Ashley Kosciolek has been a travel editor at Cruise Critic, a TripAdvisor company, for more than ten years and has written extensive reviews on voyages to dozens of cities across the globe. She serves as an industry expert and enjoys active sailings that allow her to learn while on the go. Her favourite destinations include London, Krakow, Amsterdam, Rudesheim and Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon Territory. She can found on Instagram (SlyJabroni) and Twitter (@SlyJabroni).
Each November, cities across Europe gear up for their annual Christmas markets, where locals and tourists alike can pick up presents, stocking fillers, and delicious food and drink from a number of quaint wooden stalls adorned with twinkling lights and other holiday trimmings.
Although versions of these markets have been adopted throughout the world, the best still remain in Europe, where the specialities change from country to country.
Below is a list of some of our favourites, along with what you might want to buy — as a treat for yourself or as a holiday gift for someone else.
- Rudesheim, Germany
For something to keep you warm during your visit to Rudesheim’s adorable Christmas market, try a Rudesheimer Kaffee — strong, hot coffee with a shot of brandy and sugar cubes, all of which is lit on fire and then extinguished before drinking. Make it a take-home treat or gift by meandering the cobblestone streets to find a stall that sells sets of authentic cups and saucers specifically designed for the beverage.
- Barcelona, Spain
Whether you’re shopping for a child’s gift or for holiday decor, handmade items are a great choice. Consider wooden toys or hand-carved and -painted nativity sets to get you into the spirit of the season. Of course no Catalonian nativity set would be complete without its very own “caga tio” or “poop log”. These friendly-faced logs are placed in nativity scenes to represent fertility and luck in the coming year.
- Florence, Italy
Among other things, Florence is known for its high-quality leather. Choose a purse, wallet or other souvenir to put under the tree, or opt for a leather Christmas ornament to put on it instead. Glass ornaments depicting local landmarks, such as the Duomo or Ponte Vecchio, also make nice additions.
- Strasbourg, France
Beautiful Strasbourg, where historic buildings line scenic canals, is a great place to try glühwein — spiced, mulled wine that’s popular in neighbouring Germany. Enjoy a cup while you stroll among the huts, or snag a bottle or two to take home for later. Alsatian pottery is another sure bet that comes in a variety of colours and styles; just be sure to pack it carefully to avoid breaking it during your travels.
- Krakow, Poland
Poland, rumoured to be the home of the first known gingerbread cookie, hosts a magical market, where shoppers can find the sweet treat, also known as pierniczki. Often found in different sizes and shapes — gingerbread men, hearts — these cookies can be easily wrapped and transported home to fill stockings or accompany some of that glühwein you bought in Strasbourg.
For more on Christmas markets, check out: