In every family there is a designated Santa Claus, whether this is a cherished title or dubbed by default, what’s important is there is a sacred duty that comes with it. This year, visit the Christmas Markets of Europe for unique gifts and take some time to experience the incredible events surrounding the holiday season. In an Auto Europe car rental, pack your precious cargo as you comb the streets and stores for the ideal take home items.
Immortalized in song by David Tomlinson in the movie musical Bedknobs and Broomsticks, this year-round London market comes alive during the holiday season. From the first day of December to Christmas Eve, the street is full of the hustle and bustle of shoppers rummaging through the famous antique market, sizing-up trendy, vintage, and otherwise secondhand items, scouring the new and old, fashionable and forgotten. In every nook and corner a potential treasure is awaiting just the right person. The scent of spices and baked goods mixes with warm bodies in packed spaces. From the open air to the clustered aisles of brick and mortar shops, give your self plenty of time to peruse this fantastic scene. Swing by the Southbank and take a ride on the London Eye where you can see the festive spirit has fully taken hold of the passersby. There are scheduled and impromptu choral performances amidst this German style Christmas Market and delectable German Bratwurst and Glühwein to curb your appetite. As with many of the popular city’s, London has a host of markets of all sizes and specialties for you to find.
Edinburgh dares you to test your navigation skills in its Christmas Tree Maze and your skills of balance and delicacy on the ice rink at the East Princes Street Gardens. Better than a typical Ferris Wheel, the Big Wheel has observational pods that keep you safe and dry while providing you the best view of the city. Below, the Christmas Market stretches and winds itself through the heart of the city. There are in fact two parts to the shopping experience. This children’s market goes beyond offering an array of delightful toys, games and goodies, it’s specifically geared to give kids the feel of being the customer catered to. You can let them pay for their own purchases and work on their arithmetic too while you ferret away any loot you’ve found.
While the Brussels’ Christmas Market is still in its infancy (2002), it has a powerful presence. Inviting artisans and craftsman from around the world to share their creations, the city also highlights its own highly lauded beer and chocolates. The Pleasures of Winter Festival (Plaisirs d’Hiver/Winter Pret also extends an invitation to a special guest each year to create a cultural market paradise of their own to share their customs, goods and traditions. Various European and far-flung continental countries have participated over the past few years.
The Tivoli Gardens, already a masterfully cultivated landscape of fountains, flower beds and architecture amps up their game during the holiday season. This runner up for oldest theme park in the world is a sight to behold with miles of twinkling lights carefully placed in intricate designs throughout the park. Along the lake the reflections from the seasonal illuminations and rides lend additional ambiance to the already bright and inviting hues. Try a glass of gløgg to stave off the chill, made from a blend of steaming red wine, almonds, cinnamon sticks, raisins and cloves plus a little schnapps or aquavit for kick. For shopping, Danes and tourists alike will leave laden with anything from toys to trinkets in the stalls that line the walkways.
The nicknames of the “City of Light”, or “City of Love” take on new meaning during the holiday season. Paris shines brightly from the millions of light festooned trees and structures. The Christmas Village at Trocadéro (facing the Eiffel Tower), is one of the largest in the city with more than one hundred stalls available. The ice-skating rink and “snow villages” are a cunning enticement for children, so make sure you at least pass through. The grandest market by far within the city, however, is the one lining the Champs Elysées. Delicacies and adornments, doodads and more, from the various regions of France, flow from every merchant stall as their attendants attempt to attract each passerby. From Paris Disney to the streets of the arrodissements, each market offers something different to excite and tantalize from stocking stuffers to sweet and savory foods. While you can stuff yourself to repletion on culinary creations, some hard decisions will have to be made as to what treasures you’ll take home.
Whether the title of “Capital of Christmas” is an overstatement or fact, you’ll have to decide for yourself. What I can tell you is that Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik takes place annually from November 24th – December 24th and sells out hotel stays a year in advance. Since 1570 at the foot of the city cathedral the most prominent city Christmas Market has been held with vendors selling everything from gifts and tree-trimmings, to gluhwein. An impressively sized and ornamented Christmas tree can be seen from far and wide. While you’re less likely to see the enormous rides and illuminated light displays of some of the larger cities, you will not feel the lack with the warmth and charm of the town and the inhabitants. Being a border city you also receive the benefit of the cultural blend of France and Germany!
Every Santa needs a sleigh, and while you may not have reindeer, there’s horsepower to spare. Rent a car with Auto Europe to reach all your holiday destinations and experience the diversity and beauty of Europe’s Christmas Markets at your pleasure and your peril! Come with full wallets and leave with full luggage and hearts as you share in the magic and wonder of the holidays and the season of giving.
Have you visited a European city that had a spectacular holiday market that you’d recommend? We’d love to hear about it!