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Europe, General travel, Travel Tips, Uncategorized

3 1/2 days in Edinburgh

July 19, 2018 • By

Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world. I can wander the Royal Mile ducking in and out of shops or pubs when the rain comes or spend hours learning about Scotland’s fascinating history in one of its many museums. With its bustling shopping and restaurant district in the New Town to the historic sites and Medieval Castle in the Old Town, there is something for everyone. The city serves as the capital of Scotland and seat of its government. It’s also the second largest financial center in the United Kingdom behind London, which means it’s not only about kilts and Whisky but a place where serious business occurs. If you go, grab a raincoat and an umbrella and imagine yourself as Mary, Queen of Scots and travel back in time to a city filled with adventure and mystery.

Fantasy Aisle, Edinburgh Castle, on Castle Rock, Old Town sits on an extinct volcano

Edinburgh Castle, on Castle Rock, Old Town sits on an extinct volcano


I arrive by plane from Shannon, Ireland midday, grab the Airlink directly outside baggage claim and 30 minutes later my bus drops me in the West End, where I booked an Airbnb for three nights. I drop my bag; peel off a layer of clothing and head to Edinburgh Castle, a 10-minute walk from my location. The view of Edinburgh Castle never disappoints as I narrow my focus on the medieval fortress towering high above the ground serving as a symbol of Edinburgh and the strength of the Scottish people. Mesmerized by its beauty and grace, I take a deep breath and trek up the stairs connecting the Grassmarket district to the Old Town. I spend three hours exploring the Castle’s grounds.

Edinburgh Castle – Perched at the highest point of the Old Town on Castle Rock, the castle dates to the 12th Century when King David I ruled. The courtyards and museum can get quite crowded especially in July or August so plan to go early or later in the day. Hiring a guide is highly recommended.  You can easily spend four hours visiting the site. Hours: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM. Cost: Adults £18.50/$24, Child £11.50/$15 (Save by booking in advance) See Royal Edinburgh Ticket

Next, I brace myself for the hordes of tourists along the Royal Mile. It’s particularly crowded between King George IV Bridge and the Castle. I allow myself the beating because quiet is only minutes away as I cross South Bridge to Scott Monument, the Gothic looking steeple dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish novelist and playwright. I am now in the “Mound” or Prince Street Gardens, a park filled with beckoning benches, colorful flowers and cafes directly in the shadows of the Old Town. It’s a great place for relaxing and people watching. Eager to see the castle from another vantage point, I plunk myself on a bench and stretch my legs.

Filled in land directly under the Castle known as the Mound and Princes Street Gardens

Filled in land directly under the Castle known as the Mound and Princes Street Gardens

No rest for the weary. It’s time for dinner and England is playing Nigeria in the World Cup (soccer). I retreat closer to the West End and stumble into Shakespeare’s Bar for a pint and some tomato soup. The bar is crowded but not as I expected. I chat up a bartender who informs me that the Scots aren’t big fans of the Brits. In fact, I begin to wonder why Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. England wins and I call it a night.


Fantasy Aisle, Arthur's Seat, Climb for spectacular view of Edinburgh, Scotland

Arthur’s Seat, Climb for spectacular view of Edinburgh, Scotland

It’s 6:00 AM and the sun has been raging through my window since 4:30 AM. Summer in Scotland provides 17 hours of daylight making outdoor activities accessible day and night. With the forecast calling for rain, I decide to haul myself out of bed and hike Arthur’s Seat. I walk from the West End, down the Royal Mile to the beginning of the climb, which begins in front of Holyrood Palace. I ignore the signs that read, “this way” and venture along the cliff before retreating and correcting my mistake. About an hour climb to the top, I brave gusting winds to enjoy 360-degree views of the city stretching from the port to the countryside. It’s a challenging climb but accessible to all levels with the right shoes and clothing.

Fantasy Aisle, Scottish Porridge, creamy and hot. Try with honey at Sugarhouse Sandwiches along the Royal Mile

Scottish Porridge, creamy and hot. Try with honey at Sugarhouse Sandwiches along the Royal Mile

Having worked up an appetite, I make my way back to the Royal Mile where storefronts and cafes are opening. I spot a display of scones and donuts in the window of Sugarhouse Sandwiches and peek my head inside where a wave of freshly prepared baked goods lures me into the dining room. I devour a bowl of Scottish porridge with honey and a hot latte and get back to pounding the pavement.

Fantasy Aisle, Inside St. Giles Church, Church of Scotland dating from the 14th Century

Inside St. Giles Church, Church of Scotland dating from the 14th Century

I’m torn about whether to go and shower but one look at the sky reminds me this is Edinburgh and when the skies are clear take advantage of the time. I inquire about one of the many “free” walking tours along the Royal Mile. A tour starts at 10:30 AM and with one quick glance at the time, I sign up for it. My guide Chelsea is originally from Calgary, Canada and while she specializes in World War II history it’s clear after spending an hour with her she is passionate about Edinburgh’s past–her stories captivating.

There are several free tours offered along the Royal Mile but make sure to pick one that covers St. Giles Cathedral, Greyfriars Kirk and gives a historic overview of the city. There are optional Castle Tours and Haunted Edinburgh Tours also for free.  I tipped £10 /$13

Fantasy Aisle, Scott Monument, in honor of Sir Walter Scott the historical novelist.

Scott Monument, in honor of Sir Walter Scott the historical novelist.

My free tour ends at the Writers Museum and since I am in the City of Literature I want to learn more about Edinburgh’s greatest writers.  The museum showcases the works and personal items of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.  I envision Scotland’s gripping past and revel in their stories.  Before leaving Makars’ Court, I pause to admire the inspiring words of Scottish authors inscribed in the stones throughout the square.

The Writers Museum is located off the Royal Mile in Lady Stair’s House, which dates to 1622. There is a gift shop filled with tasteful items and books from Scottish authors. Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Entry free

Crossing the Mound to the main thoroughfare of the New Town, Princes Street, I am exhausted from walking and hungry. I head toward my neighborhood cutting along Rose Street, a fun-filled street parallel to Princes lined with hundreds of pubs and restaurants. I pick a place for dinner and make a mental note to make a reservation. The winds have brought cloud cover and cold air and I sense rain is near. I hasten my pace and notice Fatty Owls. Its charming windows wave me inside and I order a soup and sandwich. Locals gather and I eavesdrop on their conversations. They are complaining about the weather–no surprise here. I finish my lunch with peppermint tea and remember I still need a shower.

Fantasy Aisle, Cafe Royal Oyster Bar, Oysters and Smoked Salmon a local specialty in Edinburgh

Cafe Royal Oyster Bar, Oysters and Smoked Salmon a local specialty in Edinburgh

After a shiatsu massage at the Healthy Life Centre, my taste buds are crying for food. I make my way to Rose Street in the New Town, where I attempt to negotiate with the reservation manager at the Mussel Inn. The restaurant is hopping but he politely turns his smile into a frown and suggests next time I make a reservation (I forgot to do that). The zen I am feeling from my massage is fading and I Google “Best oysters in Edinburgh near me.” Cafe Royal Circle Bar is only minutes away from my location and I make a mad dash to the restaurant. The interior bar is covered in dark wood, with soft lantern lighting. It’s lined with bar tables and booths for larger groups. My eyes dancing with excitement, my stomach gnawing, I order smoked salmon, two-dozen oysters, chips and a typical Scottish dessert with berries and cream sauce. Wishing I had a wheel barrel to escort me home, I step into the pounding rain and call an uber. I sleep well. *Tricky to find with construction. Find the Apple store on Princes Street and make your way around the corner.

Fantasy Aisle, The Abbey, part of Holyrood Palace dates back to 1128

The Abbey, part of Holyrood Palace dates back to 1128


Today, I retrace my steps from Day 2 and locate Sugarhouse Sandwiches. It is only minutes away by foot from Holyrood Palace and my first stop of the day. I gorge myself on a warm blueberry scone but it’s not enough and I order the creamy Scottish porridge with honey–again. The Scots prepare their food piping hot, I burn my mouth on the porridge but waiting for it to cool is not an option.

Fantasy Aisle, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Queen's residence in Scotland

Palace of Holyroodhouse, Queen’s residence in Scotland

Heeding my own advice, I arrive at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s residence in Scotland, right at 9:30 AM when the ticket desk opens. It’s too early for tourist buses and I’m free to roam the public rooms of the palace fantasizing about life as a member of the Royal Family. Staff is busy preparing the grounds and palace for Queen Elizabeth’s arrival next week.  I ponder who in Scotland can secure me an invite but no one comes to mind.

Palace of HolyroodhouseThe palace serves as the Queen’s residence when she is in Scotland. There is a beautiful art collection and the audio guide tour provides a great overview of the history of the palace as well as what function it serves today. There are also several options for guided tours. Be sure to explore the Abbey and grounds directly behind the palace before exiting the entry gates. To beat the crowds, go right when the palace opens at 9:30 AM. Cost: Adults  £14.00, $18 – Over 60 / Student (with valid ID) £12.70 /$16.50  See Royal Edinburgh Ticket

My afternoon plans are set giving me enough time to tackle Calton Hill. With its steep hills and winding pathways, the city is keeping me fit. I alert my quads to the climb ahead, and drag my body up more stairs arriving at St. Andrew’s House, the headquarters of Scottish government. I pause to take in views of the Old Town specifically admiring Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament Building and Holyrood Palace. A little less breathless, I hike more steps to a cluster of historic buildings: National Monument, Nelson Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, Robert Burns Monument. This is a great location to admire panoramic views of the city and appreciate Scottish history.

Fantasy Aisle, Lobster for lunch in Leith at the Ship on the Shore

Lobster for lunch in Leith at the Ship on the Shore

It’s about time for lunch and I wind my way down Calton Hill to Leith Walk, the main road connecting the city center to the port of Leith. It’s about a 30-35-minute walk from the New Town and I want to work up an appetite. I am craving lobster and where better to go for seafood than Leith. The Ship on the Shore is located steps away from the port and clustered around inviting docks and other seafood restaurants and cafes. I order the smoked salmon, oysters, garlic lobster and chips. When the waitress asks if I want dessert, I decline feeling glutinous.

Fantasy Aisle, Calton Hill, place of many Scottish monuments and great views of the city.

Calton Hill, place of many Scottish monuments and great views of the city.

It’s a gorgeous afternoon and the sun is granting me a gift. I walk back to the city center along the Water of Leith nature path starting at the docks and ending at the Tesco Supermarket in the New Town. The path is great for walkers and bikers and tree and bush provide a shady respite from the sun or rain. It’s now late afternoon and I haven’t made time for shopping. I cut through Queen Street Gardens and sneak a look in the stores along George Street. They are mostly US and UK chains catering more to the mainstream than tourists and my dollar doesn’t go far on the pound. I escape bag free.

Fantasy Aisle, Grassmarket or Harry Potter's Diagon Alley. You decide?

Grassmarket or Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. You decide?

I have a few hours until my next tour and decide caffeine is needed to snap me out of my food coma. The Grassmarket in the Old Town is adjacent to Edinburgh Castle and provides plenty of cafes and pubs to grab a beer, pastry or coffee and tea. There are also upscale Scottish brands and tourist shops to peruse. I am appropriately jolted awake when my heart rate and Victoria Street collide. I stop in a Harry Potter themed store to catch my breath and notice a women’s dress shop across the street. I am admiring myself in the mirror twirling from side to side when a little voice inside reminds me I will never wear a plaid kilt in New York City.  I am proud of my willpower and that I saved £190/$247.

Fantasy Aisle, Edinburgh's famous literary pub tour nightly at 7:30 PM

Edinburgh’s famous literary pub tour nightly at 7:30 PM

It’s Happy Hour and I am excited for the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour.  We gather at the Beehive Inn in the Grassmarket where our hosts for the evening begin exuberantly ranting about Robert Burns and I don’t quite get the joke and I scrutinize my fellow tourists across the room. It hits me. This man and woman are performers. This is an act! My group consisted of 10 people (English speakers) from Canada, Australia and the United States. We laughed for hours (pub = alcohol) learning as much about Edinburgh’s literary community as Scottish history. After the tour ended, five of us—one couple from Michigan, the other from near Ottawa and me–took the idea of pub crawl to its literal sense and closed out the night around midnight chasing open pubs along Rose Street until the bewitching hour forced us to call it a night at McDonald’s for greasy fries.

Edinburgh Literary Pub TourThis is very fun. Tours are nightly at 7:30 PM with a group of about 10 people. Actors portray Edinburgh’s greatest writers and tell their stories in pubs in the Old Town and New Town — many of the pubs are historic places where writers gathered or fashioned their stories. If this is your first visit to Edinburgh, I suggest booking on day one. Sorry over age 18 only. Cost £12/$16

Fantasy Aisle, Enjoying a pint on the literary pub crawl

Enjoying a pint on the literary pub crawl


I wake up groggy, the effects from the pub tour and fries obvious. It’s my last day and I have goals to accomplish. I pack up my suitcase and depart the Airbnb as I found it–sparkling clean. Lugging my belongings the 10-minute walk to the Grassmarket, I spy a vegan cafe, Pumpkin Brown, where I proceed to shovel down a raw bowl of mixed fruit muesli and a turmeric latte. This will definitely realign my system; I hope.

Fantasy Aisle, Healthy option at Brown Pumpkin in the Grassmarket neighborhood of the Old Town, Edinburgh

Healthy option at Brown Pumpkin in the Grassmarket neighborhood of the Old Town, Edinburgh

I struggle to carry my suitcase up Victoria Street, over George IV Bridge to Waverly Train station. I don’t remember sweating this much in Edinburgh. The “left luggage” services are near the Princes Street entrance. After zig-zagging through passengers, I park my possessions with two nice men, grab a ticket and listen to their warning, “After 2 hours, the price jumps.” Free of my constraints, I am reborn, and off to wander the Royal Mile one last time.

Fantasy Aisle, John Gray's famous Skye Terrier Bobby

John Gray’s famous Skye Terrier Bobby

The stairs from the New Town to the Old Town continue to plague me but I am on a Harry Potter discovery mission and time is ticking. I walk through the Grassmarket to an unmarked entrance connecting Greyfriars Kirk to the Old Town. The free city tour visits the cemetery but I want to see more. I secure a map from the church and to my surprise and pure exhilaration, I locate the McGonagal, Cornelius, Moodie, Black and Potter tombstones. They served as an inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s characters in the Harry Potter novels. I take a second look at George Heriot’s School, and observe its likeness to Hogwarts. My imagination carries me to the pages of Harry Potter and I wish I could cast a spell to stay here forever but I have one more stop before lunch.

Fantasy Aisle, Greyfriars Kirkyard, an inspiration for Harry Potter and other Edinburgh Tales

Greyfriars Kirkyard, an inspiration for Harry Potter and other Edinburgh Tales

Visiting the National Museum of Scotland is a must for families especially on a rainy day. I browse through the displays on Scottish dress through the ages and take special note of the different clan attire. Each clan represented by a different colored kilt and hat.

National Museum of ScotlandThe museum contains Scottish antiquities, culture and history and it’s next to the Royal Museum, which holds the science and technology, and natural history exhibits. The galleries are spacious and there are special traveling exhibits year round. There is also an extensive gift shop and two cafes to eat or drink. Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Entry free

Fantasy Aisle, Sea Bass from Restaurant Ondine on George IV Bridge Old Town

Sea Bass from Restaurant Ondine on George IV Bridge Old Town

It’s noon –and an early lunch is in order. I scoped out Ondine previously and knew it would serve as a great place for my final meal in Edinburgh. I order a glass of wine (hair of the dog), two-dozen oysters, and the seabass with creamed spinach. I even eat the bread with butter. Satisfied, I walk along the Royal Mile slowing my pace, taking in the fresh air and gazing affectionately on the castle. I browse a few stores buying a knit hat from the Tartan Weaving Mill and an Edinburgh patterned cashmere scarf from Kiltane.

Now it’s certainly time to go. I collect my bags, paying more than I intended and I study the boards for Glasgow Queen Station. To discover Edinburgh is to live its stories.  I can’t wait to visit again.

All Aboard!


Important Note:  Edinburgh is also know as Festival City and boasts some of the best international art, music, theater and storytelling in the world.  I highly recommend visiting the festival website for more information.  The city swells to capacity during the Fringe and Military Tattoo festivals in August.

For a complete list of the places I visited, see below the photos.




Located outside baggage claim.  Arrives every 15 minutes. From the Airport to the Center of Town, it costs  £4.50 and takes about 30/35 minutes.


Restaurants New Town

Mussel Inn
61-65 Rose Street – Mussels and fries. Small space, fun area.  Make a reservation.

Cafe Royal Circle Bar
19 W Register Street – Go for the atmosphere, oysters and Whisky.

Fishers in the City
58 Thistle Street – Seafood / Original restaurant located in Leith.

Restaurants Old Town

2 George IV Bridge – Seafood (expensive).  Right off Royal Mile. Great views of George IV Street and Victoria Street.

Sugarhouse Sandwiches
158 Canongate (on the Royal Mile) – Great cakes, muffins, breakfast and lunch, vegan, vegetarian options. Homemade everything. I loved the Porridge so much I went back twice.

Restaurants Grassmarket

La Barantine Victoria
Victoria Street – French Patisserie and cafe, soups, sandwiches to stay or go.

Pumpkin Brown
16 Grassmarket – Vegan, organic cafe and light meals to stay or go.

Restaurants West End

Fatty Owls
33 Bread Street – Charming cafe, soup, sandwiches, coffee, tea.

Shakespeare’s Bar – Pub grub, meat pies, fish and chips, beer.
65 Lothian Road

Restaurants Leith

The Ship on the Shore
24 26 The Shore – Seafood restaurant and Champagne bar.  Fish brought in daily.

1 The Shore – Nautical old-fashioned feeling, oysters and wine


Old Town

Edinburgh Castle – Book a guided tour and arrive early.

Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour

Palace of Holyroodhouse
9:30 AM – 6:00 PM – Go early to beat the crowds.

Real Mary Kings Close – Underground streets and old stories of the “real” Edinburgh.  Meet the residents.  *Must make a reservation. It’s one hour and there are tours every 15 minutes.
On the Royal Mile near St. Giles Cathedral

Writers Museum

National Museum of Scotland


The Royal Yacht Britannia – Explore 5 decks including the State Apartments and the Engine Room. It is accessible by Lothian Buses 11, 22 and Skylink 200 and 300 every 10 minutes to Ocean Terminal.


New Town

Multrees Street – Luxury designers like Louis Vuitton

George Street – Upmarket retail US and UK based chains like Anthropologie, Karen Millen, LK Bennett

Princes Street – Apple store, McDonald’s, House of Fraser, Vodafone

Old Town

Kiltane of Scotland – Cashmere, wool & tweed scarves, kilts, jackets
336-340 Lawnmarket

Tartan Weaving Mill –  Nearby the Castle. Nice quality gifts, clothing, everything
555 Castlehill


Healthy Life Centre – Holistic Treatments and Therapies, Yoga and Pilates
35-37 Broad Street – West End



Culture, Europe, History, Uncategorized

Visiting the Christmas Markets in Europe

December 23, 2017 • By


Christkindlmarkt, Christkindlesmarkt, Weihnachtsmarkt, Les marchés de Noël


A Winter Wonderland comes to life throughout Europe.  Celebrate the season with friends and family eating and drinking and sharing stories.  Let the magic of Christmas seep into your heart and soul.



Fantasy Aisle, The Medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The Medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Red Fort on the River Tauber

This small and enchanting town is Europe’s most beautiful medieval spot and one of Germany’s most festive Christmas markets. It’s only a few hours from Frankfurt airport so make it a must see on arrival or departure. There are cobblestone streets, red tiled roofs and Christmas is a presence year round. There is plenty to eat and drink and the shops cater to local artisans with knitted fashions and chocolate being some of the favorites.

Special to Rothenburg is the Schneebälle – A snowball-shaped sweet made of shortbread and covered with sugar, cinnamon, and all kinds of chocolate and nuts.

Fantasy Aisle, Dessert pastry made from shortcrust popular Rothenburg

Dessert pastry made from shortcrust popular in Rothenburg

Where I stayed
Glocke Winery and Hotel
Ploenlein 1
91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
(In the heart of the town)

What to see
St. Jakobs Lutheran Church – One of the churches on the pilgrimage route to St. James grave in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It dates back to 1300s.

Käthe Wohlfahrt – Christmas shop and museum all in one.  They have rare ornaments and wreaths for purchase and the museum provides a wonderful history of tree decorating, ornaments and how Christmas evolved over the years.

Fantasy Aisle, The famous Christmas store in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The famous Christmas store in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Nuremberg – Nürnberg

The markets date back to 1628 when the tradition of giving children presents started in Germany. There are nearly 200 red and white striped stalls filling the entire old town. This is where I had to tell myself if I can’t beat them, join them in eating grilled sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut. The Christmas concerts in the churches are offered throughout the weekend and in the evening. There are also musicians scattered at the various markets throughout the city.  This is one of Europe’s largest and most attended markets.

Fantasy Aisle, The gold foil armless angel, the signature of Nuremberg

The gold foil armless angel, symbolic of Nuremberg

Special to Nuremberg is the Gold Foil Angel – Legend says a Nuremberg doll maker made it for his sick daughter. The Christkind – Don’t miss a photo opportunity with the symbol of Christmas in Nuremberg. A blond curly haired woman with a golden crown and golden white gown, the winner of this honor can be found wandering around the main square. Authentic Nuremberg Gingerbread – Rows and rows of gingerbread small and large, decorative or to eat can be found at nearly every stall. Under European Union law, gingerbread can only be produced within the city limits of Nuremberg. Drink Glühwein from the largest punch bowl in the world located on the River Pegnitz.

Where I ate
Alstadthof Brewpub –  Specialty beers and beer brandies

What to see
The Imperial Castle in Nuremberg – Great city views and exciting to learn about its importance during the Middle Ages.

The Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds is one of Germany’s most important museums dedicated to the history of Adolf Hitler’s rise and World War II. It’s also the place where the Nazi Party held rallies. Expect to spend a few hours touring the museum and the grounds.

Albrecht Dürer’s House – A Renaissance artist, he was Germany’s most famous graphic artist, painter, and art theoretician, (1471-1528). The home survived fierce bombings from World War II and is beautifully preserved.

Fantasy Aisle, Red and white striped stalls in Nuremberg, Germany

Red and white striped stalls in Nuremberg, Germany


There are six different markets spread across the historic old town with the Heidelberg Castle serving as a significant backdrop. It’s a charming university town full of lights, shopping, and restaurants to enjoy.

Special to Heidelberg is the ice skating rink.

Munich – München

In the heart of Bavaria in Southern Germany, Munich offers Christmas markets with all the trimmings. The oldest Christmas market in Germany, it was called Nikolausdult when farmers would come to town and sell their goods in front of churches around St. Nicholas Day. The name was changed to Christkindlmarkt in the 1800s for the Christ Child born on Christmas Day. Munich has several markets spread throughout the city and the streets are crowded with locals and tourists busying themselves with holiday cheer. The department stores decorated windows tell fairytale stories attracting hordes of people gazing at the life-like characters.

Fantasy Aisle, A cauldron of glühwein in the Renaissance Village Christmas Market in Munich

A cauldron of glühwein in the Renaissance Village Christmas Market in Munich

Special to Munich is the Renaissance themed Mittelaltermarkt where vendors are dressed in costume such as jesters, religious monks and paupers. Glühwein is served from cauldrons.

Where I stayed
NH München Deutscher Kaiser
DB Parkhaus Hauptbahnhof
Arnulfstraße 1
80335 München
(Steps away from the train station and convenient to shopping and local markets)

Fantasy Aisle, Marienplatz Christmas Market in Munich

Marienplatz Christmas Market in Munich

What to see
Medieval designed Mittelaltermarkt

Weihnachtsdorf in Kaiserhof der Residenz offers an intimate environment and traditional elements with a pyramid and musical stage for guests.

Neues Rathaus at Marienplatz – The Christmas market spreads out along all the main streets with the town hall as the focal point. There is plenty of shopping and excitement.

Fantasy Aisle, Düsseldorf markets in the old town

Düsseldorf markets in the old town


Düsseldorf was completely destroyed during World War II but it has been restored to a glorious, thriving, bustling city. There are shopping malls and department stores for everyone and Kö Boulevard caters to the rich and famous. The city maintains a large international population. Following World War II, an influx of Japanese immigrants arrived promoting business opportunities and innovation.

Seven Christmas markets cover the narrow streets in the old town butting against the rushing waters of the Rhine River. Canals and quaint bridges add to the illusions of grandeur and romance. There is a giant ferris wheel on Burgplatz and plenty of activities for kids including a puppet theater on Marktplatz. The ice skating rink occupies several city blocks and serves as the center of activity for visitors. During the day, the markets are quiet except for shoppers passing through and parents calming children but once the sun fades, locals swarm the markets and the party begins.

Fantasy Aisle, Old Town of Düsseldorf along Kö Blvd.

Old Town of Düsseldorf along Kö Blvd.

Special to Düsseldorf is “Engelchenmarkt” or Angel Market on Heinrich-Heine-Platz. Angels decorated in art nouveau adorn stalls in this section and there is a large pavilion for people to gather, listen to music and eat and drink. The handmade nutcrackers on display and stark white crystal ornaments are worth a look.

Fantasy Aisle, Engelchenmarkt" Angel Market on Heinrich-Heine-Platz in Düsseldorf, Germany

Engelchenmarkt” Angel Market on Heinrich-Heine-Platz in Düsseldorf, Germany



Escape the stresses of life and be swept away by the historic landscape of Vienna. The city’s Christkindlmarkts highlight the essence of Christmas by incorporating art and music with traditional elements. All of Austria is on display whether it’s ice skating trails at Rathausplatz or the captivating entertainment and lavishness at Schönbrunn Palace. There are 20 markets across the city making it possible to spend three days in Vienna challenging any diet. Vienna is the place to eat, drink and be merry. There isn’t one dish that won’t drive your taste buds mad. Take a horse carriage ride, explore the present and the past in one of the city’s premier art galleries and make sure to visit the markets by day and night. The illuminated stalls and trees create a sensational yet mysterious glow.

Special to Vienna is the ART Advent Market at Karlsplatz offering all certified organic products. There is a designated area for children to play.

Where I stayed
Hotel Kärntnerhof
1010 Wien, Grashofgasse 4
(Great shopping area and central location)

Where I ate
Zum Basilisken
Café, Restaurant, Bar
Schonlaterngasse 3-5
(Hungarian Goulash – cute atmosphere horrible service)

Beim Czaak
Postgasse 15
(Traditional dishes everyone speaks English. Located in one of the oldest districts in Vienna.

Das Gasthaus
Bäckerstraße 22
(Make a reservation on weekends)

What to see
Schloss Schönbrunn Konzerte – Orangerie Schönbrunn – Enjoy a performance to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss in a palace setting.

The Austrian National Library  – The baroque state hall is one of the most beautiful historic libraries in the world. Commissioned by Emperor Karl Vi (1685-1740) it was built from 1723 to 1726. There are 200,000 books and four of the most gorgeous standing globes.

Schönbrunn Palace – Take a break from the Christmas market and visit the palace: The Grand Tour or Imperial Palace Tour takes about 30 – 50 minutes. The palace is the former imperial summer residence.

Fantasy Aisle, Imperial capital and home to the ruling Habsburg dynasty in Vienna, Austria

Imperial capital and home to the ruling Habsburg dynasty in Vienna, Austria

Belvedere Palace – Visit the gardens and museum. Home to the Habsburg dynasty.

Vienna Boys’ Choir – Plan in advance of your trip. There are special afternoon and evening concerts.


Salzburg is my favorite Christmas market. It is small and manageable and possesses charm while epitomizing all the traditions of the season. Dating back to the 15th century, the Christkindlmarkt started as a flea market in front of the main church around the time of Advent and today is one of Europe’s most treasured Christkindlmarkts. While the stalls and merchandise on display resemble other Christmas markets, the landscape of the surrounding mountains and Salzach River captures the beauty of the town. Home to Mozart, music is a way of life in Salzburg. Choral and brass music concerts occur nightly in front of the Cathedral catering to both English and German speaking guests.

Fantasy Aisle, Krampus, a half-goat, half-demon, horrific beast who beats people into being nice and not naughty

Krampus, a half-goat, half-demon, horrific beast who beats people into being nice and not naughty

Special to Salzburg is the Krampus Run where groups of Krampus figures run and greet each other by rubbing chains. Krampus is a horned figure-half goat, half demon who punishes naughty children. He is the opposite of Saint Nicholas who rewarded the children with gifts of chocolate and fruit. On December 6 in the old town, Saint Nicholas and Krampus appear at the market with gifts for children.

Where I stayed
Gasthof Goldgasse
Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Goldgasse 10
(Hotel Restaurant is also very good)

Where I ate
Restaurant Goldener Hirsch is a landmark of Salzburg.  A former blacksmith’s shop, the restaurant is now a favorite of celebrities and tourists.  Offers traditional Austrian dishes.
Getreidegasse 37

Fantasy Aisle, Enjoying Glühwein in Salzburg, Vienna

Enjoying Glühwein in Salzburg, Vienna

What to see
Salzburg Cathedral – A baroque style Catholic Church, it towers over the heart of the old town.  The original church was constructed in 774 but destroyed after a fire.  It was built again in 1614.  During World War II, a bomb fell on the dome damaging much of the church. The interior is stunning.  Check out the crypt and museum.

Residenzplatz – One of the world’s oldest advent markets believed to be started in the 14th Century. In the shadows (literally) of the Salzburg Cathedral, the market offers a picturesque ice skating rink and a Christmas history museum, pretzels, Swiss cheese sandwiches, hats, wood carved platters, ornaments and life size Santa decorations.

Salzburger Weihnachtsmuseum – Christmas Museum with a history of customs in German speaking countries.


Strasbourg, France “Capitale de Noël”

Christkindelsmärik – “Market of the Christ Child”

I fell in love with Strasbourg. It’s a special blend of romance, history and architecture-a quintessential Christmas fairytale. It’s a city where snow and rain add value to the setting. As one of Europe’s oldest markets, it claims the title, “Capital of Christmas” and with 11 markets spread throughout the old town there is something for everyone. The Alsace region is influenced by both German and French language and culture. Stalls offer breads and cakes made with spices like ginger and orange and of course cheese and chocolate feature prominently in every dish. The canals and narrow streets encircle the old town providing a respite from reality allowing visitors to step back in time and chase the magic of Christmas.

Fantasy Aisle, The Capital of Christmas in Strasbourg, France

The Capital of Christmas in Strasbourg, France

Special to Strasbourg is the Great Christmas Tree located in the Place Kléber or pick out your own tree at the lots located throughout the market. This year Strasbourg is showcasing Gutenberg, Iceland where a traditional Icelandic Village has been created. Don’t miss the white glühwein. It’s less tart and sweeter than its red partner.

Where I stayed
Hôtel D
15 Rue du Fossé des Treize,
67000 Strasbourg, France
Phone: +33 3 88 15 13 67

Where I ate
Restaurant Au Pont Corbeau
21 Quai Saint-Nicolas
67000 Strasbourg, France
Phone: +33 3 88 35 60 68

Pain D’Épices – Chef Mireille Oster
Located in Petite-France
14, rue des Dentelles
(Delicious local breads and cookies)

Fantasy Aisle, Lill River - Canals of Strasbourg, France

Ill River – Canals of Strasbourg, France

What to see
The Musée alsacien (Alsatian Museum) – Experience what life used to be like in the 18th and 19th centuries in Alsace. The museum contains preserved furniture, clothing, wedding dresses and other home items.

River Cruises on the River Ill

Night Walks – Guided tours of the Christmas markets to learn about the history of the region and the city.