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.