European Christmas Markets
-By Diana Maiola
Millions of people annually flock to the famous Christmas Markets held in many towns and cities in Europe. In early times, the markets were a way to bring color, interaction and a bit of cheer to the townspeople. Although these markets originated in Germany in the late middle ages, they can also be found in, but are not limited to Switzerland, Austria, England, France, Spain and Hungary. Thanks to German immigrants, these festive markets were introduced to the United States. Typically, the markets open in late November and continue until right after December 25th. Some, also stay open for New Year’s.
Typically held in the main square or thoroughfare of the town, the markets offer hand-made seasonal items that make wonderful gifts for friends and family. Singing, dancing, local food and drink are also a part of these festive markets. The two largest Christmas markets are both found in Germany in the cities of Dortmund and Cologne. Dortmund boasts 300 stalls, an enormous Christmas tree that is close to 150 feet tall and attracts more than 3 and a half million visitors. Cologne attracts 4 million people and is proud to host this event each year.
The Vienna Christmas World Market which takes place on the Rathausplatz very near to Vienna’s historic city hall is considered to be the largest market. In addition to handicrafts, ornaments, amazing food and drink, there is an advent theme park with workshops and cultural performances. Visitors can also ice skate on a 32,000 square foot ice rink!! What a beautiful way to create memories with children, family and friends!
My personal experience with a Christmas market was in Budapest, Hungary. It was very well organized and spotless clean. The atmosphere was lively and energetic and the decorations were done in a very striking way. I found the items for sale to be of excellent quality and unique. The food being served was also amazing. There was no shortage of stuffed cabbage, goulash, grilled meats and sausages, flat bread baked in a clay oven and delicious strudels. One of my favorites was the mulled wine. It was served piping hot and with the cold temperatures outside it was perfect for warming up. After a lifetime of a Mediterranean diet, it was loads of fun for me to come home and try to make my own goulash with the incredible paprikas that I found at the markets. I have to say, it was pretty good!!
If you ever have the chance to visit a Christmas market or two, they are well worth it.