BEST CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN EUROPE FOR SOLO TRAVELERS
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN EUROPE – a sordid history
Christmas Markets are a must if you are in Europe during the Holiday Season. It simply brings up the magic of this period. But everything started at some point and as I am a sucker for history, let’s dig a little bit into the sordid history of Christmas Markets in Europe.
If we say Christmas Markets, we say Germany! They date back to medieval times when Germans covered a wide part of Europe. Some of the German Christmas markets date from the 15th – 16th centuries. Historical documents registered that Dresden’s market dates from 1434. Nuremberg’s Christmas market allegedly dates from 1628, though some historians say it dates from 1530.
The German Christmas Markets first began as small stalls around the village’s church with local artisans selling pottery, meat, baked goods, or sweets, depending on the price of the sugar.
The Industrial Revolution profoundly affected Christmas markets in the early 19th century. In Berlin, the Christmas market grew from 303 stalls in 1805 to 600 in 1840.
Later, Christmas markets were used as a weapon in the effort to align Christmas with Nazi ideology. After Adolf Hitler’s ascent as a chancellor in 1933, Christmas passed from a religious holiday that celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ to nationalist propaganda for German heritage.
Christmas as we know it today, is definitely German with lots of traditions, from Advent calendars to Christmas trees, emerging in Germany. Protestant reformer Martin Luther is credited by historians with putting lights on the Christmas tree after a nighttime stroll through a German forest under a starry sky.
HOW CAN I PLAN A SOLO TRIP TO CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN EUROPE?
I tell you, planning on traveling Solo for Christmas Markets is not an easy task. But, there is always a way, when you want something so badly, and this girl right here does not stop until she finds the easiest way.
So, let me tell you my way of doing the Christmas Markets in Europe, as it is my favorite time of the year.
To get myself into the X-Mas spirit, I start by watching all those cheesy, girly movies for Christmas on Netflix. I start early, around mid-November. Why? Because I leave in Paris and the Christmas Windows in Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps are revealed to the public on the 18th of November. Also, the Christmas lights are officially plugged-in in the City of Lights on the same day.
Why do I start with Paris my Solo journey for Christmas Markets? Well, first, because I leave here, and second, because even though Paris does not have a decent Christmas Market to place it on the map for Christmas Market Capital, it is something you’ll not want to miss. And here’s when I understood why:
My cousin moved from London to Stockholm recently. He came to Paris in early December on a business trip, so we went out. One day, he complained to one of his colleagues that the only bémol (negative thing) he found, comparing Stockholm with London was that Stockholm does not have as many parks as London. But his colleague, very detached by this remark told him, “But Teo, the entire Stockholm is a park!”.
And just like that, it hit me: The entire of Paris is a Christmas Market!
So yeah! You’ll not want to miss Paris during Christmas time, because it’s magical, it’s bubbling, it’s, however, you want it to be.
TIP: If you want to stay within the budget while strolling the European Christmas Markets on your own, start early, from the 18th of November.
Here are some dates of my favorite Christmas Markets in Europe
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN GERMANY
Cologne, Germany: November 21 to December 23, 2022
Berlin, Germany: November 21, 2022, to January 1, 2023
Nuremberg, Germany: November 25, to December 24, 2022
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN AUSTRIA
Vienna, Austria: November 19 to December 26, 2022
Salzburg, Austria: November 17, 2022, to January 1, 2023
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN ITALY
Verona, Italy: November 12, to December 26, 2022
Roma, Italy: December 2, 2022, to January 2, 2023
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN FRANCE
Paris, France: November 19, 2022, to January 8, 2023
Strasbourg, France: November 21, to December 23, 2022
Colmar, France – November 24 to December 29, 2022
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN ROMANIA
Sibiu Romania: November 11, 2022; to January 8, 2023
Brasov, Romania: November 30, 2022, to January 3, 2023
Oradea, Romania – December 2, to December 26, 2022
VISIT THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN EUROPE ON A BUDGET
- Plan in advance and start early
- Make a list of your favorite Christmas Markets in Europe
- Check the opening dates for those favorite Christmas Markets
- Start with the ones that open early in November, that’s when prices are the lowest for flights and accommodation
- Plan the most optimal route – it demands time and patience
- Check trains between countries or cities, you might find better rates, and you save the planet at the same time. Santa will definitely put you on top of his list
- BlaBlaCar works very well in Europe, so this could be a great option to stay on your budget
- Try to go to big cities during the week, not the week-end when it’s full of tourists
- Find accommodation in a nearby city that is not that crowded or overrated for accommodations (I stayed in Bologna and took the train, 1H15 to Verona to see the Christmas Market)
- Allocate a maximum of 3 days per Christmas Market. It will give you time to experience also the city if it’s your first time.
MY TOP 5 BEST CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN EUROPE
If there is too much fuss around something, it’s mostly Marketing!
5. Vienna Christmas Market
See? I bet you find this strange, as the entire internet is filled with posts like The best Christmas Market in Europe. The most famous Christmas Market in Europe.
Well, let me tell you, I’ve seen better.
I go to Vienna several times per year, as I have my God Daughter living there. I experience Vienna from a local perspective, but this was the first year I made it during the Christmas Market. It was on top of my list to get there as I’ve heard so many stories about being the most beautiful, eclectic Christmas Market. One that you cannot miss.
So, this was finally the year it happened. I had so many expectations, I could already see myself landing in the fairyland of Christmas Markets.
Well, let me tell you, I fell from the very top of my high expectations.
I don’t know, I just couldn’t feel that magic. And I am a very spiritually awakened and intuitive person when it comes to feeling certain vibes from a place.
So, I am sorry Vienna, but based on my personal experience, I cannot give you the title of The Best Christmas Market in Europe. For now, you are in fifth place in my heart.
What I loved DURING Vienna Christmas Market
I am a sucker for positivity, so I will put here only the experiences I loved in Vienna during Christmas time:
- My God Daughter teaching me how to ice skate in Rathauspark. Priceless moment!
- Eating Kaiserschmarrn (“Emperor’s mess”) – thick fluffy scrambled crêpes with roasted plum stew and powdered sugar on top. Une tuerie ! (Something to die for).
- Visiting the Schönbrunn Palace and dwelling more into the history of SISI.
- A walk into the Imperial Carriage along Vienna
- Visiting a Hidden Gem: Hundertwasserhaus, a residential complex, one of Austria’s architectural highlights.
4. Verona Christmas Market
Verona is a true Hidden Gem when it comes to Christmas Market. This was not on my Bucket List, for sure. I was with a friend in Bologna and we said why not hop on a train and go to Verona, as it is less than 2H away by train. As it was during Christmas time, we had the chance to experience an Italian Christmas Market. My first one. And let me tell you, I’ve been served. I loved it so much, something is floating in the air, like in those cheesy X-Mas movies on Netflix, when everywhere around you, the Magic of Christmas is alive.
I am not even talking about all the Italian artisan food, which is delicious, or their Vin Brulé (I prefer the how the wine in Romania, though – you should try it), but the good vibes of people, the terraces full of people having fun, being loud, because they are Italian, right? But isn’t this the spirit of Christmas? People getting together and just having fun, enjoying a good meal and a hot wine? Cinnamon and vanilla taste?
What I loved DURING Verona Christmas Market
- Eating all the Italian Christmas goodies from local artisans
- Drinking Vin Brulé
- Passing underneath the Arco Della Costa where according to the legend, the suspended whalebone will only fall on the head of a pure soul, meaning someone who has never told a lie. Wasn’t me, that’s for sure!
- Rubbing the right breast of Julietta’s statue for LOVE and FERTILITY. I will let you know if it worked.
- Fine dining in one of Verona’s hidden gems: Osteria le Vecete.
3. Paris Christmas Market
As I already said, the entire of Paris is a Christmas Market, and that’s why it is on my podium. If there’s a name I agree with for Paris is the City of Lights. Especially during Christmas. Everything is so dreamy, so luxurious, and so Instagram-worthy, that you feel like living your Midnight in Paris movie.
I live in Paris for more than 8 years now, and this is the first year I finally got to make a staycation in Paris during Christmas time. For the past 8 years, all I experienced was METRO-BOULOT-DODO, the French way of saying, Subway, Work, and Sleep. So, of course, I could never appreciate and did not get the hype of all tourists coming to Paris for Christmas. But I finally got my Staycation in Paris during Christmas time and it was magical.
What I loved from my Staycation in Paris during Christmas Market
- Seeing the Christmas Windows at Galerie Lafayette and Le Printemps
- Going to Lumière en Seine, a magnificent take-over of Domaine de Saint-Cloud, decked out in its finest attire for the End-of-the-Year Holiday celebration
- Walking along Matignon Boulevard, the street where all the Luxury Houses reside and all of them have gone over the top to bring the Christmas Spirit. My favorite part was visiting DIOR Galérie and Plaza Athénée
- Reconnecting with my inner child by going to La Féerie des Eaux at le Grand Rex. For only 9€ you can see a very entertaining indoor water show, ending with the movie le Chat Potté 2 (Puss in Boots 2), doubled in French for the little children, although I would have loved hearing the voice of Antonio Banderas.
- Finally got to enjoy some fine bakery in one of the most notorious Bakeries of Chef Cédric Grolet, near Opéra. The waiting list for a table is a minimum of 2 months.
2. Cologne Christmas Market
Christmas Market is German by definition, so it was only natural to have one on my list. I’m sure there are others more beautiful in Germany, but for me, the one in Cologne has something cozy and intimate about it.
When I think of Christmas Markets I have in my head those German stalls and beer hangars, glühwein (mulled wine), and Christmas carols filling the air. And the Christmas Market in Cologne’s Old Town, Heumarkt, has it all: the ice skating ring, the Flammkuchen (Flatbread Pizza), the Wurst (Sausages), and the Beer. I mostly like it because it’s small yet cozy, loud yet silent, tasty, and free. It’s the place where I felt so vividly the Christmas vibes and the freedom of being who you are, totally carefree of what people might think. I was alone visiting this Christmas Market but I had the impression I was together with all those people, yet still having my own space.
What I loved during Cologne Christmas Market
- The entire concept of the Christmas Market, from stalls to food and drinks and good vibes
- The Flammkuchen (Flatbread Pizza) and the Homemade bread filled with cheese and nut sauce. A delight!
- The Carols hearing in the background, which were in French, by the way
- The fairy-tale setting all over Cologne, feeling the Christmas vibe everywhere you went
- The concert at the Christmas Market at the DOM
1. Colmar Christmas Market
For my taste, nothing beats Colmar Christmas Market!
Everything about this small French village in the Alsace region (so yeah, you could say it is almost German) makes you feel like you’ve landed in Hänsel and Gretel fairy tale. I believe Colmar was conceived for Christmas. There’s no other place that encompasses the spirit of Christmas better than Colmar. As soon as I got off the train from Strasbourg, I fell in love with this magical place. I was feeling so sentimental during my entire visit to Colmar that I could almost cry out of too many emotions. And this is why Colmar is at the top of my list, because of how it made me feel, and what emotions emerged to the surface and I can tell you there’s no better way to get connected to your inner child. It was like I was that blonde curly-hair little girl that believed in Santa and in the spirit of Christmas once again. So, thank you, Colmar, for that unique experience!
What I loved during ColMAR Christmas Market
- The entire village which is a Christmas fairy tale, filled with magic powder
- The Flammkuchen (Flatbread Pizza) and the crêpes
- The Carols hearing all over the village
- The fairy-tale vibe and the magical feeling of being young and innocent once again
- The sparkle in my eyes walking along the village and forgetting the cold outside
CHECK OUT THE BEST Christmas Markets tours
DID YOU FIND THIS ARTICLE USEFUL?
Tell me in the comments section if you’ve been to a Christmas Market in Europe and what was your experience. If you are planning to go on solo travel ask me for some useful tips that are not in this article.
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