Celebrate the festive season with authentic Old World charm at a European Christmas market.
Originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of AAA Traveler.
Photo Credit: iStock
Many European Christmas markets—like Munich’s historic Wittelsbacherplatz and Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt—date back to the Middle Ages. Surrounded by your choice of picturesque winter backdrop—a fairy-tale castle in Austria, the fetching town squares of Germany or the towering Gothic cathedral and medieval streets of Strasbourg, France—immerse yourself in the wonder of the holidays at one of the continent’s bright, cheery and cinnamon-scented holiday scenes.
Toffee apples in a market stall
Photo Credit: iStock
Stroll cozy rows of stalls that are covered in twinkling lights and sell colorful wooden crafts and beautiful handmade ornaments. Catch the sounds of traditional music, like crooning children’s choirs, in the crisp air. All of this is best enjoyed while noshing on local food and sipping spiced—and spiked—warm drinks. Grab a Glühwein (warm mulled wine) in Dresden and cheer on the Stollenmädchen, the “fruitcake maiden,” as she leads a four-ton Christmas stollen through the city to the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid.
Planning Your Trip
In November and December, Christmas markets light up the Continent. You can choose from a range of rail journeys, river cruises and tours to see a number of these magical marketplaces within a short time frame. Most European Christmas markets open in late November and run through early January. For the ultimate journey into holiday enchantment, board a Danube river cruise from Budapest to Vienna and Nuremberg, or take a train or a drive that hugs the Rhine from Strasbourg to Basel and on to Zürich. Once you’ve decided on your means of transportation, you’ll be ready to set off and get in the holiday spirit.
Classic European train journeys are favorites among AAA Members. By rail, the snow-covered peaks of the Alps set the tone for days filled with winter festivities. There’s nothing like spending the day in a bustling Christmas market filled with vendor stalls, which emit tantalizing smells and exude holiday cheer, then retreating at the end of the day to the warmth of your train car, which welcomes you back to rekindle your energy for the unique Christmas events at the next day’s stop.