8 Enchanting European Christmas Markets

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8 Enchanting European Christmas Markets
Sure, the United States has earned some stripes when it comes to making the winter holiday season its own. After all, no other country can take credit for Elf, cookie decorating, and post-Christmas sales. But there’s one major issue: the lack of Christmas markets.

A distinctly European tradition, a Christmas market is essentially a miniature amusement park for the holidays, bringing the spirit of the season to life in the form of treats, goods, and attractions. They’re not exactly hard to come by—Germany alone has almost 70 spread across the country. But that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. In fact, some of the best Christmas markets have a distinctive spin on the age-old tradition. As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, we’ve rounded up eight unique Christmas markets in Europe—each a must-see during the holiday season.
Courtesy of Michael Arndt Hochschwarzwald
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    Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market (Black Forest Highlands, Hinterzarten, Germany)
    The setting of the Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market—in a gorge under the viaduct of the Devil’s Valley Railway in the Black Forest Highlands—is best described as straight out of a fairytale. The market’s various stalls are surrounded by forestry, which adds a true “winter wonderland” feel when dusted with snow. The pop-up shopping and entertainment fair takes place over three weekends in late November and December.

    Plan Your Trip: Hinterzarten
    Courtesy of Michael Arndt Hochschwarzwald
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    Velvet Cave Christmas Market (Fluweelengrot, Valkenburg, Netherlands)
    A historical tour and Christmas market in one, this Valkenburg holiday celebration features a series of vendors alongside the 18th-century Velvet Cave’s chapel, murals, and sculptures—all within a maze of underground passageways and rooms. This year will be the 18th edition of the Velvet Cave Christmas Market, and it will be open to guests until December 23.

    Plan Your Trip: The Netherlands 

    Photo by clesage1/Flickr
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    Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market (Copenhagen, Denmark)
    Bring the whole family along to the annual Christmas market at Tivoli Gardens, a historical amusement park in Copenhagen. During the months of November and December, the world’s second-oldest operating amusement park opens a series of stalls alongside its year-round attractions, rides, and games. Locals and tourists of all ages will be delighted by the whimsical atmosphere and seasonal offerings, including Christmas treats, decorations, and gifts.

    Plan Your Trip: Copenhagen 

    Photo by Dan Montalbano/Flickr
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    Royal Christmas Market (Hohenzollern Castle, Burg Hohenzollern, Germany)
    With a location high atop a mountain overlooking the German countryside, the biggest challenge for those visiting the Royal Christmas Market is deciding whether to browse the goods or take in the views first. Don’t worry—there’s time to explore it all when visiting the Hohenzollern Castle during the holidays; while the interior rooms house most of the vendors, visitors are free to roam the treasure room, two churches, cellars, and outdoor terraces. For 2016, the market will be open December 8-10.

    Plan Your Trip: Germany 

    Photo by Jim Trodel/Flickr
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    I Believe in Christmas (Custom House Quarter, Dublin, Ireland)
    One of the newer Christmas markets to the scene, I Believe in Christmas launched in 2015. With its riverfront location, iconic 50-foot tree, and local food and drink producers, the 28-day celebration easily proved that older isn’t necessarily better. By offering a modern twist on the classic market, I Believe in Christmas renewed the sense of excitement surrounding this longtime holiday tradition.

    Plan Your Trip: Dublin
    Courtesy of The chq Building
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    Piazza Navona (Rome)
    Set in one of Rome’s grandest piazzas, the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona juxtaposes the new—think torrone in every flavor, souvenir-style trinkets, and Mylar balloons—with the gravitas of the 1st-century outdoor plaza. Visitors can browse stalls of handmade crafts, Italian treats, and local art, all while keeping an eye out for the oft-appearing Father Christmas.

    Plan Your Trip: Rome 
    Photo by Herb Neufeld/Flickr
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    Christchindli Market (Waaghaus to Market Square, St. Gallen, Switzerland)
    It’s not every day that you can visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, nor is it every day that you can explore a historic Swiss town and get your Christmas shopping done all in one place—but that’s exactly what the Christchindli Market offers. While visitors are often taken with the series of stands lined up from the Waaghaus to Market Square, they shouldn’t forget to look up; the sky is illuminated by 700 stars every year during the Advent, leading locals to nickname St. Gallen “the city of stars.” Back on the ground, merry-go-rounds, seasonal drinks and foods, choir performances, and a lit Christmas tree entertain all who visit during the holiday season.

    Plan Your Trip: Switzerland 

    Photo by Marco Sanchez/Flickr
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    Millstatt Christbaum Wald im See (Lake Millstatt, Carinthia, Austria)
    This floating Christmas market can be credited to Austrian bar Kap 4613, an iconic architectural pyramid floating just off the shore of Lake Millstatt. Every year around the holidays, the bar hosts a small Christmas “terrace” focused on local food and wine producers—all of which can be browsed alongside scenic vistas of Lake Millstatt and neighboring mountains.

    Plan Your Trip: Austria 
    Photo by Alessio Bertolini
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