As December is upon us, hundreds of cities around the world come to life with stalls and markets, each celebrating the Christmas season with their own unique and traditional twists on the classic stories of generations past. This list is a compilation of those Christmas markets renowned for their ability to amaze, intrigue and leave an everlasting impression of Christmas in your mind.
The Striezelmarkt, or Dresden Christmas markets to make it easier to say, is the oldest Christmas market on this list and can be traced back to 1434. Since this time it has exponentially grown to become a sprawling metropolis of eleven vastly different Christmas market areas.
However, each festive area somehow still manages to maintain the deep-seated feeling of folklore and tradition as the fourteen metre high Christmas pyramid towers over the town square.
For added charm Dresden sports a number of authentic festivals during the market season. The most famous of which sees a giant stollen cake carried around the market stalls and is sliced and distributed ceremoniously through the streets.
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Referred to by many as the capitol of Christmas, the Strasbourg markets host over three hundred chalets and attracts the best part of two million visitors each year. With the back drop of Strasbourg’s towering cathedral half-timber houses line the streets and multi-coloured hearts, stars and snowflakes framing the stalls create a welcoming warmth for all.
With this, the ‘sharing village’ allows for the opportunity to enjoy a much slower pace as concerts, ice rinks and towering Christmas trees permit you to delve deeper in to the history of a market 400 years in the making.
There are many reasons Strasbourg has maintained the title of best Christmas market in Europe for the last two years, why not go and explore them for yourself?
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At a mere 14 years of age Birmingham’s Christmas market is the most modern on this list. However, this means little to nothing when comparing the figures. With up to five million visitors recorded and almost two hundred stalls the ‘Frankfurt Christmas market and craft fair’ is definitely worth a visit. As the largest German Christmas market outside of Germany and Austria it hosts foods, drinks and traditions of those countries. This market is a favourite for those who want to visit the Christmas markets without the expense of transport through Europe and a price of a hotel in the Christmas capitols.
Birmingham offers a delicate twist on other Christmas markets as it has yet to find its self a niche within this vastly German and Austrian dominated tradition. On the other hand, is does provide and excellent chance to combine a night at the Christmas markets with a day spent shopping in UK’s second largest city.
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Set in the heart of the Alps Innsbruck offers a romanticised version of the traditional Christmas market. As a town draped in history Innsbruck maintains the majority of its medieval features and beautiful green surroundings. Combining this with a Christmas market results in a spectacular mix of tradition and modernity.
One hundred and eighty stalls can be found amongst the six separate market grounds around the city. This market is fully family friendly and each one of the areas all have a distinctive spin on traditional foods, ales and crafts. With this there are over four hundred exhibitions and concerts that take place including puppet shows, petting zoos, fine cuisine and live music.
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One of only a few Christmas markets in Poland Krakow offers the spectacular architecture and cold weather associated with the Christmas season. The market is situated in the city’s huge central square and prioritises space for traditional artisans, local bakers and chefs to come forward and present their goods on the stalls that fill the square. The organisers of the market place a higher importance on traditional crafts and authentic foods which means that those looking for the latest technology may be slightly disappointed.
Although the Krakow Christmas market isn’t as large and high tech as other Christmas markets it does have one thing none of the others do. Krakow has a high certainty of snow during the Christmas period and once this is combined with the backdrop of polish architecture the Krakow markets become a magical place filled with a historical aura and an ambience of tradition and culture.
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Vörösmarty square in Budapest plays host to more than one hundred plus wooden kiosks during its Christmas market period. Budapest inherently places its focus on high quality local craft and artwork. Handmade tree decorations, small presents and stocking fillers are sold alongside larger woollen and wrought iron products made by local artists.
This Christmas market is also deeply influenced by Hungarian folklore and tradition with dances and orchestral performances periodically being displayed. Furthermore, the centre of Vörösmarty square is transformed in to a large ice rink which is available for any age to use throughout their visit to the market.
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Large, towering lights and dazzling decorations frame Madrid’s Plaza Mayor. The huge square located in Madrid has accommodated all 104 log cabins belonging to the world famous market for the past one hundred years and never fails to draw crowds of both tourists and locals.
The combination of handmade goods and seasonal ornaments are scattered throughout the market amongst the numerous delicately designed nativity scenes and venders offering both locally and seasonally inspired food and beverages. For those attracted to the traditional arts, there are over two hundred workshops included in the festival ranging from potters, weavers to carvers and glass blowers.
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Following the works of popular Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson, Copenhagen’s Christmas markets follow a make believe, fairy tale theme and are set in the era of the famous writers life. Based at certain areas around the city, Copenhagen spreads it celebrations around both the natural and artificial features within its city boundaries. Several of the cities gardens are converted in to ice rinks and market areas while the canal is transformed in to a traditionally Danish experience serving authentic drinks and treats.
Following the cities Christmas celebrations the merriments continue and in mid-January Danish Vikings gather to toast the gods. This is combined with feasts and parties, steeped in tradition and open to all visitors.
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