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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 quite like a Christmas market, with its rows of wooden stalls filled with handmade crafts, schnitzel and mulled wine.
Whether you’re looking to take a last-minute trip for some holiday cheer, or are simply searching for travel inspiration, these are 13 of our favorite Christmas markets around the world.
1. Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin, Germany
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 craft tents selling handmade gifts, paintings and clothing. While you can certainly come for just the food, the music here is also spectacular. There are nightly concerts that range from holiday choirs to jazz bands.
2. Christkindlesmarik in 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 Dream Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria
Austria’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. In addition to the iconic market in front of city hall, Vienna is home to more than 20 official Advent markets, including the Old Viennese Christmas Market Freyung and Christmas Village Maria-Theresien Platz.
4. The Christmas Fair in Budapest, Hungary
Decorations, ice-skating, crafts for sale, food: everything you could possibly want from a Christmas market is here. Located in front of Budapest’s grandest cathedral, St. Stephen’s Basilica, you can take in the dazzling lights while noshing on traditional Hungarian delights like flódni and Kürtőskalács cakes. While the market is certainly steeped in tradition, it’s also added some more modern elements including flash mobs, contemporary art for sale and a light show on the façade of the basilica that spectators watch with 3D glasses.
5. Christkindlmarket in Chicago, Illinois
The Windy City is home to the largest German Christmas market in the United States, making it hard to overlook. 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 glühwein, which is served in a boot-shaped glass. Bonus: admission is always free.
6. Bank of America Winter Village in New York City
Europe might be home to the traditional Christmas market, but leave it to New York City to try and one-up them. During the holiday season, Bryant Park is transformed into an open-air market complete with 125 kiosks selling handmade crafts from around the world. After you get in your shopping, be sure to take a spin on Le Carrousel with Santa and his elves, get in some free ice-skating (you only pay to rent the skates), sip hot chocolate and snap photos of the famous frozen Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain.
7. Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square in Prague, Czech Republic
In Prague, travelers will find not one, but two sensational Christmas markets within a five-minute walk of each other. 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
8. Christmas Market in Zagreb, Croatia
While this Christmas market used to fly under the radar, it now has a massive draw after being voted the best in Europe by an online poll. And it’s easy to see why it won. There’s candlelight illuminating the many colorful stalls serving festive foods like baked štrukle and selling holiday-themed trinkets. That’s in addition to the regularly-scheduled concerts that take place here around the huge Christmas tree in Ban Josip Jelačić Square. There’s even an area dedicated to “fooling around” where you’re encouraged to let loose (read: drink, eat and dance excessively).
9. Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham, England
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.
10. Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz Markets in Basel, Switzerland
This Christmas market is so large, it’s actually split into two parts: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. Between them, you’ll find nearly 200 decorated stalls serving regional fare and selling local goods. And the kids will especially love this spot, because Münsterplatz’s is home to fairytale forest and hosts activities like decorating gingerbread houses and making holiday ornaments.
11. Plaisirs d’Hiver in Brussels, Belgium
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.
12. Mercado de Navidad in Madrid, Spain
The historic market, held 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 Dec. 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.
13. Christmas Village in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Like Chicago, Philadelphia also hosts a version of a traditional German Christmas market. During the holidays, LOVE Park is transformed by more than 80 wooden huts that sell gifts, handmade crafts and classic European treats like crêpes and mulled wine. Just get there quick, because this market is only open through Christmas Eve.
Feature photo of Rathaus and Christmas market in Vienna, Austria. Photo by sborisov / Getty
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