We might be longing for the arrival of Spring right now, but soon Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye. So this is the ideal time for Gate 1 travellers to book your visits to Europe’s festive and colourful Christkindlmarkts!
It’s been said that the off-season for tourists is the on-season for some of Europe’s most intimate and delightful cultural festivals. Christmas markets are just one example of this adage, as Central Europe’s old squares come alive with local traditions that conjure Christmases past. Each year, the cities of Germany and Austria offer a feast for the senses. Aromas of cinnamon, gingerbread, baked apples and roasting chestnuts waft through Old Town squares. Gaily decorated stalls brim with handmade ornaments, toys and endless ideas for Christmas gift-giving. Artisans are often on hand to demonstrate their crafts, carollers roam about the snowy squares and stalls are decorated with the finest trimmings. It’s hard to find a more perfect place to ring in the festive season than in Central Europe.
Christmas Markets Steeped in German Tradition
Two of Gate 1’s Christmas Market itineraries feature time to experience the city in which the market tradition began: Nuremberg, Germany. Blanketing the squares of the old walled city, this market dates back to the 1600s. Here, almost 200 stalls illuminated by candlelight cluster in the Haupmarkt competing for the “Plum Person,” a prize for the most breathtaking display. And everywhere, you’ll marvel at the gingerbread houses and Zwetschgenmannle, or dried plum statuettes, for which Nuremberg is known.
The spirit of Nuremberg echoes in cities throughout Germany. Munich’s Marienplatz in the Old Town hosts one of the world’s largest Christmas markets. Its twinkling lights and draperies of garlands vie for your attention amidst a sea of ornament-filled stalls. Under a canopy of festive lights in Berlin, you may discover the perfect hand-blown glass ornament, meticulously painted wooden nutcracker, or an intricately designed Weihnachtspyramide keepsake, a captivating multi-level carousel powered by the rising heat of candles; these precious treasures were first carved in Germany’s Ore Mountains. Dresden, too, boasts its own Striezelmarkt, named for the beloved Stollen Christmas cake. And in neighbouring Leipzig, more than 250 stalls offer a profusion of seasonal delights in the shadow of St. Nicholas Church, final resting place of Johann Sebastian Bach. If you listen closely, you might hear echoes of his celebrated Christmas cantata floating from within.
Smaller German cities also take part in the holiday cheer. In Heidelberg, delight in the treats of the city’s elegant market square in the Old Quarter, including lebkuchen, a tasty cookie. The millennium-old Cathedral of St. Martin in Mainz adds a hallowed air to the brightly decorated stands brimming with wooden toys, straw stars, colourful ceramics and more.
The Magic of Austria
Vienna is one of Europe’s grandest capitals any time of year. But during the Christmas season, it is illuminated and festooned unlike anywhere else. The city’s markets date back to 1298, when Albrecht I allowed his people to hold a Krippenmarkt in December. Today, 20 markets spread out across this elegant city, from the platz in front of City Hall, where international choirs sing carols, to the makeshift village at Belvedere Palace. As you browse, you’ll want to have a delicious vanillekipferl in hand, a crescent-shaped biscuit dusted with sugar.
In Salzburg, city of The Sound of Music set amidst Austria’s stunning alpine landscapes, the brass sounds of a turmblasen band echo among richly adorned stalls. As you peruse the countless crafts in beautiful Cathedral Square, you just might spot wandering among the stalls the fabled Christkind, dreamy figures in white and gold robes donning feathered wings. And you’ll no doubt want to avoid the Krampus, mythical creatures who accompany St. Nicholas in case the children behave badly.
Deck the halls with Gate 1 Travel this year during one of our three festive itineraries that bring the joy and fun of the Christmas season to vivid life in November and December. Don’t miss out! Just select from one of the trips below!