The Europeans love holding fests to celebrate both small and large events. November and December are big months for Christmas markets and festivals of all kinds. Christmas markets start around mid-November and go through Christmas and sometimes through to New Years. You can find Christmas Markets in all areas of Europe. They come in all shapes and sizes, but all have the traditional wood ornament and toy seller’s stalls, and all sell unique treasures from their part of the world.
Finding Christmas Markets
Christmas Markets can be found in large and small places. In big cities, like Metz, France, there are many little markets throughout areas of the city. One way to find these markets is to go on an organized walk. So if you go to Metz around the first weekend in December, you can follow the “Metz Illuminee,” a 10km walking route that tours you through many of the Christmas markets in the town (and also past many of the interesting historical sites that are open while the walkers are parading). This walk is done in the afternoon and evening so you can also enjoy the city in its Christmas lighted best.
On one of these annual self-paced walks, you pass through 3-4 Christmas Market areas so you can linger to do your holiday shopping. And you can and stop for a cup of Gluhwein (hot spiced wine – try the white, it’s the best) and a gingerbread cookie. As you finish, collect your special Metz Gluhwein souvenir cup, and continue your walk. More walk information (or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Other Markets I’ve enjoyed are in the city of Trier, Germany, which is the oldest town in Germany and has distinct Roman routes, in Frankfurt, Germany, Strassbourg, France, Luxembourg City, Bernkastel-Kues, Germany and many more places.
The Nuremburg, Germany, Christmas Market is reported to be the biggest and the best. It’s a great tourist draw. I’ve been there, and it is big.
There is more than one market in the city, though. You can walk the markets and actually and get your fill of shopping because some of the booths are repetitive, selling the same items. Now, don’t get me wrong – I enjoy spending the evening strolling around Nuremburg, seeing the sights, shopping for wooden Christmas ornaments and Liebkuchen, and enjoying the Christmas lights. However, you can get too much of a good thing. Therefore, I would recommend going only to the main market. We did get our gluhwein and souvenir mug of course!
Christmas Market Cruises
A couple that we knew even came to Europe and took a “Christmas Market Cruise” in December one year. I know they visited Nijmegen, Netherlands as one of their stopping places. Here are some internet sites where you can check out these cruises: christmasmarkettours.com or Christmas Market Cruises
Visit Europe at Christmas and Be Prepared
The holiday season is a great time to visit Europe, as accommodations are often less expensive and there are less tourists to contend with. But do remember, most of these Markets and events are outdoor activities, and it does get cold.
Some venues close down at this time of the year due to the holidays, so just be a prepared traveler.
Guest Contributor, Cheryl Patterson, is a teacher for the Department of Defense School System in Germany. During the week she works with Army kids on an American Army Post, and on the weekends she and her husband take advantage of living in Europe, by traveling all over the continent. The Pattersons are avid participants in the walking sport of volksmarching, and incorporate the sport into their world travels.