It’s a dark winter night in Vienna, but Schönbrunn Palace is a sea of sparkling lights. Located in the grounds of the 1,441-room Habsburg Palace, one of my favorite Christmas markets.
Visiting a Christmas market is a magical experience and a cherished tradition in Europe that dates back to the Middle Ages. Today, visiting Christmas markets with friends and family is a staple of the holiday season.
Even the Christmas market enchants visitors. As I walk between the neat wooden stalls with a cup of hot cocoa in my mittens, I can smell the scent of warm gingerbread in the air. I pass vendors selling handmade ornaments, fabrics, and pottery, and a Children’s Choir sings Christmas carols in the distance.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS in Vienna
There are 20 Christmas markets in Vienna, but you can find them all over Europe. Many are in the cities along the Danube. One of the best ways to visit the Christmas markets is on a river cruise. AmaWaterways, Viking and others offer river cruises for vacation.
Ever since I visited my first Christmas market as an exchange student in Austria, I’ve been back again and again. (READ MORE: 10 reasons to love Vienna)
Vienna’s largest Christmas market is located on the Rathausplatz (in front of the town hall). Almost a hundred vendors sell handmade products, Christmas decorations, leather goods and fine food from bratwurst to hot mulled wine.
Ice skating is available for those who want to put on their skates under the flashing lights. The whole atmosphere is magical.
CHRISTMAS MARKET IN BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
The capital of Hungary is beautiful at any time of the year, but it really shines at Christmas time. At the Vörösmarty square Christmas market, all products are traditionally made by hand.
You will find fine leather, wood, ceramic, textile and textile artwork, ceramics and jewelry. Local bands play Hungarian folk music, and vendors sell Hungarian goulash and other foods suitable for a winter evening.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN THE WACHAU VALLEY, AUSTRIA
A popular stop on a holiday river cruise is Austria’s beautiful Wachau Valley. This 39 km long river is home to the cities of Melk, Dürnstein and Krems. In the spring, the area is best known as a wine region with terraced houses on the slopes.
During the holidays, each city sets its own season of sophistication. One place not to be missed is Göttweig Abbey, a beautiful baroque Benedictine monastery overlooking the Wachau Valley. A visit to the Abbey Christmas Market is the perfect way to start the season.
CHRISTMAS MARKET IN LINZ, AUSTRIA
When you visit the Christmas market in Linz, you can smell the sweet aroma of Linzer Torte, a traditional Austrian dessert named after the city.
Follow your nose at the Baroque-style Main Square Christmas Market and you’ll find delicious foods like brats, pretzels and candied almonds, along with hot drinks to warm your soul.
Mulled wine is a popular favorite. Hot mulled wine is made from red or white wine with cloves, cinnamon, star anise and other spices.
CHRISTMAS MARKET IN PASSAU, GERMANY
In this 2,000-year-old city at the confluence of three rivers, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is home to Europe’s largest pipe organ with 17,000 pipes. If you plan your visit right, you can catch one of their twice-weekly concerts.
You can also enjoy traditional folk music at German Christmas markets with instruments such as kantel and psaltery. Be sure to try Sengzelten, a local favorite with fresh fruit dipped in chocolate.
CHRISTMAS MARKET IN REGENSBURG, GERMANY
Regensburg’s old town has one of the most romantic Christmas markets. The festival market at Thurn und Taxis Palace looks like something out of a fairy tale.
At the Regensburg Christmas market, the twinkling white and purple lights cast a magical glow on the stalls in the courtyard. Families and friends gather around bonfires, drink mulled wine and have fun together.
CHRISTMAS MARKET IN NEUBURG AN DER DONAUUS, GERMANY
Neuburg and der Donau, with a population of 30,000, enjoys a picturesque location overlooking the Danube. The city’s winding cobbled streets are narrow and lined with neat houses painted in soft pastel colors. The Neuburger Christkindlmarkt in the village square offers the quiet charm of a small town.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN OBERSTADION, GERMANY
The nativity scene is a beloved symbol of German Christmas and the town of Oberstadion, with a population of 1500, has an entire nativity scene museum.
The museum is located in a barn from 1612 and has more than 160 nativity scenes. The oldest kindergarten in the Nativity Scene Museum dates back to 1850. There is a small Christmas market in the Oberstadion.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN ULMS, GERMANY
The sister cities of Ulm and New Ulm are on the other side of the Danube. Everyone has their own Christmas market in their own style.
Ulm’s Christmas market is large, with row after row of narrow cobbled streets lined with lit stalls selling everything from decorated chocolates to sweaters. During normal times, the market receives over a million visitors during the season.
CHRISTMAS MARKET in Nuremberg, GERMANY
The Nuremberg Christmas Market is perhaps the most famous. The hotel is located on the village square and has a lively medieval atmosphere.
Nuremberg was once an important stop on the historic spice route, where merchants transported spices like ginger and cinnamon from far and wide. Perhaps that’s why the city is famous for its gingerbread.
Buy delicious Nuremberg bratwurst, hot mulled wine and Nuremberg Lebkuchen for the perfect Christmas market dinner. Christmas is something special in Germany and a visit to the Christmas markets is the perfect way to celebrate the season.
BOOK THIS TRIP
Start planning your holiday trip to Germany, Austria and Hungary today. Get geared up with insider information on transportation, hotel and VRBO accommodations, local restaurants, and more from TripAdvisor and Travelocity.
Find the best deals on flights, train tickets and holiday packages on OMIO Travel.
Don’t forget to travel with reliable, spacious and stylish luggage. Pack your bags and get even more space for shopping with the premium suitcase AWAY bags.