Christmas shopping in Europe is a little different than just hitting the mall. Many towns offer historic Christmas markets, where you can stroll through the snowy cobblestone streets of the city, visit outdoor shopping stalls, drink mulled wine and get into the holiday spirit.
It’s like something out of a holiday fairy tale. Most take place from the last week in November thru Dec. 24. Here are a few of our favorites:
Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt, Germany
Dating back to the 16th century, the traditional festival encourages visitors to sip mulled wine, nosh on bratwurst and indulge in gingerbread as they walk through the outdoor stalls in Hauptmarkt, the central square in the city’s old town. One of the world’s most famous Christmas markets, with more than two million annual visitors, the festival is renowned for its Zwetschgenmannle, which are figurines made of prune.
Munich Christmas Market, Germany
Dating back to the 14th century, this festive market moved to Marienplatz in 1972. Featuring more than 150 booths, the market features such gift items as hand-painted glass baubles and sheepskin jackets.
Salzburg Christkindlemarkt, Austria
Located in the center of the Old City, which happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site, this holiday festival has daily sing-alongs, traditional wind music performed above the square and plenty of mulled wine and market stands. Try the Bauernkrapfen, a delicious fried pastry worth every calorie.
Strasbourg Christmas Market, France
Set along this Rhine River, this famed Christmas market dates back to 1570. Shop for wooden toys, blown glass candles and sample Alsatian bredele, traditional buttery cookies that go really well with hot chocolate.
Edinburgh’s Christmas, Scotland
Cinnamon and sugar chimney cakes and cotton candy are among the sweet treats offered at this annual holiday festival, located adjacent to the Scottish National Gallery. You can also shop for wooden candle holders and Tartan Christmas ornaments. Be sure to visit the Christmas tree maze in East Princess St. Gardens.