Europe really knows how to do Christmas! I had never been to a Christmas market before this trip so I was blown away by how much FUN this is!! I decided to go to Germany and Austria tour and hit up as many Christmas markets as I could. By the end I was pretty tired (and cold!) but my suitcase was filled with pretty handmade ornaments and gifts and my belly was full of gluhwein (traditional winter drink made with hot wine and spices) and amazing local treats. Each place has its own character and I’m sure there are many more non ‘touristy’ markets in Europe so will hopefully be able to check those out too one year but in general it’s all about buying local / handmade gifts – everything from candles to toys to Christmas related decorations are available, sampling the local food and enjoying the Christmas atmosphere! I went to each place via train, booked a few legs about a month and half in advance and some on the day, tickets ranged from €20 to €50 for the journeys.
The market was medium sized and the contrast of the traditional houses in the main square and the tall modern skyscrapers gave it a festive feel within a city area. There was even a gay market area all doused in pink! Only spent a few hours at this market, I tried some fried donuts and crepes, some traditional German gingerbread – lebkuchen, picked up a mug that had my name on it (spelled the right way!) and looked wandered around the various areas of the market.
Book online in advance for a better price http://www.bahn.com
This is the biggest market in Germany and consequently the most touristy (I heard a LOT of American accents!). There were more than 300 stalls and of course I had to go and do a thorough check of each stall twice making sure I hadn’t missed out on any stall 😉 Unique gifts included the prune people – adorable men and women made of prunes in different outfits, ornaments that had Nuremburg written on them and stalls from all over the world. I found these amazing ornaments from Prague that were flattened frosted glass with 3D decorations in all a variety of colors. One thing I had to start doing here was really look at what and how much I was buying. Since all of the ornaments are handmade, they are actually a bit expensive ranging from €3 up to €25+. I tried to stick to one nice one around €10 – 15 from each place and buy smaller ones if I saw something unique or special. Additional gifts were out of the question since space was limited but that was probably a good thing for my wallet!
Nuremburg to Salzburg (via Munich); 3 hours, €43; 1stclass.
Book online in advance. http://www.bahn.com
This was the smallest of the ones I visited but probably the most non – touristy. There seemed to be a lot of locals and the area was filled with families. It was a nice change from the craziness of Nuremburg and later on Vienna. The setting for the market was the courtyard of the main square with two other small areas for the stalls.
Salzburg to Vienna; 2 hours, €24; 2nd class.
Check timetables online and book at the station or on the train. https://westbahn.at/
There are two carriers; OBB is the Austrian national railways which is expensive, outdated and is not flexible – must travel on the booked train (€47.50). The better option is Westbahn with newer trains at half the price and tickets can be bought on board so better for flexible travel.
Ostentatious and opulent Vienna. This place just blew all the others out of the water with its grandiose and extravagant decorations. Especially since it was my last stop, I thought it would be just another Christmas market but I was pleasantly surprised. From giant chandeliers and red baubles hanging in the streets to not one but 4 different markets within the city, Vienna truly caught my eye. The main market at the city hall (Rathaus) looked like a fairy tale mansion all lit up and it was great to try local treats such as the Sacher torte and cakes at the local bakeries.