I knowwwww Christmas is over, but it’s never to early to start planning for Christmas 2019. Right??
At least a small part of you knows I’m right. And that part of you needs to consider visiting at least one Christmas market in Europe this year. At least one. Preferably more. Definitely more. Trust me.
When a $434 roundtrip flight to Brussels popped up in my inbox (thanks to my flight searching guru teammates at 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. 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!
Okay, so what’s reeeeally so cool about Christmas markets?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Check the dates and times for the markets in the city or cities you visit. 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?