Northern European Christmas Market Recommendations from Mamas in the Know

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Years ago my husband returned from a December work trip to Germany and brought with him wonderful stories about the country's incredible Christmas markets filled with street vendors and warm, mulled wine served in little glass boots. He purchased several of these boots as well as German ornaments for our tanenbaum. Ever since then I have wondered what a real European Christmas market was like—why were they so popular and why did my husband seem so smitten with them? This year I got my chance to visit a European Christmas market firsthand and now I understand what all the fuss is about. Here are some Northern European Christmas Market recommendations from mamas in the know!

German Christmas market

German Christmas Market with Erica and Addison (Photo by Jason Frost)

European Christmas Markets

Traditionally, Christmas markets are basically German festivals serving local beer, wine and foods like bratwurst. More than a bunch of booths that simply sell mass produced toys and clothing—you'll find unique, handmade items specific to that region of the country. Markets are filled with street performers, live bands, and traditional caroling choirs.

In my new home country of the Netherlands, a group of Amsterdam mamas has proven to be a great resource for sharing which markets are a hit and which ones are probably okay to skip. So many markets… so little time! Here are just some of the Christmas markets recommended by those in the know.

German Christmas Markets

The Christmas market in Osnabruck in Northern Germany is a very popular. Starting in late November and ending at the end of December, this market is famous for a near 100-year-old carousel. Local mama Sarah said that the Osnabruck market is in, ” a nice town, not too big, the Christmas market is at least big enough to make it feel worth the trip. There's plenty of the usual food and carousels. If you're looking for a Christmas market to go to this year, come here!” Bamberg is host to a huge market- one that encompasses around 400 nativity scenes spread throughout the events. Rothenburg and Nuremberg both host incredible markets where you can find whatever you desire for the holiday season.

My expat friend Erica, who is a new resident of Germany, told me, “Our [family's] tradition is to drink a glass of Gluhwein [mulled wine] and keep the cup for a souvenir rather than turning it in for the deposit…and we collect a wooden ornament with a famous scene of the city on it for our tree.” Sounds like a fun idea to me!

Deventer Christmas market

Deventer Dickens Festijn in the Netherlands (Photo by Farrah Ritter)

Dutch Christmas Markets

I recently attended Dickens Festijn in Deventer, which was a celebration of Charles Dickens and a full-blown Christmas market as well. Celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens this year, the crowd was huge. Haarlem hosts a Christmas Market that brings back memories of Christmas past, while  Valkenburg holds an impressive market every year complete with a visit from Santa. You can also find Magical Maastricht where the city center is transformed into a Christmas wonderland and you can even go ice skating.

Belgian Christmas market

Santa in a Belgian Christmas market stall (Photo by Nataliia Kasian, purchased from istockphoto.com

Belgian Christmas Markets

Brussels, as well as many other Belgian cities host their own Christmas markets every year. Namur hosts a market with Christmas chalets (stalls) and horse drawn carriages. Durbuy‘s market sparkles annually with 1,000 candles. Another reputable market is the one found in Mons,which boasts a 230-foot ice skating rink. The theme every year is fairies and imps, complete with a magical forest.

Christmas market in Paris

Paris Christmas chalet (Photo by Guilane Nachez)

French Christmas Markets

France hosts a Christmas market in German-influenced Strasbourg that claims to be The Capital of Christmas. Amiens has the  “Winter Scents, Amiens Christmas Market”—the largest in northern France. And what's not to love about the Champs-Elysees? Imagine a market with 160 chalets lining this famous Parisian street.

If you are interested in traveling from other parts of Europe (or beyond) to experience the Christmas markets, you can find great rates on holiday accommodations, bed & breakfasts or short-term apartment rentals from Wimdu.

Have you ever visited a European Christmas market? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

A Note from Travel Mamas: Thank you to Wimdu for helping to make this story possible.

About Farrah Ritter, The Nomadic Travel Mama

Farrah Ritter is an adventure-seeking mama to a 4-year-old son and twin 2-year-old boys. Her family of five moved to the Netherlands in October of 2012. Originally from Michigan, she and her husband relocated to the South in 2006 and jumped over the pond with their boys in tow. She blogs at The Three Under when she can and is looking forward to documenting and sharing their European journey with anyone interested in travel with multiple small children. An Instagram and Twitter junkie (@Momofthreeunder), Farrah loves to see perspectives of others and experience the beauty of old towns and historic places.

Comments

  1. Visiting European Christmas markets is something that I dream about doing some day. Not sure how it can happen while kids are still in school but some day I am going to spend time in Europe pre-Christmas. Have a wonderful holiday season!!

  2. Czech Republic has( is among) the most well known Christmas markets in Europe…too bad it was not mentioned in your article

  3. Sounds lovely, Eva. I chose markets that were fairly close to where we live in the Netherlands. There are so many wonderful markets and so little time. Sounds like I need to look into the Czech Republic for next year. Thank you for the suggestion!

  4. Thank you Lisa- you too! It’s not easy with the boys being so little.- so I’m at the opposite end that you’re in. Markets can be crowded so it is difficult for a double stroller to make its way through. I wonder what the perfect age might be??

  5. A few years ago, we visited many Christmas markets in Europe. It was one of my favorite trips. Although we loved the markets in Germany, our favorite was in Innsbruck. It was fairly small compared to some others but it was so much fun!

  6. I agree with the above…I had the opportunity to visit Innsbruck and Prague while the markets were still in full swing. They are all fun and very festive. Too bad Prague didn’t have ceramic Gluehwein mugs for our collection…. :(But Prague was the only market that we attended having live entertainment, the dancers were so intriguing.

  7. love the article
    It`s great visiting markets in europe…always find something different, plus megabus do some cheap journeys

  8. Argyro_Greece says:

    We are travelling to Nuremberg Germany to see the Christmas Market in a few days with our almost 3 years old son. Although we used to make very long distance trips abroad as a couple, this is our first trip outside Greece with our son! I hope we will have a perfect time!

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