Historical Christmas Markets to Visit this December
There’s no better way to start feeling festive than by visiting a Christmas market. Particularly popular in Europe, these seasonal markets date back to the Late Middle Ages, and have since spread across many countries during the months of November and December. Travelling abroad to enjoy the magic of the festive period has become more common over the years, with some of the best Christmas markets residing in countries like Germany and France.
So here at Asda Money, we’ve picked some of our favourite destinations to experience not only the fantastic atmosphere these Christmas markets bring, but also the opportunity to soak up the culture and history of the surrounding areas too.
Frankfurt is home to one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Germany, dating all the way back to 1393. The historic old town is lit up by thousands of fairy lights every December, making it one of the most beautiful markets, and receives approximately 3million visitors every year.
Visiting this historic market will really get you in the mood for Christmas, the air filled with the smell of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, and German sausages. It’s famous for many traditional Christmas delicacies, including; Bethmännchen (pastries made from marzipan with almond), hot apple wine with cinnamon and cloves, and Quetschemännchen (colourful figures made of nuts and dried plums).
The market sits in front of one of the most important landmarks in the city; the Römer. The former Patrician Villa has served as Frankfurt’s city hall since 1405, and the beautiful building is the seat of the city’s Lord Mayor. Two minutes down the street from the market you’ll also find the Historical Museum, filled with collections, objects and stories relating to Frankfurt and Germany.
Despite Frankfurt being a popular tourist destination, during the winter months in particular, there are some surprisingly cheap options when staying in the city in early December, with hotels starting from just €39.55* (£34.00) per night.
The Christmas market in Strasbourg is one of the oldest and most popular in France. Founded in 1570, the market, which was once known as the "Christkindelsmärik” (Market of the Infant Jesus), includes over 300 chalets which are spread across 12 different themed areas, and attracts over 2million visitors each year.
Many of the stalls are located around the city’s remarkable Strasbourg Cathedral. Built in 1439, the Cathedral’s Gothic towers and astronomical clock are worth a visit at any time of the year. A couple of minutes’ walk away you’ll also find The Musée Alsacien (Alsatian Museum) which was built in 1620. The museum displays a collection of furniture, clothing, folk art, domestic items, and much more from Alsatian life in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Voted “Best Christmas Market in Europe” for the second year running in 2015, throughout the years Strasbourg Christmas Market has continued to grow. If you take a trip here you’ll find a range of things to see and do which are suitable for the whole family, including craftwork, food and drink, plus traditional Christmas decorations.
Whilst visiting the market in Strasbourg, you’ll also get to experience another culture. Every year, the market has a themed section where they play host to a special guest country. This year Portugal has been chosen, which will be celebrated in the Portuguese Village area of the market. Here you will find a variety of traditional Portuguese food and much more, including Bolo Rei cakes, Massa de Filhós doughnuts, and Alsatian biscuits.
Valkenburg, The Netherlands
If you want to visit somewhere with a difference, then the place to go is Valkenburg, a small town in the Netherlands. One of the largest underground Christmas Markets in Europe, every December the Velvet and Municipal Caves are filled with more than 50 shops, fairy lights, beautiful murals, and historic sculptures.
Over 100,000 visitors come to the caves each year, which were discovered around 2,000 years ago by the Romans who mined in the area. The caves were also allegedly used during the Second World War, serving as a hideout for the residents of Valkenburg and American troops.
The Netherlands is a great place to visit in winter, being far less crowded than neighbouring countries, and cheaper in many respects as well, the average 3* hotel costing approximately €50.00 (£43.24) per night. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see it at its most beautiful; with snow sprinkled across the historic buildings.
Prague, Czech Republic
Every year in Prague, the Christmas markets are held in the Old Town Square, which is the most significant and historic square in the city.
Founded in the 12th century, the 900m² landmark was declared a national cultural monument in 1962. Throughout the year, the square is a tourist hot-spot, surrounded by churches, museums, and monuments. However, in December the square turns into a winter wonderland and the largest Christmas market in Czech Republic is revealed.
The markets are filled with many gift stalls, numerous food vendors offering traditional Czech cuisine, stages for musical performances, and much more. All of this can be experienced whilst taking in the magnificent architecture surrounding the square.
If you’ve finished your Christmas shopping and want to see more of Prague’s historic attractions, take a stroll across the Vltava River to Prague Castle. The castle dates back to the 9th century, and is the home to the President of the Czech Republic. It has been named the largest ancient castle in the world, with an area of almost 70,000m² and a height of approximately 570 meters.
Whichever foreign Christmas markets you choose to visit this year, don’t forget to buy your travel insurance beforehand. You’ll also find that some Christmas markets will only accept cash, so make sure you collect your currency before you go. We offer great rates on travel money and 0% commission, with over 50 currencies available.
*The above figures are provided for indicative purposes only and are based on the exchange rate, correct as of 12:00 on 15/11/2016.