The first year that I moved to the UK, I spent 11 days travelling around some of the best Christmas Market destinations in Europe. The whole idea of wintry markets filled with waffles, mulled wine and gifts was foreign to me- we just don't have that in tropical Queensland.
So, to help you plan your winter getaway here are my top 3 European Christmas Market destinations....
Ahh my beloved Munich. There isn't anything about this Bavarian city I don't love. The city is beautiful, diverse and utterly charming. The main hub for Christmas festivities is Marienplatz in the city centre. The Christmas Markets have their origins way back in the 14th century and offer traditional Bavarian food and German gifts. Bavaria is a hive for independent and expertly made original gifts including wood carvings from Oberammergau, gingerbread (lebkuchen) from Nuremberg and glassware from the Bavarian Forest. Once you've had your fill of mulled wine and shopping, Munich has a range of other attractions that make it the perfect weekender. I love the Nymphenberg Palace which I could quite happily live in, the famous Hofbrauhaus for its rowdy beer culture, and the beautiful Munich Residenz for its stunning Antiquarium.
This year, the markets start on the 27th of November and you can find further information here.
There is no denying that Lucerne really becomes a stunning city in the winter. Granted, it is beautiful in the summer too, but I get the feeling that winter is when it is at its best. Franziskanerplatz is where you will find the majority of its festive activities. Rows of stalls sell Christmas decorations, food, drinks and handcrafted gifts. While you're there, I highly recommend a cruise on the icy Lake Lucerne and a trip to the top of Mount Rigi. I still remember the feeling I had when I stood (freezing) atop this mountain and viewing the Alps. It was one of the most breathtakingly beautiful things I had ever seen in my life. The gondola ride back to the base of the mountain is for those who aren't afraid of heights, but well worth the white knuckle ride.
Lucerne's Christmas Markets start on the 4th of December and you can find more information here
Vienna does Christmas but on an epic scale. These were the first authentic Christmas Markets I'd ever seen and I felt like a kid in a candy factory. Vienna has at least four major Christmas Market locations across the city. My favourite were the markets at the Rathausplatz in front of the City Hall, but you can also try Schonbrunn Palace, the Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung and the markets at Marien-Theresein-Platz. Mulled wine, candied fruits, and roasted chestnuts are aplenty at all locations as well as traditional Viennese handcrafted gifts.
While you're in Vienna, I highly recommend a visit to Schonbrunn Palace and a romantic cruise on the Danube which runs through the city. So eager are the Austrians to get in the Christmas spirit that some markets are open from as early as the 15th of November. You can find a full list of market locations in Vienna here.
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