Christmas markets have existed around Europe for hundreds of years as a way to celebrate everyone’s favorite holiday with craft and food stands that offer all kinds of unique gifts to buy. But in Germany, the tradition of an annual Christmas-time market is so strong that almost every large city and tiny town boast their own – making it the unofficial capital of the most wonderful time of the year. Tourists travel from all around the world, and other Europeans even turn their backs on their own Christmas markets, to get a taste of their famous appeal.
But in the last few years, other cities around Europe and beyond are stepping their game up.
Here are the top 5 worth planning a visit to…
1. Tallinn, Estonia
Nothing short of a fairytale, Tallinn puts its Christmas market right in the town square. Surrounded by 15th-century buildings and candlelight, stalls sell thick knitted winter clothes, Russian military fur hats, amber necklaces and bracelets, handmade chocolates and handmade spiked hot chocolate.
The Swedes embrace Christmas with gusto, so many Christmas markets around the country have claimed their own themes. Garnisonen boasts the Design Christmas Market, Rosendal has a botanical-themed Christmas market, and Drottningholm Castle even gets its own market. In the old town of Gamla Stan, a recreation of a traditional Swedish village pops up on Stortorget Square, offering more old-fashioned goods served by people in traditional dress.
3. Toronto, Canada
Toronto’s historic Distillery District puts up an amazing Toronto Christmas Market, featuring brass and organ music, traditional folk dancing, a life-size gingerbread house, and lots of poutine stalls.
4. Prague, Czech Republic
The Czechs call their markets Vanocnitrh Christmas markets. Here hidden amongst the neverending lights, you can find large hams roasting on spits and barbecued sausages (called klobása), cakes and pastries like trdelník (a hot sugar-coated pastry), bohemian trinkets, and oversized Czech beers – all for incredibly cheap prices.
5. Birmingham UK
Birmingham sports the largest Christmas Market in the UK and outside of Germany and Austria. Their stalls are rich with gifts such as jewelry, decorations and handmade toys, pretzels and gluhwein, and a famous singing moose who serenades Christmas favorites to the passerbys.
After running through the growing roster of smart and headstrong female characters on TV, we came up with a list of some of the most impactful female characters who inspired us as they forged their own destinies.
June ‘Offred’ Osborne – The Handmaid’s Tale
In a horrifying dystopian future, June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) has to abandon her identity, and adopt the name Offred as she is forced into pregnancy surrogacy. However, motivated by the thought of reuniting with her daughter, this brave character rises up against the oppressive state.
Rachel Green – Friends
As soon as Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) made that phenomenal entry in the pilot episode of Friends as a runaway bride in her wedding dress, she stole the hearts of millions. A privileged daddy’s girl, with no clue what the real world holds, she soon gets rid of her father’s credit card. She starts off as a waitress and eventually climbs up the ladder in the fashion industry, following her passion. Watching Rachel evolve from a spoiled brat to become an independent woman was an absolute treat!
Claire Underwood – House of Cards
At first, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) was only known as the wife of politician Frank Underwood, but as the show progresses, we see Claire for the unapologetic, ambitious person that she is. Breaking the gender stereotype in politics, the character of Claire in House of Cards emerges as one of the most powerful people in the world and eventually ends up winning the presidential race. She is a reminder that female characters aren’t only meant to play wives and remain in the background, but can also take lead.
Samantha White – Dear White People
Navigating racism, and discrimination in an Ivy League college that is predominantly white, Samantha White (Logan Browning) is a radio DJ. She uses this platform to elevate meaningful messages and her own experiences in dealing with biases and injustice. In the show, we see her juggling work, academics, and social life – all the while fearlessly facing any challenges that society throws at her. Samantha White is a true inspiration, not only to women of color but to anyone who appreciates courage.
Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy Summers is a fearless character, not just because of her supernatural powers that allow her to slay vampires and demons, but also due to her ever-readiness to sacrifice her life and happiness for the greater good. Sarah Michelle Gellar has managed to portray this titular character in a manner that is entirely relatable throughout the long-running series. She was strong, both mentally and physically, while also embracing her vulnerabilities. We will let Buffy Summers’ tombstone do the talking, “She saved the world. A lot.”
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a powerful yet flawed character, and that is the beauty of her. A former superhero, Jessica, who gave up her cape after a traumatic experience, now lives in Manhattan. She works as a private investigator taking up minor cases for cash – no glory, no fame! However, there is more to Jessica. Underneath her mysterious shell is a survivor. She is a complex mix of traits, often contradictory, reflecting on the fact that human beings (even those with superpowers) are multi-dimensional.
Daenerys Targaryen – Game of Thrones
In her horrid origin story, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) was abused by her own brother. Starting with absolutely nothing but three dragon eggs, she eventually established herself as a strong leader, freeing the enslaved and oppressed as she went on to conquer kingdoms. Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, and Breaker of Chains also became the captivator of our hearts. Despite a tragic ending due to her own greed, her character still remains at the forefront of independent women.
Jessica Pearson – Suits
We meet Jessica Pearson (Gina Gomez) in Suits as the founding and managing partner of one of the most prestigious law firms in New York. While it would be rather easy to reduce the character to a one-dimensional strong black woman, we are ever thankful to Torres and the showrunners for gifting us with a versatile character. She is a perfect blend of wisdom, beauty, and power. From Chicago City Hall to the New York Courtroom, Jessica carries herself with a queen-like grace, always three moves ahead of her male counterparts.
Pam Beesly – The Office
The Office is known to portray characters on a very personal level so that audiences can relate to them. Pam (Jenna Fischer) started as the office receptionist who had very little opinion about anything. As we watch her story unfold, she transforms into a self-assured, honest go-getter who learns to stand up for herself. Her personality shift is also depicted through her bolder outfit choices. Moreover, her compassionate and down-to-earth personality is a reflection of the fact that strength comes from within.
Brienne of Tarth – Game of Thrones
Portrayed by Gwendoline Christie in Game of Thrones, Brienne of Tarth is a true inspiration to women. She dedicates her life to saving others, and as she proceeds with her adventures she is constantly framed as a loyal, noble warrior. While she seems terribly one-dimensional in the first couple of seasons, soon we realize that there are several layers of kindness and compassion underneath her strong exterior. She is a perfect feminist icon, with equal part heart and attitude.
Liz Lemon – 30 Rock
Liz Lemon is a character written and played by Tina Fey, and she made a vibrant female lead in the then comedy landscape that was lacking female presence. The character was, however, deliberately flawed and clumsy, with many layers that reveal the true nature of human incoherence. Liz Lemon in 30 Rock masters the art of self-deprecating humor, laughs at herself and everything around her, as do we with her.
Selina Meyer – Veep
Julia Louise-Dreyfus decided to play the role of this spectacular Washington D.C politician immediately after the offer was made. The rest is history! We meet Selina Meyer as the Vice President of the United States in the first episode of Veep. Throughout the series, Selina undergoes several vicissitudes and colossal mishaps, all the while making a point very clear: she is rarely ever the cause of her failures. She is constantly cleaning up after other people’s mess, while actively working on her goals and aspirations.
Arya Stark – Game of Thrones
In a world where girls were only expected to learn how to sew and do chores, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) of Winterfell was more inclined towards swords and arrows. As Arya leaves home with her father in season one for what seemed like a short trip to King’s Landing, little did we know what her fate held. Very few characters have suffered as she did. Although she only grew stronger, motivated by one thing: to kill all those who wrong her.
Leslie Knope – Parks and Recreation
An optimistic and ambitious public employee, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is driven to one day occupy a position in the government. When we first meet Leslie in season one, she holds a mid-level position with a determination to bring better benefits for her people. She is a positive figure with the perfect blend of enthusiasm, intelligence, and dedication. The character sees everything, even the worst situations, in a positive light, and that’s what lets her always keep honest intentions.
Olivia Pope – Scandal
Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has captivated an audience of millions for seven seasons as a political crisis-management guru, a role often awarded to men. She takes care of humiliating scandals that politicians dig for themselves. She is complex, intelligent, with occasional wrong judgment calls – adding a very humane touch to the character. Pope is equal parts charm and resolve, giving women around the globe a character they can look up to.
Donna Paulsen – Suits
Suits beautifully portrays the journey of the fierce Donna Paulsen from secretary to COO of the firm. And she did not achieve all that by sleeping around or plotting cunning wiles. She only has her wisdom and charm, and occasional sass to thank for her meteoric ascent. In writing, Donna was equal parts beauty and brain, and Sarah Rafferty has done absolute justice in the presentation of the character.
Elaine Benes – Seinfeld
Initially, showrunners had no intention of introducing Elaine Benes into the sitcom, but thankfully, they soon realized that the show could use some wit and a feminine balance. Throughout the entire show, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) was the only one who had a steady nine to five job, yet she never missed a party. She was funny, intelligent, and entertaining with a hint of crazy. She knew exactly what she wanted, and would dive headfirst to achieve it. And if she couldn’t, watch out for that temper!
Peggy Olson – Mad Men
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) was introduced to us in the first episode of Mad Men as an ambitious secretary who is eager to join the male-dominated world of advertising in 1960’s New York. She met swathes of sexism, but that couldn’t stop her. With a stubborn refusal to stop, Peggy managed to forge her way into the brass ring. As the show progresses into the early 1970’s, Peggy’s character seemed to have grown more confident, and courageous and made a name for herself.
Lucy Ricardo – I Love Lucy
Lucy Ricardo, portrayed by Lucille Ball, is the name of a timeless character who was constantly giving her audience a good laugh, from lazy afternoons to sleepless nights. We will watch her nose rise up in satisfaction whenever a scheme is going well, and her mouth-dropping double-takes showing disbelief as one of her plans fail. Lucy is loveable for her charisma, wherever she went we just knew that something amazing was going to happen. We just love a good comedy, and we love Lucy!
Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is a teen detective, who has been through hell and back to grow into a complex, cynical, and multi-dimensional character. The sweet teen, after experiencing torments of abandonment by her mother, an assault, and rejection from friends, began a new phase of her life. She becomes a detective with the intention to help those in need. Veronica Mars teaches us to be strong yet vulnerable, to be intelligent with flaws, and to admire and be admired.
Olivia Benson – Law & Order: SVU
Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) is a detective, and a leading activist, who dedicates her life to fighting for women’s rights, with a hope to end abuse towards all females. She is a fierce woman, with a strong focus on bringing justice. On top of that, she is on a mission to change society’s response to domestic violence, assault, and child abuse. Olivia Benson is an iconic female character who not only dreams of a better society but also knows how to actually make changes.
Rosa Diaz – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) is the one person in TV history that you never want to mess with. She is smart, secretive, and scary – an enigma, if you will. She loves archery, leather jackets, and will judge anyone who confuses Nancy Meyers with Nora Ephron. Although she prefers to keep her personal life a mystery, her “closest friend” Jake only knows three facts about her, she will go all-in with her friendships. Rosa Diaz is a hilarious icon.
Eleven – Stranger Things
Millie Bobby Brown portrays Eleven, a telekinetic-powered youngster who after enduring her fair share of trauma in early childhood is now settling in Hawkins. She is only beginning to learn about friendships and relationships and makes us cry every time she so much as looks at Hopper! With time, Eleven proves herself to be the most resourceful defender against the Upside Down, even though it takes a physical toll on her. This teenage hero teaches us more about selflessness than any male adult hero ever could.
Eve Polastri – Killing Eve
Eve (Sandra Oh) grew up with a dream that she’d be working as a spy for MI5 in a secret assassin hunting department, but Eve gets a little disappointed when she is assigned only desk jobs. She is a little edgy and occasionally loses her temper – like any human when things aren’t going so great. This relatable portrayal of Eve Polastri has won millions of hearts within the short time since the show has aired.
Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Rachel Brosnahan knows how to portray a great female character, and she has done justice to the well-written character Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel. She is an inspiration from the female pioneers in comedy Totie Fields and Joan Rivers. Midge is a housewife in the 1950s, who is starting her career in comedy. The show sharply narrates how women have to struggle to earn their place in the industry. The character is a perfect depiction of the fact that femininity, intelligence, and talent can come in one package.
Alicia Florrick – The Good Wife
Alicia Florrick (Juliana Margulies), at first, was a wife scornfully standing beside her cheating, scandalous politician husband as he apologized to the nation for his misconduct. However, instead of sitting in silence and letting the feeling of betrayal consume her, she quickly turns her fate around. She decides to return to pursuing her career as a lawyer while her husband’s career falls to tatters, in an attempt to support her family who is now in need of a strong leader.
Michonne – The Walking Dead
Always vigilant and armed with her katana and sharp reflexes, there’s very little that could stop Michonne (Danai Gurira) on her survival mission. With keen observation skills and intelligence, she is one of the most prominent, resourceful, and level-headed characters in the apocalyptic series. She is singularly determined to get out of it alive. As the show progresses, she develops to be the perfect blend of strength, intuition, and compassion.
Fleabag is a much-needed reminder that a woman doesn’t always have to have it all figured. The protagonist of the show (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who was not given a first name, navigates through her career, financial situation, and personal life while always holding on to her sense of humor. She manages to captivate the audience by talking to them on a personal level. Fleabag is not perfect, and she gracefully embraces it. She makes a compelling female protagonist with her charm, poise, and wit.
Fiona Gallagher – Shameless
Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum), in the absence of her mother, has to take care of five younger siblings as well as her deadbeat dad. She is a true south side girl; resourceful, scrappy, selfless, and more intelligent than she’d give herself credit for. She would sacrifice all that she has, even her own future if it can earn her family a better life. Fiona is the standard of selflessness in TV, and a true icon to all women out there.
Carrie Mathison – Homeland
A spectacular bi-polar CIA-agent at the center of the show, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) follows her own rules when it comes to saving her country from attacks. Her single-minded determination, uncanny intuition, and persuasive nature is what brings her success time and again. She is the representation of a strong woman with substance, while also keeping hold of her humane side. She saves her country from invasion while also struggling with her own demons.
Sarah Manning – Orphan Black
Orphan Black, for the most part, centers around its main character, Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany). She grew up in a foster home and has been on the wrong side of the law, but she has managed to keep out of any serious harm or punishment. She is adaptable and can fit into any circumstance easily. Sarah’s life hasn’t been easy, but she has learned to survive through the hardest of hardships. Sarah Manning is a true icon in that she never gives up, no matter what.
Claire Randall – Outlander
Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a time-traveling wife, swept-back 200 years through time to find herself in the barbaric 1740s. Not only that, but she also has to contend with the fact that her husband’s doppelganger in that timeframe is a terrible person. Principled, intelligent, and educated (by 18th-century standard) Claire Randall is ruthless, straightforward, and has a tongue that often gets her into trouble. She has to endure a lot – from savage attacks to the tragic death of loved ones, but that doesn’t break her. She persists.
Annalise Keating – How to Get Away With Murder
On the surface, Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) is a headstrong, high-powered lawyer and professor who owns a legal firm and never depends on another person to get her job done. However, there’s so much more to this versatile character. She is also very complex with a two-sided moral compass. The character is full of surprises, and we could never predict her next move as she confronts conflict while managing to manipulate scenarios to her own advantage.
Karen Duvall – Unbelievable
Karen Duval, the main investigator in Unbelievable is portrayed by Meritt Wever. Unlike most other female roles in the industry, she is a soft-spoken, calm yet determined character, who easily gains the trust of victims. She brings out details from a crime scene that would have been missed otherwise. Karen Duvall, in the show, ceaselessly works to hunt down a serial attacker on the loose, and ultimately cracks the case with the intelligence and an amazing eye for details.
Amy Farrah Fowler – The Big Bang Theory
When it comes to women in science, TV only has a handful of representations; Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) is one of them. Despite having a Ph.D. in neurobiology, Amy’s profession is not taken seriously in the show and her research was belittled. However, she completely disregards the misogyny that is thrown her way. As she continues to pursue her research she gets her big break. Amy Fowler, albeit understated, has inspired thousands of women to pursue science; she remains one of the most iconic female characters on TV.
Issa Dee – Insecure
Issa Dee (Issa Rae) navigates her life in Los Angeles as she constantly struggles with keeping her cool with her colleagues, who are often insensitive almost to the point of being racist. She’s messy but in a funny way, she makes mistakes but knows how to accept it and Issa Dee is a character that feels so real. Issa Dee is everything you’d hope for in a comedy heroine, and more.
Peggy Carter – Marvel’s Agent Carter
In a franchise that has talking trees, weapon-expert raccoons, and hammer-wielding gods, it is understandably difficult for a human character, nevermind a woman, to stand out. However, Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell), in both writing and performance, is an exceptional character owing to her determination and courage. The character stands up against the unjust and misogyny in post-World War II America, juggling her personal and professional life with grace. In the male-dominated military, despite facing continuous discrimination, Peggy aimed higher and higher to ensure justice and fairness.
Irene Adler – Sherlock
In an industry where anti-hero roles are mostly played by men, Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) stands as a cunning extortionist, outwitting even Sherlock. Although portrayed as an antagonist, Irene Adler soon proves herself not to be a malicious person, only a smart manipulator. With her dark wit and intelligence, The Woman won our admiration. She just knows how to get things done, and to watch her clever (although not always morally right) methods is an absolute treat.
Xena – Xena: Warrior Princess
Equipped with her trademark Chakram and sidekick Gabrielle, Xena (Lucy Lawless) the warrior princess had traveled the ancient world for six seasons in the late 1990s. She saved the world with her do-good spirit and admirable fighting skills. Upon facing trouble or being threatened, fans have hoped for Xena to arrive with her “Aiyiyiyi” cry, and save them. Even today, this warrior princess teaches women to be strong, fierce, and unapologetic.
Anne – Anne With an “E”
Anne (Amybeth McNulty) is an orphan, adopted by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. As the stubborn little girl enters Green Gables, having been raised in an orphanage, she knew little about the etiquette of society. Anne didn’t start on the right foot. She is a fast learner and determined to turn her life around. Everyone in Green Gables soon falls in love with her charm and unique personality. As the show progresses, Anne gives us a new perspective on many aspects of society we would otherwise blindly follow.