved. He is accompanied by Krampus, who frightens the misbehaved with his horrid mask, smarting rute and jangling bells.
28 November – 31 December
For the oldest Christmas market in Europe, the Christkindelsmärik in Strasbourg, France, also known as “the capital of Christmas”, will astonish you with its size and grandeur.
Established in 1570, its still rings in the season today, boasting over 300 stalls offering a selection of Christmas fare and fun. Coupled with exciting events, tours and parades, it has claimed the prize of Best Christmas Market in Europe.
Denver Christkindl Market, USA
21 November – 23 December 2014
Across the Atlantic, there is plenty of German Christmas fare to sample at the Denver Christkindl Market.
Besides the usual delicious suspects such as glühwein, lebkuchen and stollen, you’ll also find bratäpfel (baked apples), gebrannte mandeln (roasted almonds), maronen (roasted chestnuts) and marzipanbrot (marzipan bread).
While you’re brushing up on your German, you can start Christmas shopping. If you have children around and don’t want them to see what they’re getting for Christmas, they can enjoy a storytelling session while you stock up.
There are plenty of other events to enjoy, including a performance by the Denver Philharmonic.
Santa Claus Village, Finland
Open all year round
The ultimate Christmas market must surely be in Father Christmas’ own home in Lapland, where the Santa Claus Village is located.
Here you can meet Santa (or Father Christmas or St Nicholas or whatever you prefer to call him), get to know his reindeer and buy interesting trinkets such as wooden drinking cups and golden nuggets.
Before you leave make sure you post your Christmas wish list at Santa’s Post Office – that is, of course, assuming you’ve been nice instead of naughty!
An African Christmas, South Africa
November – December
If you don’t want a white Christmas and fancy something a little closer to home, then Cape Town is your Yuletide answer.
Between trips to the beach and the mountains, you can visit a Christmas market. Although not on the same scale as others, you will be spoiled for choice, and their simplicity and sunshine keep them uniquely African.
Made in the Cape Market, hosted every month at Cavendish Square, has an annual Festive Fair (December 2 – December 7, 2014); and the All Star Christmas Market, organised by the All Star Theatre, offers a bevy of Christmas bounty. The Neighbourgoods Market situated in Woodstock on the cusp of the city centre, as well as the Oude Libertas and Laborie Markets in the winelands, can be visited year round, but offer a little extra something during the festive season.
Originally published on Cheap Flights