The Christmas festive season in Europe is a month long affair, where cities and towns alike embrace the Christmas spirit through markets, activities, and endless decorations. It is a rare time of year where carols are sung, calories aren’t counted, and alcohol consumption is encouraged through the use of a reusable mug! Christmas in Europe is unlike any experience I have ever encountered and it was the greatest (and longest) Christmas I have ever had.
Prague was where we had our first dose of European Christmas markets. Our first night took us to Wenceslas Square in Prague. As we were still getting used to the sun setting by 4 o’clock each day, snacking was allowed. Wenceslas Square markets sit squarely within a large cluster of stores. There are endless wanderers who slip in and out of the market each day to get their hands on some cheap and tasty Christmas market food or a little trinket.
Our first attempt at a Christmas market took us to a store selling Paprikova Klobasa (which translated to Australian terms means impressive sausage sizzle). Yep, on the first night we went simple with sausage sandwiches with the freshest bread and mustard I have ever had, washed down with some homemade Gluhwein. Gluhwein, or mulled wine, is essentially red wine slowly heated with various spices and generally served warm to hot, sometimes with a cinnamon stick. I have since had multiple servings of this drink but I don’t think they have ever been as strong as my first night version!
At a European Christmas market there are foods catering to every craving as you move from store to store. There is gingerbread, pastries, chestnuts, and meringues, with every country having a slight variation in what they have to offer. The gingerbread we had in Prague is a bit more cake-like than what I am used to but that didn’t stop me from eating half a bag!
The other Christmas market in Prague we went to was in the front of the Tyn Church in Prague’s Old Town. This market had it all. From the nativity scenes, to the singing children’s choir and the giant Christmas tree in the middle, it was a rather splendid market. It was here that we went to a wood carving store to buy a few take-home items…handcrafted wooden tree decorations, yes please!
Our next country was Austria. Vienna, not wanting to be outshone by Prague, has no less than nine Christmas markets throughout the city. We went to three of these “Christkindlmarkt” as they are called in Austria.
The market near St Stephen’s in the heart of the inner city was the closest to our hotel. It was the smallest one we visited, but a great spot to stop for a quick drink! The markets at the Schloss Schonnbrunn were also incredible and when we were there, were a great way to end our visit but I think my favourite Viennese market was at Rathusplatz, at the Vienna City Hall.
These markets were an endless line of collectables and cuisines, all located in cute little Christmas huts. We took a few rounds through the stores and had a couple Gluhwein’s. In most cases, if you buy a Gluhwein you have also paid the deposit for keeping the cup. When finished you can either return the cup for the deposit back or keep the cup as a great souvenir. Each mug we collected was different according to the market we visited.
Our last market experience was in Paris. We had hit the end of the market circuit by this time as the Christmas season was coming to a close but that didn’t stop us from enjoying one last Christmas market…and this time, under the Eiffel Tower. The Paris market was a bit more commercial than the previous markets we went to but at least here I finally tried a Chestnut. My verdict: I didn’t like them, but I have been told they are rather polarising with people so though I didn’t like them you make think they are fantastic.
The Christmas markets in Europe are a wondrous experience! Fun for all ages, these markets have everything to keep you entertained for hours and really bring people together to celebrate the Christmas season. Getting to experience a white Christmas wasn’t all that bad either!