Posted by: Mary | December 20, 2012

Not All Christmas Markets Are Created Equal

In 2003, I went to Prague in early December.  I didn’t know about their Christmas markets throughout the city when I planned the trip, but discovered them during the week’s stay.  There was an ice skating rink, roasted chestnuts, food and wine booths, and lots of Christmas crafts and gifts to buy.  My sister and I had a great time in Prague and the Christmas market was an added bonus.  We bought several gifts to bring home.

Last year, I planned an entire trip around the Christmas markets in Germany and Strasbourg (France).  Most of the markets were large and filled with food booths, Glühwein, Kinder Punch, and lots to buy.  There were Christmas ornaments, lights and decorations, gloves, scarves, candles, food items, etc.  There was plenty of variety at each market, but much of what was offered at one large market was offered at others.  During the day, they weren’t too busy, but at night, everyone came out to socialize, eat and drink.  The atmosphere was festive and each booth was decorated in a unique fashion…some quite extravagant.  Some of the smaller towns also held Christmas markets, but were such a small-scale that they were really focused on the eating, drinking and socializing, and not on the shopping.  (See my previous posts on a number of these markets for more information.)

This year, a friend and I planned a trip to Spain and scheduled it to coincide with their Christmas markets.  Barcelona held a market just outside La Sagrada Familia and Madrid’s large Christmas market was held in Plaza Mayor.  We weren’t sure what to expect, but it was quite different form the markets in Germany.  There was hardly any food or drink for sale, and very little variety of items for sale.  Most everything were Christmas decorations for people who live nearby or nativity scenes.  It seems to be tradition that when children leave their parents home, they start their own nativity scene.

These nativity scenes were pretty extravagant and were more like full villages.  There were several styles to choose from, and you could purchase multiple buildings, villagers going about their daily lives, livestock, produce, etc.  In Madrid, we noticed that the market had more of a carnival atmosphere with lots of cheap plastic toys for sale, along with balloons and colorful wigs.  There were a number of street performers and people dressed up as cartoon characters.  There were also lots of cheap, brightly colored wigs for sale, which were popular with children.

The bottom line is that the Christmas markets in each country can be quite different, even if the descriptions you find on websites make them sound similar.  If you’re going to plan a trip around Christmas markets, especially for shopping, do your research to plan the trip that’s right for you.



  1. Mary, glad you’re back in Europe and I’m eager to hear about more of your adventures! Steph

    • Thanks Steph. Once the busy period surrounding the holidays is over, I plan to post more about the trip.

  2. Hi Mary.. I live in Bratislava. It is fun to watch the role the Christmas market plays for the entire local community. Everyone goes at least once. Friends meet after work for wine, little kids go with their parents to eat fried food. It reminds me of the US state fair. And in a poorer country like Slovakia, it is where all the Christmas decorations are. The markets of Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna would make a great add to your travel wish list.

    • That’s exactly what I was thinking! Budapest and Vienna are definitely on the list, and I was considering a stop in Bratislava. After checking out your blog and getting your feedback, I’ll definitely include Bratislava. I’m looking forward to it! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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