What is a European Christmas Market?

Maybe you’ve heard people talk about going to a Christmas Market in their European travels, but you’ve not had the pleasure of attending one yourself.

Have you wondered what they are all about?

The markets themselves are a Christmas themed street market that is typically held in the city centres of cities in Germany, Austria, the Alsace region of France, and the South Tyrol region of northern Italy. The first official Christmas Market was held in Dresden Germany in 1434. The market in Vienna can trace its history back to 1294, but it wasn’t so much a Christmas Market as a December Market that became a Christmas market in later years. Other key market cities include the German cities of Dortmund, Nuremberg, Dresden, Stuttgart, Augsburg and Hamburg.

The markets are defined by a large number of stalls tightly packed into a city square or open area. The stalls are selling all sorts of things ranging from Christmas themed trinkets to food and drink. There are several things you can find in almost every market including the famous Glühwein, a hot mulled wine drink that most people love. Other traditional features include:

- Lebkuchen, a soft gingerbread cookie

- Gebrannte Mandeln, roasted and then candied almonds

- Zwetschgamännla, little figurines made from dried plums

- Handmade toys and Christmas tree decorations

The markets are all about meeting up with people, enjoying the outdoors, shopping for silly trinkets and handmade gifts, and drinking Glühwein (with an extra shot of brandy). They are really an enjoyable event in a wonderful time of year, and you definitely have to experience it at least once, if not every year.

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