Looking for Authentic Places. Best Small Christmas Markets of Europe

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Christmas season in Europe has officially started. Hundreds of markets, catering to every taste and every wallet, fill the Old World. This year we offer a look behind the curtain of the tourist industry and travel to the towns and villages where the Christmas markets are held for locals and the Christmas spirit is celebrated with something beyond hard currency in mind.

Christmas market in Goslar

November 26 – December 20

Goslar, Germany

The small town of Goslar is located in Lower Saxony at the foot of the Harz mountain range. The magnificent medieval architecture and breathtaking mountain scenery invite guests into a fairytale atmosphere. Especially in winter. Christmas celebrations are held on the town’s market square (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the history of which goes back to 1039. The first markets here started back in imperial times. Nowadays, during the winter holidays, seventy whimsically decorated stalls arranged in the shape of a star are placed there. You can buy the whole traditional Christmas set: from postcards to mulled wine with ginger biscuits. On Christmas Eve a Christmas forest grows here – dozens of spruce with special lighting and thousands of lights. In the evenings local musicians roam the square, playing their guitars with frozen fingers. In Goslar you can also ride an old, decorated steam train that slips over the snow-covered Harz Mountains every evening. Hanover is the closest city to Goslar, about 90 km away. One of the biggest Christmas markets is held in Hanover.

Culinary Christmas market

November 7 – December 21

Birgitz, Austria 

Another fine example of beauty in a mountain setting is Birgitz commune, located near Innsbruck, in the picturesque region of the Austrian Tyrol. Birgitz hosts a relatively small Christmas market primarily oriented to local gastronomy. By the way, the culinary traditions of Tirol go back many centuries. Pork in all its shapes and forms, schnitzels (well, what is Austria without them?), strudels, fermented cheeses, traditional knödel with meat or vegetable filling – all this can be enjoyed during the market in Birgitz at relatively low cost. Of course, there are also Christmas goods that are traditional all over Europe. Well, mulled wine and punch flow like water, as elsewhere. The zoo is opened during the market just for children. We also note that one of the most beautiful Austrian Christmas markets – the Innsbruck market – is only 10 km away from Birgitz.

Land of the Christmas trees

November 28 – December 21

Kaysersberg, France

The Kaysersberg municipality is located in northeastern France, in the Alsace region. Kaysersberg was built in the XIII century; once you get there you fully feel the spirit of the medieval France of the period when the Capetian dynasty came to an end. The French claim that Kaysersberg was the place where the first Christmas tree bargain in history was documented, in 1521. The locals are truly proud of it and offer the most beautiful Christmas trees for decoration. Another main feature of Kaysersberg market is that, like the municipality itself, it’s hidden from the eyes of tourists. Therefore, the prices there are much more reasonable, and the products for the average European consumer don’t dazzle and don’t overwhelm. So, for a trip to the Christmas holiday in its native French incarnation – Kaysersberg is a great choice! By the way, if you want all-European flavour after the traditional French flavor of Kaysersberg, Strasbourg is just 65 km away from here. It was the Strasbourg Christmas market that was acknowledged as the best Christmas market in Europe last year.

North Bohemian Christmas market

December 13

Jilemnice, Czech Republic

The town of Jilemnice is located in the extreme north of the Czech Republic, in the Giant Mountains. One of the first Czech markets was held in Jilemnice. It is believed that the tradition of organising markets in the town square dates back more than 500 years. From documents of Rudolf II dated 1596, it is known that the town was allowed to hold markets on Mondays no more than three times a year. The first documented market in Jilemnice was dedicated to the celebration of Easter. We don’t know when the first public celebration of Christmas took place in Jilemnice. In the modern era, we know that Christmas markets resumed here in 1996. The celebration features a rich cultural program – games, dances, songs, jokes – all of these being typical of festivities in the Krkonošsky style. Products sold at the market are primarily local, ranging from wool socks and wooden utensils, to local cuisine and Krkonoše mead. Note that unlike all the other markets, the market in Jilemnice only lasts one day. Jilemnice is about 120 km from the capital of the Czech Republic at Prague.

Polish Christmas traditions

January 9 – 24

Walbrzych, Poland

Polish Walbrzych is a medieval town located in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship. Before the Second World War it was known by the German name of Waldenburg. In the town there is a very beautiful central square – Rynek in Polish – which is the centre of Christmas celebrations. As the locals say, the city is divided into “before / after Christmas” and “Christmas time.” In December, in the square around the fountain, they set dozens of wooden stalls that sell handmade Christmas decorations, homemade food, local honey, and a variety of local artists’ handmade goods. In the evenings on the square Christmas carols are sung, musicians play their instruments, and roving performers act. Poles are very religious, so Christmas events in this country are imbued with a special spirit. The closest large city to Walbrzych is Wroclaw, about 80 km away.

 

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