When planning your European Christmas markets tour, it is common to think of River Cruising. While this is a popular way to travel throughout Europe, an adventure by land can often offer more and will require less lead time in booking as the Christmas Markets River Cruises generally sell out 1-2 years in advance.
By land, visit three fairy tale cities: Prague, Vienna and Budapest and experience the local atmosphere of the Old Town centres, electric with excitement and energy. Wander the cobble-stoned streets in Prague, be awed at the majesty of the Hapsburg Empire in Vienna and take a cruise on the Danube to gaze at the famous Parliament Building in Budapest. The European Christmas Markets are a fairy tale of history, culture, food and wine at the most magical time of year in these Eastern European gems.
Christmas Markets in Vienna
Take in Vienna’s historical sites while visiting Christmas markets around this regal city on the Danube. Once home to the Hapsburg Empire, Christmas markets abound throughout the city including at the famous Schönbrunn Palace where Emperor Franz Josef and Sissy spent their summers. Don’t miss a glass of hot punch and a Vanillekipferl Biscuits fresh from the oven while meandering through the market.
The Christmas Market in Stephansplatz has an added decorative touch in that the stunning Stephensdom, one of the world’s tallest churches and adorned with a boldly patterned rooftop, hovers above. It’s also just a stones throw from the Hofburg Imperial Palace where the royal family once resided.
A Christmas market sets up at Belvedere Palace, once a royal residence, and although smaller than other markets around town, the backdrop here as night falls make it’s worth adding to your itinerary.
The Viennese Dream Christmas Market in front of city hall is a highlight on the Austrian capital Christmas market circuit with child-friendly activities including cookie making and choirs singing carols on weekends.
Christmas Markets in Budapest
Also a former Hapsburg domain and filled with equally regal former royal residences and a grand parliament building, the Christmas markets in Budapest stimulate all senses.
At the Budapest Basilica Christmas Fair in front of the imposing St Stephen’s Cathedral, market goers are treated to a laser projection on the cathedral’s façade while sampling Hungarian treats – chimney cakes included. Shop for handicrafts in between bites, and perhaps kick off your visit with a climb up one of the towers for views over Budapest. The cathedral is one of the tallest buildings in the city.
The oldest and most internationally known market is the Christmas market that takes place on Vorosmarty Square, in the same district as the Budapest Basilica Christmas Fair. The set-up is postcard perfect with little huts selling handmade gifts. The traditions extend to the food as well with chimney cakes, sausage rolls, Langos and mulled wine available for purchase when hunger hits. Concerts are also a hit with market goers.
Christmas Markets in Prague
Known locally as Vánoční trhy, Christmas markets in Prague are sparkly, steeped in tradition and filled with good food and drink. In other words, it’s a picturesque time to take in some traditional Czech culture and food. The Old Town Square Market in the historic city centre attracts crowds of visitors each year. While shopping for traditional handicrafts including hand-blown glass Christmas balls, embroidered linens, and wooden toys, don’t miss the astronomical clock located in the area.
The second largest Christmas market in Prague sets up in Wenceslas Square where, in addition to shopping handmade goods from local artisans, visitors will want to sip some mulled wine and sample Christmas treats including braided cakes.
The Republic Square Christmas market is the place to go once Christmas (and souvenir) shopping is complete. Known amongst locals as the best market for Czech food including meats, cakes and pastries and, of course, beer.
These fairy tale cities, with the electric energy and excitement of shopping and visiting historical and cultural sites, are a spectacular, unforgettable, and unique way to way to spend your magical Christmas holidays.
For more information on planning your Christmas adventure exploring the European markets, please contact Krista Tovell at Tovell Travel.