Happy holidays to all my lovely readers and amazing friends!
Christmas is a time for family and so I’m currently sitting in damp old Yorkshire, in a crooked Victorian terrace house, with my cousin and her partner. Having just returned from a (rather expensive) day of Christmas shopping in Leeds, I’m ready to kick back and relax for the next two days. Having time to stop and breathe, in the comfort of a relative’s home, is quite different to my experiences of non-stop travel and adventure over the past five months (the story of my English trip will be coming soon). It’s a much welcome breather.
So how have I celebrated the season so far? With a hell of a lot of Christmas markets! As a gift to all of you, I thought I’d outline some of my my absolute favourites for you. With so many great little markets around Europe it’s easy to get overloaded. So here we go, my top three:
#3 – Vienna, Austria
Set amongst the incredibly ornate buildings of the Austrian capital, the smattering of markets here aren’t too unique in terms of food, drink and gift offerings, but are made special by the great location. Under the Natural History Museum and one of the main churches of the cities, these glittering markets really set the celebratory tone of the city. Great tree decorations and impressive light displays are Vienna’s greatest strengths.
Though I was walking around alone, the Glühwein in me tum made me feel so much better. Glühwein can do anything, can’t it (honorary mention to Budapest for adding pieces of fruit to the mix and making it even more delicious… If that’s even possible).
#2 – Heidelberg, Germany
Now, you might think I’m a bit biased, but Germany really does put on the best Christmas markets. It’s sort of their thing… Heidelberg is beautiful at anytime of the year, but at Christmas it becomes truly magical.
The Heidelberg Weinachtsmarkt is spread across the whole altstadt and even up in the castle (which commands impressive views over the whole business).
The Heidelberg market is full of great food. You might aswell not even eat dinner. Just treat yourself and fill up on delicious Christmassy snacks. Another great aspect of it is the array of colours. Seeing the castle all lit up, both celebratory and dramatic, was incredible. It’s not just Christmassy, it’s almost psychedelic!
#1 – Esslingen, Germany
Without a doubt the most unique market I visited, Esslingen’s Mittalalter- and Weinachtsmarkt is freaking great. As a massive nerd, I love the almost-fantasy, middle ages half of the whole deal.
Walking into Esslingen is like walking back in time. The highly decorated, 13th century village is still ringed partially by fortress walls and lined with dark timbered, stereotypically German buildings.
The Christmas market itself is relatively small, relegated to the centre of town, but spreading outwards from that is a web of middle-ages/Renaissance style stalls and games. From archery, to egg-smashing to even knightly sparring (with fake swords of course!), you’re not going to get very bored here. If it’s gifts you want, here you can grab exotic liquors, silly gothic souvenirs and statues of stupid little gnomes.
I just love the Esslingen market. It’s so fun and interesting. You can just pretend you’re in Game of Thrones for the night if you want, before catching a modern train home to Stuttgart.
#Honourary Mention – Mannheim, Germany
Germany’s second ugliest city puts on an awfully pretty Christmas market.
Thought the Wasserturm fountain is turned off for winter, the symbol of Mannheim is still a beautiful setting for a very typical Weihnachtsmarkt. Located at the base of the tower is the most impressive Glühwein tower I’ve seen yet.
The other half of the market, located in the centre of the Quadrate is equally as nice but quite “squeezed in”. What spoils that section though is a creepy talking moose head. Best to avoid in case of nightmares.
Jingle all the way
Ahh, so here we are, Christmas Eve. In no time people will be waking up to find Santa arrived, or relatives coming over for lunch. It’s a great time of the year for everyone celebrating, but hard for a lot of us aswell. Keep loved ones in mind, give generously and accept with thanks.
For travellers, lonely and accompanied, best of luck in finding cheap digs and interesting Christmas locations.
Here’s to a lovely Christmas and a fabulous New Year. Time to start planning adventures for 2016!