Winter holidays in Europe are often associated with the spectacular Christmas markets. Stop by Berlin for complete immersion in a city with dozens of markets, opt for a family-oriented experience in Brussel’s or try out the local food in Budapest. Take advantage of the Eurail Off Peak promotion this season and travel by train to the various markets across Europe. Here are 10 holiday markets in 10 different cities in Europe that are definitely worth a visit. You’ll quickly see it’s easy to find yourself spellbound by the magical spirit of the holiday season.
1. Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – Berlin, Germany
Germany is the clear front runner in terms of Christmas markets, if only for the sheer number of markets it hosts every year. Berlin alone has over 50 markets to choose from, among which, the one located at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is perhaps the biggest and most popular with around 2 million visitors each year. You’ll find decorations, ornaments, accessories and toys on site, ensuring you find the right present for all your loved ones. Also, try the food and refreshments, with a range that includes cocoa, mulled wine, glazed fruits and grilled sausages.
Dates: Nov 25 – Jan 1
2. Tivoli Gardens – Copenhagen, Denmark
Tivoli Gardens is the oldest amusement park in Europe and was the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s dreamy Disneyland. Copenhagen’s charming playground is an enchanting place to see anytime of the year and even more so during the holidays when the famous amusement park is decorated with thousands of glittering lights and welcomes visitors for its traditional Christmas market. Make sure you try a sip or two of glögg, a Nordic version of mulled wine, while you watch the kids enjoying themselves on the Merry Go Round.
Dates: Nov 15 – Dec 30
3. Rathausplatz – Vienna, Austria
There are a number of markets in Vienna where you can warm up to a hot and comforting cup of glühwein, but a favorite among visitors is the one at Rathausplatz. It’s the biggest market in Vienna and with City Hall in the background, every photos you take are fantastic shots. You’ll find baked goodies such as roasted chestnuts, spicy gingerbread, and crafted goods on sale, as well as beeswax candles, wood carved toys, leather accessories, woolen hats, hand-blown glass, jewelery and all sorts of gift-worthy items.
Dates: Nov 16 – Dec 24
4.Winter Wonders – Brussels, Belgium
Imagine over 18,000 lights, a market that stretches to almost 2 kilometers, over 240 shops & kiosks and throw in a vast skating rink for good measure. What you end up with is Plaisirs d’hiver – Brussels’ take on the Christmas market. Extending along the streets from Grand’Place to place Ste-Catherine, the market gives you plenty to see and is best experienced with the whole family as the joyous atmosphere lends itself nicely to bringing the kids along. The rink, the roller coasters, the toboggan slope, the ferris wheel and the international flavors will be more than enough to grab the little ones attention and make for a memorable evening.
Dates: Nov 29 – Jan 5
5. Fira de Santa Llucia – Barcelona, Spain
It’s unlikely you’ll encounter a drop of snow in Barcelona, but you will experience a stylish celebration in typical Spanish fashion, complete with traditional Catalan decorations, gifts and delicacies. Fira de Santa Llucia is one of the dedicated places where you can find small versions of the Caga Tio, a smiling log that stores presents. Kids must hit the log with a stick to expose the hidden goodies. One more item you’re sure to find are Nativity scenes in all shapes and sizes as it plays an important role in Catalan traditions.
Dates: Nov 30 – Dec 23
6. Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square – Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is one of the most enchanting places during the winter holidays. The beautifully decorated town boasts two extremely popular markets located at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, about a five minute walk apart from each other. The markets are famous for the delightful music sang by choirs from all over the country. You’ll find plenty of traditional dishes to try including carp which is the main dish of the holidays and is present all over in town this time of year.
Dates: Nov 30 – Jan 12
7. Skansen – Stockholm, Sweden
Markets in Sweden are usually smaller and spread out across the different islands. Some will only open for a few days, which means you could make some pleasant discoveries as you explore the city. You’ll also find a number of market that feature ice sculptures and skating. The Skansen market, at the open-air museum located on the island of Djurgården, remains one of Sweden’s most popular and opens on the four weekends leading up to Christmas.
Dates: Nov 30 – Dec 1, Dec 7 – Dec 8, Dec 14 – Dec 15 and Dec 21
8. Place Rihour – Lille, France
This market in Lille is one of the busiest in Europe and attracts its fair share of visitors from England as it’s less than two hours away from London when taking Eurostar. The French market is also said to be one of the largest markets in Northern France with a huge Ferris Wheel, children’s theatre, tons of tasty French delicacies and local crafts on sale. The highlight of this market is definitely the events taking place on the Saturday before Christmas, when Father Christmas makes his noticeable entrance by falling from the 262ft high belfry of the Chamber of Commerce, to distribute sweets to the children.
Dates: Nov 20 – Dec 30
9. Christkindlimarkt – Zurich, Switzerland
Arriving with your Eurail Pass, you won’t need to look very far to find the indoor market in Zurich as it’s located inside the train station itself. The aroma of mulled wine and delicious smell of baked goodies will welcome you as soon as you take your first step off the train. Take a look around and you’ll see over 150 stalls full of handmade decorations, candles and jewelry. You will also notice the focal point of the market: the giant tree decorated with thousands of glittering crystal ornaments.
Dates: Nov 21 – Dec 24
10. Vörösmarty Square – Budapest, Hungary
The seasonal market at Vörösmarty Square in Budapest features a lot of traditional elements, from delectable Hungarian food to cultural and musical performances. Savor some fried sausages, roasted meats and kürtöskalács (hollow shaped yeast cake). Or entertain yourself with the varied musical offering and shows, where folk and world music, street musicians, dance and puppet shows are a hallmark of this spectacular fair.
Dates: Nov 27 – Dec 31
With great gifts ideas, delicious plates to sample and enchanting atmospheres that simply can’t be replicated at any other moment during the year, the time is right to see the festive side of Europe. The Eurail Off Peak promotion offers up to 20% off the regular price of Eurail Global and Eurail Select Passes purchased by December 31, 2013, for travel until March 31, 2014.