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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.









Christmas is coming

December 22, 2017 • By

Christmas is coming. The Kelster is getting fat, please put a euro in the old gal’s newly purchased hat(s). If you haven’t got a euro, a cup of glühwein will do, if you haven’s got a glühwein, then God save you.

After visiting more than 30 Christmas markets throughout Austria, Germany and France, I am an expert on sausage, pumpkin soup in a bread bowl, pretzels, waffles, glühwein, chocolate, and Advent wreaths. There is a consensus that once you try one, you have tried them all but I don’t subscribe to that logic. Each market is regionally themed and the crafts and food are a reflection of the surrounding villages and towns. There are many similarities like handmade candles and paper stationary, Nutella crepes, local wines and liquors, and staged stalls constructed around city halls and historic parks and former palaces but the flavor and presentation change from place to place. In Nuremburg, stalls are striped red and white, in Vienna, ice skating rinks wind through the City Hall Rathausplatz and in Strasbourg, the proclaimed Capital of Christmas, colored ornaments and chubby gingerbread fill the shelves and cheese is the topping of choice. The towns come alive with locals and tourists from all over the world visiting the Christkindlmarkts in the four weeks leading up to Christmas. There is music and dancing and eating and drinking. Relive childhood memories and revel in the spirit of Christmas.

Before you go, here are a few tips to make the most of your visit.

1.) Eat everything. There are so many goodies to taste that are special to Christkindlmarkts in Europe. You need hearty food to keep you warm and there are a variety of soups, sandwiches and desserts to fill your tummy.

Fantasy Aisle, Eggnog liquor at the Vienna Christmas markets

Eggnog liquor at the Vienna Christmas markets

2.) Drink the Glühwein. Try hot mulled wine with Whiskey or Amaretto and pick the spot with the busiest stall to mingle with locals. Try the Glühwein with a shot of Bailey’s or eggnog liquor once but definitely not twice. Each market has a specifically designed mug for visitors. Keep yours as a reminder of your experience or return it to retrieve your deposit.

3.) Pick a few markets to see. Each village or city throughout Europe offers several themed Christmas markets throughout the area. Don’t try to conquer every market in Europe but select an area you have also wanted to see as a tourist and enjoy the markets as a bonus. If you have children, there is usually one market that caters to kids with rides, treats and fictional characters.

Fantasy Aisle, Capital of Christmas, Strasbourg, France

Capital of Christmas, Strasbourg, France

4.) Visit the markets by day and night. The daytime is often less crowded and people tend to grab a drink or quick bite and leave. At night, electricity fills the markets and people browse stalls and linger around glühwein vendors. The alleyways, storefronts and decorations are illuminated creating a romantic atmosphere. There are usually carolers and musicians performing on main stages.

5.) Dress in layers. Expect rain, wind, snow and cold. You will spend many hours outside. Be prepared with boots, gloves, warm hats and coats.

Fantasy Aisle, Example of some of the candles sold at the markets

Example of some of the candles sold at the markets

6.) Shop until you drop. Vendors sell ornaments, candles, jewelry, hats, socks, liquors, wine, honey, soaps, local desserts and other items for purchase. Most items are handmade. Consider buying something special to the market you visit.

7.) Learn something new. Each market offers walking or on the bus off the bus tours featuring the destination or even an overview of the history of the market. Several places offer Christmas museums where you can learn about Christmas traditions through the centuries. Take a break from the glühwein and cold and duck into a museum.

8.) Book hotels in advance. Christmas markets are very popular for tourists. If you want a spot nearby the city center or close to the action, be prepared to book early. This is an annual activity for many groups.

9.) Go by foot. Wander through the stalls admiring the skill and craftsmanship of local artists. Grab a pair of skates and twirl around the rink absorbing the sights and sounds of Christmas.

10.) Follow the signs but get lost. Most of the markets take place in the old city or in the center of town and are thoughtfully planned around access for locals and tourists. Follow your nose to one market and the bold and beautiful lights of the next. Just when you think you have seen them all, another market more spectacular will greet you.

German and Austrian Guide to Eating and Drinking at the Markets

Glühwein – Hot mulled wine. Red wine (white wine more traditional in Austria and France) made with spices and citrus fruits and can be spiked with whiskey or amaretto

Punsch – Juice with liquor or without for kids

Heidelbeer-GlühweinBlueberry mulled wine

Eierpunsch – Hot spiked eggnog liquor. It’s rich and strong with whipped cream

Fantasy Aisle, Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Vienna, Austria. Rathausplatz, City Hall

Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Vienna, Austria. Rathausplatz, City Hall

Heiße Schokolade – Hot chocolate with or without whip cream

BrezelsMade to be eaten daily, pretzels are sold in bakeries and shops across Germany, Austria and Alsace, France. Pretzels are plain with salt, covered with layers of dark and white chocolate and other sweets

Kartoffelpuffer Greasy potato pancakes eaten with salt or topped with apple sauce, sugar or cinnamon

Fantasy Aisle, Kaiserschmarrn, shredded pancake with raisins, rum and topped with sugar or applesauce

Kaiserschmarrn, shredded pancake with raisins, rum and topped with sugar or applesauce

Kaiserschmarrn – My favorite! A traditional Austrian and Bavarian dish named after Kaiser Franz Joseph I.  It’s similar to bread pudding with raisins, nuts, plums and apples and topped with vanilla sauce or apple sauce

Spätzle – Short egg noodles with cheese or ham or bacon and onions

Pommes Mit Mayo – Steaming hot French fries with mayo on top

Fantasy Aisle, Chestnuts or Maronen, Maroni, Marrons

Chestnuts or Maronen, Maroni, Marrons

Maronen (Maroni) Marrons – “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”

Raclette – A large wheel of Swiss cheese that is heated. The top of the cheese is scraped off and put on toasted bread. Bacon can be added

Lebkuchen – German cookies similar to gingerbread

Gebrannte Mandeln – Toasted almonds

Fantasy Aisle, Waffles with Nutella

Waffles with Nutella

Waffeln – Waffles with Nutella, marzipan, powdered sugar

Bratkartoffel – Baked potatoes with all the toppings

Fantasy Aisle, Sausages, Sauerkraut and more in Strasbourg, France

Sausages, Sauerkraut and more in Strasbourg, France

Bratwurst / Rostbratwurst – Fried sausages

Stollen/Christstollen – Traditional German Christmas cake similar to a coffee cake with dried candied fruit, nuts and spices. The original comes from Dresden

Betmännchen – Chubby doughy gingerman looking treat made with yeast

Krapfen – A Berliner Pfannkuchen is a traditional German pastry similar to a doughnut with no central hole. Made with sweet yeast dough fried it is filled with marmalade or jam and topped with frosting, powdered sugar or regular sugar.

Schokofrüchte – Chocolate covered dried fruit

Fantasy Aisle, A local doughy dessert like dumpling filled with plum and topped with vanilla sauce

A local doughy dessert like dumpling filled with plum and topped with vanilla sauce

Riesen Germknödel – Popular in Austria and Southern Germany (Bavaria) it is a bun shaped sweet dumpling filled with plum jam and covered with a thick vanilla sauce. It’s a traditional dish that locals eat regularly

Baumstriezel – Thin dough wrapped around a baking spit and then rolled in sugar, nuts, chocolate and cinnamon. It has a deep hollow center. It originated from the Hungarian areas of Romania where it’s called Kürtőskalács

Fantasy Aisle, Baumstriezel, dough wrapped around a spit topped with sugar and nuts

Baumstriezel, dough wrapped around a spit topped with sugar and nuts

In Stasbourg, France

Beignets – A deep-fried pastry similar to a fritter. Can be plain or filled with chocolate or strawberry

Fantasy Aisle, Pretzels with loads of cheese and bacon in Strasbourg, France

Pretzels with loads of cheese and bacon in Strasbourg, France

Bretzel aux lardons – Hot pretzels with loads of cheese and bacon sprinkles

Tartes flambées – A specialty of the Alsace region, it’s a piece of bread covered with thick cheese or cheese and onions or bacon

Fantasy Aisle, Bread with melted cheese in Strasbourg, France

Bread with melted cheese in Strasbourg, France

Chocolat chaud – Yummy hot chocolate. It’s nearly as thick as pudding

Vin chaud – Hot mulled wine (red or white)