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Exploring the Festive Delights: A Guide to The Joy of Christmas Markets

The Best Yuletide Fairs of Europe
By: Lily C Fen

The days of December have seen the last of autumn’s golden glory swept away from the trees, but the scent of chestnuts roasting on a bed of hot coals beckons pedestrians this season. And with CoVid restrictions eased, it’s the best time to immerse oneself in the Christmas Markets that make winter in Europe a magical affair.

Historical boulevards erupt in Christmas lights and tiny wooden huts bedecked in tinsel and mistletoe will make you feel as if you had been transported straight into Santa’s Village. From Prague to Strasbourg to Zurich, we’ve scoured Europe to bring you the best bazaars to indulge in this holiday season. So hop on over to where the true charm of Europe in December lies.

Strasbourg: The Capital of Christmas

Since the year 1570, Strasbourg has been the very heart of Christmas, with townsfolk establishing Christmas markets in various squares. It is called the Christkindelsmärik in the Alsatian dialect, which translates to “Christ Child Market” in English. But the tradition dates further back, into the 12th century, when the very same market was dubbed the Klausenmärik (Saint Nicolas Market), only gaining its new name when the town adopted Protestantism. Do head to the historical Christkindelsmarik on Place Broglie and witness the town hall transform into a celebration of lights, with iconic buildings festooned in the colors of the yuletide season. Place Kléber also boasts a grand Christmas tree with many stalls and the Village du Partage.

The scent of cinnamon and cloves adds to the holiday atmosphere, making you want to cuddle up to a loved one as your hands cradle a warm cup of aromatic jus d’orange or chaud au miel. Besides these spiced delights, we also recommend our favorite dishes—snack on caramel au beurre salé crepe while out at the market and head to a traditional Alsatian restaurant for an oven-baked dinner of Lamm L’Alsace. The latter reveals the region’s roots in German history, showcasing hearty and heavy food. Such a feast is perfect after a stroll through the Christmas markets as darkness settles over the city.

The Capital of Christmas is open from November 25 till December 24, and the AfterChristmas Village remains open until January.

Holiday Enchantment in Prague

Prague’s Old Town Square is like a postcard come alive. Inhale the scent of svařák— the local nickname for mulled wine prepared slowly over a hot stove with star anise, cinnamon, sugar, and cloves. I found this winter drink a surprising way to highlight what it means to have a European Christmas, in contrast to warm Manila and its usual ice-cold cocktails.

Besides the classic svařené vino (red mulled wine), we also suggest a taste of the sweet and light bilé svařené vino—mulled white wine. You can also try something stronger, such as a glass of grog—a heady mixture of rum, water, lemon and sugar. My ultimate favorite is the horká medovina—hot mead—a brew that makes me think of Harry Potter’s butterbeer, albeit the alcoholic version. This refreshment blends together the sweetness of honey (mead is otherwise known as ‘honey wine’) and the soothing warmth of its winter preparation, perfect for a holiday walk through the yuletide markets. And for the children, a helping of hot chocolate, or horká čokoláda, will do the trick nicely.

December’s charm means Christmas lights strewn all over Prague, as you wander from Old Town to Wenceslas Square. The warm drinks ward off the chills, despite the cold wafting in from the Vltava River and its dazzling view of Prague Castle.

Besides Prague’s delectable beverages, shopping for trinkets at the marketplace lends one an experience that is authentic Central Europe, with items such as traditional Czech blown glass balls, products made of glass pearls or straw, hand-embroidered tablecloths, wooden toys, and many other handicrafts.

Try a bit of the Czech grilled sausage, klobasa, or sample Czech Christmas biscuits, roasted chestnuts, or gingerbread. Our favorite pastry at the bazaar is the trdelník, “chimney cake” showered in nuts and cinnamon, and dubbed so in English due to its appearance.

The Czech Christmas markets—Vánoční trhy— are open from November 26 this year till the 6th of January. For those with more days to spend in Prague, do a tour of other holiday bazaars, such as those at Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square) or Náměstí Míru (Peace Square). 

Honorable Mentions

Colmar, France

Before leaving the vicinity of Strasbourg, do visit neighboring Colmar, to see La petite Venise, where the canals wind through this charming medieval city. See it transformed this December, the prettiest town replete with opulent decorations. You’ll find every bridge overlooking the water adorned in holiday cheer and evergreen branches—fairy lights strewn across tiny lanes that embrace the water channels.

Zurich, Switzerland

Finally, head to the extensive holiday market at the Zurich Main Station, with its enormous Christmas tree towering over many wooden stalls. It is adorned by dozens of Swarovski crystals shaped into shimmering snowflakes. Take a walk down Bahnhofstrasse to see the main street showered in Lucy Lights, as if the stars were dripping down on shoppers, and follow the sound of angelic voices where the Singing Christmas Tree is located, just off the high street. Have a glass of Glühwein—mulled wine in German. A walk towards Zurich Lake will reveal another yuletide hamlet decked out in twinkling festivities at the Sechseläutenplatz.

December heralds the season for festive markets. It’s cold outside, but it feels heavenly and warm, thanks to the coziness of a sprinkling of lights and a warm glass of mulled wine, while just within earshot is a chorus of voices singing Christmas carols.

To visit these destinations in Europe, secure your Schengen Visa in Manila, with FAVE Assist ready to share Visa tips for Filipinos. This wonderful winter vacation is possible once you obtain a Schengen Visa.
Contact us and Book your FREE consultation today.
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