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White sparkling lights, hot chocolate and parties galore: the weeks leading up to the holidays are some of the best of the year. But nothing gets you in the spirit more than a Christmas market, with their rows of wooden stalls filled with handmade crafts, schnitzel and mulled wine. Below, the best ones in the world to visit this season:
1. Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin
It’s all about the food at this world-renowned German Christmas market, where you can hop from vendor to vendor sipping on mulled wine or chowing down on traditional sausage or fried apples. Many vendors allow free samples, and once you’re done stuffing your face, be sure to wander around the different crafts tents, which sell handmade gifts, paintings and clothing.
2. Christkindlesmarik, Strasbourg, France
This is one of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets, dating back to 1570. Although the goods have changed over the years, the holiday spirit has not. Wander among the various stalls to find that perfect gift, sip on local Alsatian wine and be sure to stop at Place Kleber, home to the Great Christmas Tree, which rivals the one in New York City’s Rockefeller Center.
3. Viennese Christmas Market, Vienna
Austia’s capital city has been hosting a Christmas Market since 1298, and it’s more spectacular than ever. In addition to the 100-plus craft stalls, there are also special events, reindeer rides and a giant ice skating rink.
4. Grand Christmas Market, Montreal
It might be newer to the Christmas market scene than its European counterparts, but the Grand Christmas Market in Montreal is already making a splash with 60 wooden houses filled with everything from holiday-themed food to hand-crafted trinkets. Kids will especially love the elves’ workshop, Santa’s sleigh and igloo.
5. Christkindlmarket, Chicago
The Windy City is home to the largest German Christmas market in the United States. Inspired by Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, the annual setup is filled with rows of stalls peddling nutcrackers, bratwurst, cuckoo clocks, goulash and schnitzels. Don’t miss the hot spiced gluhwein, which is served in a boot-shaped glass.
6. Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, Prague
There’s not one, but two, Christmas markets within a five-minute walk of each other in Prague. Both are dotted with traditional wooden huts brimming with gifts, klobasa (Czech sausages) and Pilsner Urquell. At night, when the tree in Old Town Square twinkles with lights, the scene becomes even more charming.
7. Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham, UK
The UK is home to one of the world’s best German Christmas markets. Held in Victoria Square, the massive market has nearly 200 stalls selling everything from blankets to jewelry. And if you still need more holiday cheer, head over to the nearby, albeit smaller, Christmas Craft Market in Centenary Square, which offers about 30 stalls selling local beers and British sausages.
8. Plaisirs d’Hiver, Brussels
It would be impossible not to find a gift at the Plaisirs d’Hiver Christmas market in Brussels, where more than 200 vendors showcase adorable children’s toys, handmade leather goods and more. There’s also classic Belgian food like waffles, fries and chocolate, ensuring your energy reserves are kept well sated while you shop.
9. Mercado de Navidad, Madrid
The historic market, which takes place in Plaza Mayor, the city’s main square, is famous for two things: nativity figurines and prank gifts. The nativity scenes are clearly timed to Christmas; just a few days later, on December 28, Spain celebrates The Day of the Holy Innocents, its version of April Fool’s Day. If gag souvenirs are your thing, save room in your suitcase.
10. Christmas Village, Philadelphia
Like Chicago, Philadelphia also hosts a version of a traditional German Christmas market. During the holidays, LOVE Park is transformed by more than 50 wooden huts, which sell gifts, handmade crafts and classic European fare like crepes and mulled wine. There are also concerts and a beautiful tree-lighting ceremony.
Feature photo of Rathaus and christmas market in Vienna, Austria. Photo by sborisov / Getty
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