Tips for Cruising European Christmas Markets

Christmas markets are definitely a worthy bucket list item. There is something seductive about villages glowing in Christmas lights, pop-up stalls of local handmade crafts, and the smells of glühwein (warmed wine with aromatic spices) and gingerbread. At each market find a unique “gluhwein” collectors mug. 

Prague, Czechoslovakia is one of the most beautiful cities we have seen. It was minimally bombed during the wars and therefore enjoys original decorative architecture. We stayed at the Art Palace Hotel. The city is easy to walk. We walked to the market after dark. There was a beautiful Christmas tree in the town square surrounded by booths of holiday foods, local crafts, and “gluhwein” in a collectors Christmas mug. Santa even showed up. 

Also be sure to see: 

Astronomical Clock – this mechanical marvel has parts that date back to 1410. What a shock to learn that it was so ahead of its time that he was blinded by those with evil greed so that he should not replicate it for someone else. It is a must see at the Old Town Hall. 

Ristorante Le Cinque Corone – in the Vaclav Square not far from the astronomical clock. Located at Melantrichova 11.

Tours of Prague Castle, President’s Home, and Seat of Government.

Nuremburg, Germany offers the large Christmas market in front of the church and smaller markets around the city wall. Inside the entrance of the city wall there is a small artisan market with beautiful handmade products. We stayed at the Hotel Victoria just inside the city wall (great location) and at Le Meridien just outside the city gate (nice amenities). 

Omischbar at Plobenhofstasse 1 offered a nice spot on the river to have an antipasto and wine.

Stadtrundfahrt Nurnberg City Tour is a cute train that drives around the walled town and tells the history. It offers headsets and the tour in different languages.

The Glockenspiel in town center plays on the hour and portrays Electors paying homage to Emperor Karl IV sitting on his throne.

Bratwurst & Roselle Tavern is just off the square and offers a traditional German tavern style meal. 

World War II tours are fascinating. After years of trying to forget, new generations embrace keeping relics of the past to insure that evil is not forgotten. The Colosseum houses a great museum; the Zeplinfield ruins remind us how massive Hitler’s impact was in such a short period of time.

Regensburg, Germany is a beautiful Medieval city of many towers. The stone Roman bridge entrance into the old town still stands. The Christmas market was smaller in size and in attendance which was nice because we got to spend time talking with the vendors.

Also be sure to see St. Peter’s Cathedral Baroque organ and hear an organ concert.

Passau, Germany lies at the confluence of three rivers – Danube, Inn and Ilz. Its geographic beauty is enhanced by the gothic and baroque architecture. 

Gingerbread making demos are so fun, tasty, and educational. Ours was next to The Pub of the Holy Spirit. We tasted three different types of gingerbread and learned so much.

Confiserie Café’ Simon at Am Rindermarkt 10, 94032 Passau is a wonderful place to get coffee and confections.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is not only ornately Baroque but offers the best Christmas market of Passau. It is beautiful.

Café Schoffberger at Luragogasse 3 was a delightful place to stop for a coffee. The shop was a shoe shop in the 50’s and 60’s and still has the feel of a retail shop. The storefront display windows created intimate tables for two and the upstairs became a quite library cove.

Krems, Austria is the sister city of Grapevine, Texas, and is the site of the beautifully restored Baroque Gottweig Abbey at Stift Gottweig 1, 3511 Furth bei Gottweig, Austria. It was founded in 1083 and still today houses 34 monks. The Abbey produces apricots and grapes among other crops. We toured the Abbey, learned how to make apricot dumplings, and tasted their wines. Though there was no Christmas market here, it was a festive outing.

Vienna, Austria is a beautiful city. The Christmas markets were spectacular. The challenge was so many people were there and we could not get to the booths to see any products. The largest market was the Wien Chriskindlemkt and Froh’s Fest. The light show is good. It gets dark early, around 4 pm, so you can see the lights early.

Wein & Co. Stephansplatz was a lovely wine bar not far from the market. It is a chain. There are three in Vienna. Wines are good and the staff is knowledgeable.  

Downtown Vienna had elaborate street decorations it the shopping area.

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia which is directly across the Danube. The town is smaller and less traveled. The markets were fun and had a nice selection of different products. The town is cute and easy to walk.

Szentendre, Hungary is a quiet little artist village filled with artisan shops. There is a small Christmas market, but the shops create a similar atmosphere. It was intimate, uncrowded, and full of handmade products.

Budapest, Hungary hosts several Christmas markets around the city. The largest one was in front of the Cathedral. 

Anantara New York Hotel is a must-see even if you do not stay there. It is a Baroque masterpiece inside. There is always a line outside for the café’. 

TATI farm to table restaurant is not far from the Anantara and offers Michelin fare. It is located at Dohany u. 58-62, 1076. The servers were polite and very knowledgeable. The food was good and creative.

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