European Christmas Markets
I have always wanted to experience a European Christmas market, and how lucky for us that we chose to be in Europe for 2 months right before Christmas.
A Christmas market is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the 4 weeks of advent. Every city, town and village take part in the celebration. These markets originated in Germany, Austria, Tyrol region, northern Italy and the Alsace region of France. The earliest record of a Christmas market dates back to 1294 in Vienna. But now the markets are such a huge hit that they have spread throughout most of Europe.
They are usually setup in the town square, sometimes streets are closed. The markets sell everything from baked goods, chocolate, cheese, wine, candy, crafts, goods, wooden toys, candles, star lights, crafts… just too many things to name. There are tasty samples of various items and the famous dishes such as choucroute, sausages, crepes, Christmas cake & cookies are plentiful. The air is filled with the smell of hot mulled wine and people cheerfully walking the streets with drink in hand & happily stuffing their faces. The whole ambience just put me into a Charles Dickens scene especially since these towns are so old & medieval.
Strasbourg, France has one of the biggest markets in Europe and we were lucky enough to be there for the opening ceremony which includes the giant tree lighting.
Each street in the entire old center of town is uniquely decorated and lit up. The photo below has real chandeliers hanging along the entire length of the street. The mood was extremely festive and cheerful and the streets were jam packed with people admiring the decorations and lighting.
The other special location and one of the reasons why we chose to stay there was the small town of Gengenbach. Our apartment was just on the outskirts of town but Gengenbach was our town where we got groceries and went out for coffee’s or drinks.
Gengenbach is the proud owner of the world’s biggest advent calendar. The 24 windows of the 18th century town hall represent the 24 “windows” of an Advent calendar. Each evening 1 random window is opened and the theme is revealed. We were there for only 9 window openings but we got to experience this festive event and be a part of the local life.
The opening celebration night was jammed packed with people. You could hardly move around.
We lost count of how many Christmas markets we visited in France and Germany during those couple of months, but each was somewhat unique & yet the same in their own way.