One of my favorite Christmas traditions, that we have followed every year since we started living in Sofia, has been visiting the annual Christmas market in the city center. We have visited it both with family members and friends, we have bought delicious German sausages and sweets, we have spent hours and hours listening to Christmas music being performed live on the stage in the center of the market. This experience has always been one of the highlights of our December for the past seven years and it has marked the beginning of the Christmas festivities for both me and Kaloyan.
Of course, this year the situation is a bit different and many of the markets have already been cancelled – the ones in Austria and Germany, two countries that traditionally have been considered as one of the best places to visit during the holidays, have cancelled all of their markets. The same can be said about Sweden, Finland, France (except the one in Strasbourg), Czech Republic, Belgium and so many more of the European countries. Still, a few markets opened this year, following strict Covid-19 measures and offering their visitors a slightly different Christmas experience given the current local circumstances.
So, today I wanted to share with you the best Christmas markets that will still open this year. Even though it will be only a virtual tour, I hope that this post will make your Tuesday a bit more festive and happy. Let’s go!
I decided to start with one of the oldest Christmas markets, dating back to 1570, because it considers itself as the capital of Christmas. And we cannot really blame Strasburg for that – the market looks really dreamy and every Christmas lover will love it. Every year, from the last week in November to the end of December, the town gets taken over by all things Christmassy. Shop windows are transformed into winter wonderlands and the streets are decorated with twinkling lights and festive garlands.
This year the market looks a bit different, though. Even though the city will still remain illuminated with the Christmas tree lit up in the city center and concerts and other cultural activities will continue, there will be no shopping stalls at the site itself.
Copenhagen’s Christmas market is located in the historic Tivoli Garden – each year the garden is filled with glittering Christmas lights, cute wooden stalls, and snow-covered trees that create the perfect Christmas atmosphere in the minimalist style, characteristic of the Nordic region. The shopping stalls offer Christmas decorations, snacks, sweets, and hot drinks – everything that your heart might desire.
The Christmas market in the Tivoli Gardens has opened this year with a special booking system in place – each visitor needs to pre-book time of arrival in order to avoid big gatherings and to ensure a safe and joyful Christmas experience.
I wouldn’t consider Spain as the first choice of destination for Christmas markets mainly because its climate is Mediterranean and hence much warmer. For this reason, I was quite surprised to find out that Madrid has its own annual Christmas market that opens every year in the city’s main square, the Plaza Mayor. The tradition started back in the 17th century when vendors offered mainly fruit and vegetables along with Christmas decorations and presents.
This year the market has opened, featuring just 56 stalls instead of the traditional 104, with some major layout changes that will ensure adequate space between the stalls, and reduced capacity to enable social distancing.
The world-famous and popular Christmas markets in Budapest were sadly cancelled this year due to the pandemic. The tradition of these markets started in 1998 and since opening, they have offered nearly 800,000 visitors a year the ultimate Christmas experience with booths decorated in Christmas lights, sales of traditional Hungarian foods and handcrafted items.
However, the tourism organization of Budapest decided to support the craftsmen who would otherwise participate in the Christmas markets by featuring them in the newly created online platform for the fair. In this platform, every customer can click on any craftsmen to read about their work and see pictures of their products. The site also has the craftsmen’s contact numbers and links to their web shops where direct purchases can be made.
BANK OF AMERICA WINTER VILLAGE, BRYANT PARK, NEW YORK
A truly iconic place in Manhattan that has been featured numerous times in different cultural and media outlets – it is indeed the winter wonderland that all New York residents can enjoy even in 2020. This European-style open-air market in Bryant Park offers around 125 custom-designed kiosks featuring jewelry and handicraft from all over the world. Its park location means there are added bonuses like the impressive Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain, which often freezes over in the winter, and the Le Carrousel, where riders are likely to be joined by Santa and his elves.
Of course, in 2020 the whole concept of the market has changed a bit and the kiosks are fewer. For further up-to-date information you can consult the official website here.
Have you ever visited any of the above mentioned Christmas markets? Which is your favorite one (can be one not mentioned here)? Let me know in the comments.