Christmas Markets

Understand

Christmas market in Erfurt

Summary and history

A Christmas market (also known as Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, and Weihnachtsmarkt) is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany, Austria, South Tyrol, North Italy and many French regions such as Alsace, Lorraine, Savoy, but are now being held in many other countries. The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe and in many parts of the former Holy Roman Empire that includes many areas that are now in the east of France and in Switzerland. Dresden's Strietzelmarkt was first held in 1434. The Christmas markets of Bautzen (first held in 1384), Frankfurt (first mentioned in 1393) and Munich (1310) were even older. The Vienna "December market" was a kind of forerunner of the Christmas market and dates back to 1294.

Prepare

As this is a winter activity in the northern hemisphere, dress warmly. Gloves are recommend when your hands are not round a nice warm mug of mulled wine. Especially for the "big" well known markets (e.g. those in Dresden, Nürnberg or Strasbourg) be prepared for crowds and try to find a way to get there that doesn't involve inner-city driving as the usually crowded streets of European inner cities can get unbearable during popular Christmas markets.

Buy

Christmas tree decorations. Wooden toys. Hand crafted candles and perhaps some cold-weather clothing. Some Christmas market have high quality handcrafted goods made in town or the surrounding areas, whereas other sell cheap knock off made in China kitsch. Sometimes you can get both at the same market or even the same stand. Caveat emptor!

Eat

Wurst, beer and Glühwein on sale at the Christmas Market on Breitscheidplatz, Berlin

Christmas markets in Germany generally have booths selling different kinds of sausages (Wurst) and sweets. Typical seasonal sweets are Stollen (especially in Dresden) or Lebkuchen (especially in Nürnberg) a type of sweet gingerbread. Another seasonal specialty sold at Christmas markets are Marroni the fruits of Castanea sativa (sweet Chestnuts) that are usually roasted over an open flame. Potato pancakes (Kartoffelpuffer) with apple sauce are also common.

Drink

Mulled wine (known as Glühwein, vin chaud, etc.) and other hot drinks like hot chocolate are commonly available. If you don't want to or can't drink alcohol there are usually non-alcoholic alternatives to mulled wine, such as "Kinderpunsch" (children's punch) be sure to ask whether there is alcohol in your drink or not. As the cups are often lavishly decorated and bear some sort of name or memory of the Christmas market, expect to pay a deposit of at least 5€. Often cups can be bought as well.

Do

Merry-go-round at the Christmas Market at Alexanderplatz, Berlin

Temporary ice rinks with skates available for hire are getting more and more common on Christmas markets throughout Germany. They are often financed by local government or private sponsors and use is usually free of charge, but you may be charged for renting skates. Cities that have these include Dresden, Erlangen and Munich. Some Christmas Markets also have merry-go-rounds or other types of carnival rides.

Stay safe

As these events are crowded and you tend to be squeezing past and being knocked by other people on a regular basis, Christmas markets tend to be active places for pickpockets.

Remember that mulled wine can be of high alcohol content, and never drink and drive. Many places have increased police stop and check actions during this period.

In cold weather the floor can get slippery, which is exacerbated by Christmas Markets often being held in historic neighborhoods that have a lot of cobblestones, so be careful if you aren't accustomed to that.

Cities known for Christmas markets

With very few exceptions all Christmas markets are open until the morning hours of December 24. The first day they open is usually on the last November weekend or one of the first days in December.

Europe

Germany

France

Austria

Czech Republic

Estonia

Tallinn's Christmas market

Sweden

England

Italy

North America

Some North American cities also have seasonal markets for the Christmas season, including a special market on the southern end of Union Square in Manhattan, New York City.

United States

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, February 06, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.