Why We Love a Good Christmas Market

We love Christmas markets! 

The festivities, the food, the comraderie, the glühwein – put it all together and we’ve got ourselves a great way to ring in the season!

But really — you ask — how different can they be? Surely one Christmas market is the same as the next? 

Our reply? Not by a loooooooong shot! CONTINUE READING >>

The GypsyNesters love Christmas Markets! Let us show you the best ones in the world!

We love Christmas markets!

The festivities, the food, the comraderie, the glühwein – put it all together and we’ve got ourselves a great way to ring in the season!

But really — you ask — how different can they be? Surely one Christmas market is the same as the next?

Our reply? Not by a loooooooong shot!

Vienna, Austria

The Christmas Market in Vienna Austria

Arguably the oldest of the markets, the Vienna December advent market was the predecessor to the modern Christkindlmarkets, or Christ child markets, and is said to have started way back in 1294. The idea spread across the Holy Roman Empire, and they remain most popular in the German-speaking regions of Europe.

Hand blown glass ornaments at the Christmas Market in Vienna

As with most of the cities we have visited there are several markets scattered about town, but the Wiener Christkindlmarkt in the Rathausplatz, the plaza in front of the town hall, is the city’s main market.

We were thrilled to wander through the descendant of the world’s first.

Sausages in Vienna's Christmas marke

Selling gluhwien at Vienna's Christmas Market

Local delicacies are a big part of experiencing the markets, so of course we had to sample some from the selection of sausages, (that makes them Vienna sausages, right?) and a steaming cup of mulled wine known as glühwein.

The name is said to come from a glowing hot iron used to warm the wine, or maybe it’s because this staple at the markets really hits the spot when it comes to keeping the shoppers warm and glowing.

See more photos of the Vienna Christmas Market!

See our entire adventure in Vienna

Salzburg, Austria

The Salzburg Christmas Market in Austria

While not the oldest, like its Austrian neighbor, Salzburg has perhaps the biggest and best Christmas market we’ve visited in the country.

Food and drink are certainly available, but this market has much more to offer in the way of local crafts and unique gift items.

Mozart Chocolates in Salzburg, Austria

In addition to Salzburg's famous Mozart chocolates we bought a gewürzstrauss, a traditional spice bouquet that makes anyplace smell like Christmas

In addition to the city’s famous Mozart chocolates, we bought a gewürzstrauss, the traditional spice bouquet that makes anyplace smell like Christmas. 

 

 

See our entire adventure in Salzburg!

 

Passau, Germany

The Passau, Germany Christmas Markiet

In Germany we visited the Passau Christmas market at the square in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a baroque church from 1688.

Here we discovered something new and truly inspired, the half-meter würst.

The infamous half metre wurst in Passau Germany

Wow, that’s nearly two feet of sausage!

Did we (meaning David) die and go to heaven?

Unfortunately we had just eaten a huge lunch, so we had no place to put half a meter of würstle.

The half meter wurst selfie of Passau Germany

That minor detail was easily overcome when Sausage Boy devised a würst-case scenario, and snuck his way back a little later to partake of the best of the würst, or at least the biggest.

Sometimes he can be his own würst enemy.

The quest culminated in a legendary half-meter-würst selfie.

See more photos of the Passau Christmas Market and the full story of the infamous würst!

See our entire adventure in Passau!

Bratislava, Slovakia

The Christmas Market in front of Old Town Hall in Bratislava, Slovakia

The Hlavne namestie, main square, is filled with booths, mostly selling food and drink, and tables under small shelters where the purchases can be enjoyed

While the markets are most common in the German speaking world, we also found a fun example in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The Hlavne namestie, or main square, was filled with vendors, mostly selling food and drink, and tables under small shelters where the purchases could be enjoyed.

A very social situation and we were more than happy to jump into the middle of it.

We also gave zemiakové placky with cheese a try. This is a pancake made of shredded potatoes, crisp on the outside and chewy within, covered in a layer of tangy white sheep cheese.

We gave zemiakové placky with cheese a try. This is a pancake made of shredded potatoes — crisp on the outside and chewy within — covered in a layer of mild, yet tangy white sheep cheese.

We gave it two gloved thumbs up, very tasty and stick-to-your-ribs on a chilly December evening.

Mulled wine at the Christmas Market in Bratislava, Slovakia

Nearly everyone warmed themselves with varene vino, the local version of mulled wine, but in a twist we hadn’t seen before, hot white wine seemed just as popular as the red.

After giving this regional variety a try, our verdict was that while delicious, it lacked the superior cockle-warming qualities of the red. But the fact that we made our purchase from a vino vender named “The Flinstones” more than made up for it.

Yaba-daba-do (we think)!?!

See more photos of the Bratislava Christmas Market!

See our entire adventure in Bratislava

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest's Christmas Market

Budapest Christmas Market

In Budapest, food also stole the spotlight.

On the Pest side of the city we checked out the main Christmas market, a large collection of stands and kiosks all decked out in holiday style.

While there were plenty of booths selling handcrafted gifts, food — lots of food — was certainly the main event.

Food at the Christmas Market in Budapest, Hungary

töltött káposzta, cabbage stuffed with meat and rice and served with a paprika sauce and sour cream. Exceedingly Hungarian! We also couldn't resist a huge smoked meat dumpling with sauerkraut.

After scouting out all the offerings we ordered a töltött káposzta, that’s cabbage stuffed with meat and rice, served with a paprika sauce and sour cream.

Exceedingly Hungarian!

We also couldn’t resist a huge smoked meat dumpling with sauerkraut.

Veronica drinks a cup of steaming hot Glühwein to warm our body and soul

To wash it all down, and to stay warm too, we tried the Hungarian version of glühwein, which is called forralt bor, meaning simply “boiled wine.”

 

See more photos of Budapest’s bustling Christmas Market!

 

See our entire adventure in Budapest

 

 

Oslo, Norway

The Julemarked in Oslo, Norway

Ringnes Juleol or Christmas Beer in Oslo, Norway
Juleol or Christmas Beer

On our recent crazy romp across Norway up to the Arctic Circle by train, we found the Scandinavian equivalent to a Christkindlmarkt, a Julmarked, in Oslo.

The Jul, or Yule, celebration predates Christianity but, since it coincides with Christmas, the two have become intertwined.

Elgburgers at the Julmarked in Oslo, Norway

The Norwegian market was very similar to the others we’d seen, with the exception of the preponderance of elk and reindeer based products.

Plus, what they were calling elk, or more precisely elg, sure looked like moose to us, and we all know they don’t really exist.

Flying reindeer, sure, but moose?

No way.

 

See all of our adventures in Norway!

 

Helen, Georgia

Horse drawn carriage in Helen, Georgia

While these European markets all have long histories behind them, the custom has spread far and wide.

Christmas markets are even becoming commonplace throughout the United States.

In fact, the first one we ever visited was a few years ago in the mountains of northern Georgia at the town of Helen.

Christmas decorations in Helen, Georgia

Their Christkindlmarkt is in keeping with the town’s reincarnation as an alpine Bavarian village.

It was only natural that this nearly perfect reproduction of a German town would also feature this seasonal tradition.

See our entire adventure in Helen, Georgia

New York City

New York City also hosts a number of Christmas markets throughout the city. Two of the biggest and most popular are the Winter Village at Bryant Park, and the Union Square Holiday Market.

The Winter Village Christmas Market at Bryant Park in NYC

The Winter Village Christmas Market at Bryant Park in NYC

Surrounded by soaring skyscrapers, Bryant Park’s Winter Village began in 2002.

Booths offer NYCcentric wares and food (we saw everything from chimney cakes to sushi), and in lieu of glühwein, New York apple cider is standard fare.

Bryant Park boasts a huge Christmas tree and a full-sized ice skating rink that’s twice as big as the rink at Rockefeller Center — and it’s free to skate!

The Union Square Holiday Market in NYC

The Union Square Holiday Market may not be quite as spectacular, but it struck us as more traditional.

A veritable maze of tents are set up offering all kinds of gifts and goodies that are sure to put even the Ginchiest Grinch in the spirit of the season.

The Union Square Holiday Market in New York City

See 10 things you don’t know about NYC!

See all of our adventures in New York!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Are you game to give a Christmas market a go? Have you been to a Christkindlmarkt? Tell us all about it below!

24 thoughts on “Why We Love a Good Christmas Market”

  1. Looks like you’ve been to some amazing markets in some beautiful settings! So much fantastic and tempting food that I’d be eating my way through the markets and all their gorgeous, delicious goodies as well as sipping a little mulled wine!

  2. Wow – you have serious Christmas Market credentials! I was at the one in Vienna, Budapest and the one in Passau this year too (as well as several others). They really are charming but I don’t think I’ll ever eat another piece of sausage again! The picture of the Bratislava market really is beautiful!

  3. I don’t know where I want to go first! I have been reading a great deal about the Christmas Markets in Europe – yours was my favorite! I think I need to back to Salzburg in the winter! All of the photos really capture the splendor of the holidays!

  4. I’ve already read your wurst blog post. David’s wurst selfie really is, well, the wurst. I’ve never been to a Christmas Market in Europe. Dr. Excitement usually has to be a “real” doctor in December, but guess what? Philadelphia has a Christmas Market. Some of the food definitely has a German theme. Philly is way too Quaker to allow temporary food stalls to sell alcohol, but you can find a nutella puff to warm your innards.

  5. Lots of great eating and drinking going on in this Christmas Market post! I’d love some of that töltött káposzta, it looks like holubsti that we’d eat in Ukraine. Just add some glühwein and life is perfect.

  6. The moral of the Christmas markets I think is to not eat all day so you can really take advantage of all the divine food. What a great rundown of markets. The only one I have ever been to was in a small town in Switzerland and even it was memorable.

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