Best Things About European Christmas Markets

It may not be Christmas when you’re reading this, but it’s never a bad time to talk European Christmas markets.

When a $434 roundtrip flight to Brussels popped up in my inbox (thanks to Scott’s Cheap Flights) I could not pass it up. Initially, (to save up more moolah) I wanted to book the latest possible cheap dates—which were in January—but then I thought about Christmas. Well, pre-Christmas. Christmas lights and Christmas markets. And what’s one less month?

So, I booked a roundtrip from Tampa to BRU for December 1 – 8, 2018. And I did it for the Christmas magic.

It’s not my travel style to stay in the same city for an entire week. I can cram a LOT into a day and try to see as much as humanly possible when I’m across the pond. It was no different on this trip. How many Christmas markets could I visit?

While I missed some of the biggest and best—Prague, Munich, Copenhagen, Strasbourg—I wasn’t disappointed with the ones I did experience in Brussels, Luxembourg, and Paris!

What’s so great about Christmas markets in Europe?

Picture this.

Historic city streets strung with lights. Clusters of chalet-like booths housing the most alluring food and craft vendors. Christmas music echoing across the crisp, open air. Carnival rides. Clusters of evergreen trees. Cozy crowds sipping mugs of steaming mulled wine.

Have I convinced you yet?

Since I can’t read your minds, I’m gonna try harder.

Christmas Market Food

Let’s talk about those food vendors. Simply walking past each booth is a sensory explosion for the eyes, nose, and in some cases taste buds! Fancy Belgian chocolates. Mounds of colorful candy. Festive cakes and cookies. Vats of hearty comfort foods. Meats and seafood prepared any way you can possibly imagine. Thick sandwiches. Freshly baked pretzels. Platters of sausages. This ain’t your typical fair fare. This is street food at its finest.

Smoked salmon hanging at a Christmas market
Smoked salmon (Luxembourg)
Styrofoam bowl of mushrooms on a paper plate with bread , salmon, and plastic cutlery
Smoked salmon & marinated mushrooms (Brussels)
Display case of chocolate covered pears decorated like animals
Chocolate covered pear (Luxembourg)
Bins of candy at a Christmas market
Alllll the candies (Brussels)

Christmas Market Souvenirs

Naturally, there were loads of handmade Christmas ornaments and décor. Everywhere. And jewelry. All the jewelry. Oh gosh. What else? Ceramic wares, wooden crafts, woven bags, toys, kitchen gadgets, t-shirts, some things handmade, some not, but all worth a look-see. Who needs the mall when you can get your Christmas shopping done at a European Christmas market??

Christmas market in Luxembourg
Rustic chalet booths (Luxembourg)
Cookie cutter shaped like an arrow
The most ME cookie cutter (Luxembourg)

Christmas Market Lights

Christmas markets are a must any time of day—but the magic really happens after dark. Once the lights come on, it’s full-on wonderland. Twinkle lights strung everywhere. Carnival rides in neon splendor. Every booth lit up in glowy welcome. It’s the sort of scene that makes you feel like a kid again.

Lighted sign that reads "Winter Lights Luxembourg" in front of a tall lighted Christmas tree
Lighted Christmas market at night
Market on the fortress (Luxembourg)

People Watching at Christmas Markets

The best time to people watch is during the holidays. And, guess what? At the markets, you can almost feel the good cheer in the air—with none of the hustle and stress you see at the malls in the U.S. Nope. People at Christmas markets are living their best Christmas lives.

People at a Christmas market at night
Brussels

Tips for Visiting Christmas Markets in Europe

Check Christmas market dates and times

Be sure to do this for all the markets in the city or cities you visit, and remember that some cities have multiple markets. Not all markets are open all month long. And, some are open during the day and some aren’t. For example, in Paris, a few markets were open while I was there the first week of December, but the main two (by the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame) weren’t scheduled to open till mid-December. Also, at least one of the markets in Paris was open during the day, but in Brussels, the vendors didn’t really set up shop till later in the day.

Bring cash

Some vendors do take credit cards, but not all. Don’t miss out on something you reeeeeeally want to eat or buy because you don’t have enough Euros on hand.

Dress for the weather

Though there may be some covered areas, the markets are essentially outdoors. Hat, gloves, umbrella if it rains. Be prepared.

Visit more than one!

No two markets are exactly alike. Larger European cities may even have more than one market, so check ‘em all out. And, keep in mind that Europe is small compared to the U.S. You can country or city hop with relative ease—and variety is the spice of, uhhhhhh, Christmas. That’s how the saying goes, right?

Have you experienced any of Europe’s Christmas markets?

One thought on “Best Things About European Christmas Markets

  1. Pingback: My Favorite Souvenirs – adventure and the girl

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