The four weeks leading up to Christmas, usually referred to as advent season, are also the four weeks where thousands of holiday markets pop up through out Europe and America. The Italian version of driving around and seeing Christmas lights is strolling the city streets with your head up, admiring the thousands of strands of lights and lanterns artfully hung overhead the piazzas, full of crowds of people shopping for gifts.

These markets are filled with booths selling with handcrafted goods, from intricate painted ornaments to ornate embroidered stockings. Next to them are vendors selling traditional pastries like cinnamon Chimney cake (Hungary), or fruitcake (Germany).  European holiday markets are the perfect place where the spirit of the season comes to life with the help of traditions that are centuries old. For each country, every market brings about the holiday cheer in a unique and different way.

One of the best and most popular of Europe’s Christmas markets is in Vienna, Austria. Crowds of people come from all over the world to experience what feels like a winter wonderland. All of the town’s most famous squares are converted into tiny little Christmas villages. In one of the squares, Rathausplatz, visitors have the opportunity to try hot brandied punch, and on the other hand in Freyung square, crowds of people gather to see all of the homemade ceramics. 

 

Photo Credit: Czech-transport

 

When it comes to Christmas in Copenhagen, we’re talking about Christmas lights. Imagine Tivoli Gardens, a garden known for it’s historic amusement park rides, decked out in strands of Christmas lights measured out to the equivalent of four miles. Here, visitors can even visit Father Christmas, and follow that up with a sampling of glögg, or also known as spiced wine with almonds and raisins. 

 

Photo Credit: CNN

 

It is hard to narrow down the list of top Christmas markets because there truly are so many beautiful ones to see and experience, but when talking about these holiday fairs, one simply can not go without highlighting Prague, Czech Republic. The vanocni trh, or Christmas market, takes place in the old town square which is set up around a big lit up Christmas tree. Guests can come here to visit a manger scene accompanied by a real live petting zoo. 

 

Prague-Christmas-marketsPhoto Credit: Bohemia Apartments

 

The list could go on and on, but one thing is for sure: These markets are a great way to spread holiday cheer and are a once in a lifetime experience. If you ever get a chance to visit one them, be sure to take in all of the traditional stalls offering so many brightly colored artisanal crafts, and it’s a must to try of the elaborate sweets and treats. Visitors will go home with full pockets and full stomachs every time. 

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