It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas, sang American singer Perry Como and the Fontane Sisters. And it’s true. It’s the time when it’s starting to snow, the weather is getting cold, and it’s the time to pick up a few festive bargains before the big day.
Christmas markets are the place to be, and there’s lots of places in Europe where you can have a glass of mulled wine and buy some festive treats and decorations for your tree.
They say the first Christmas market appeared in 1298 in Vienna, when Emperor Albrecht I granted shopkeepers the privilege of holding a Krippenmarkt (manger market) a few days before winter. And the rest as they say is history.
These days the Christmas market takes place by Vienna’s City Hall with more than 150 stalls. Known as the “Vienna Magic of Advent,” it runs from November 11 to December 23. Visitors enjoy Austrian sausages washed down with hot Christmas Punch or gluwein. Children can marvel at a nativity scene, all can enjoy Christmas concerts and have a go on the large ice skating rink.
Another hot spot in Vienna before Christmas is the cultural and Christmas market in front of Schönbrunn Palace. It provides buckets of sheer romance in front of an imperial backdrop, and is converted into a New Year’s market after Christmas.
The market, dressed up in all its Christmas regalia, offers traditional handicrafts, hand-made Christmas decorations, Christmas concerts and a wide-ranging children’s program, including a Christmas workshop. For cheap and last-minute deals on flights, hotels and car rentals click this link.
Krakow Christmas Market runs from November 24 to January 1, 2024. It is regarded as the most popular and best Christmas market in Poland. It’s located on Rynek Glowny, the 13th-century main town square found in the centre of the old town. The stalls sit between the famous Cloth Hall and the not to be missed St Mary’s Basilica.
The Christmas market is lined with tasty smoked and grilled specialities, cheese, desserts, perogies, soups and goulash. You can also find many handcrafted toys to take home as gifts, not to mention Christmas decorations.
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Admission to the Christmas Market is free and its opening times vary from late morning to early evening. On Christmas Day some stalls may be closed. Unlike the German and Austrian markets, the Krakow market is more affordable and there is always lots of hot drinks and cheap vodka available if it gets too cold.
Temperatures on average are 3°C /-4°C (high/low) in December. You might get snow if you are lucky, but do dress warm.
If you like guided tours to Krakow and to see the Christmas market, there are deals for as little as £699.00 for four days. This includes: return flights, three nights in a 4-star hotel, 4 meals, 3 breakfasts, 1 lunch and a festive welcome drink.
It’s advisable to look for a hotel close to the Christmas market to avoid spending too much time walking outdoors when the weather is cold. For cheap and last-minute deals on flights, hotels and car rentals click this link.
The weather in Krakow in December is very cold with temperatures between -1°C and 3°C, warm clothes are a must. You can expect about three to eight days of rain in Krakow during the month of December.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
Prague also tops the Christmas markets. They are open daily from December 2, 2023 to January 6, 2024, including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The main Christmas markets are held at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, in the heart of the city and are free to enter. The two squares are five minutes walk from each other. Opening hours are 10:00-22:00.
The Christmas markets come with their brightly coloured wooden huts stocked up with its traditional Christmas treats and handicrafts. On display there are plenty of souvenirs and gifts you can buy, including Christmas tree ornaments, wooden toys, dolls dressed in traditional costumes, winter hats and gloves, candles, puppets and much more.
If you are hungry, feast yourself on barbecued sausages, large hams on roasted spits, flatbread topped up with garlic, cheese and ketchup and pancakes or crêpes. There is traditional Christmas fish soup made from vegetables, carp, cream and brandy. Chimney cake has a walnut mix and is popular with chocolate or ice cream filling.
Wash all that down with some good Czech beer like Budvar, Staropramen and Pilsner Urquell, all brewed in Prague. If you want something warm, opt for mulled wine, hot chocolate and honey wine. The temperatures are usually between 2°C (36°F) and -2°C (28°F) in December. It gets colder in January when the temperatures sometimes drop even to -10°C (14°F).
The main Christmas markets open at 10am and close at 10pm, and are held at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, in the heart of the city. The two squares are just five minutes walk away from each other. If you like guided tours, a four-day trip to Prague including the Christmas market can cost as little as £699.00. For cheap and last-minute deals on flights, hotels and car rentals click this link.
These days Christmas markets have spread right across the world and are not just in Europe. Depending on which continent you go to, if it is a cold climate, remember to dress up warm. There are last-minute deals available but holiday destinations get snapped up pretty quick, so don’t leave it too late.