According to the history books, the very first Christmas market was held in the 15th century in Dresden, Germany. Known as the birthplace of the seasonal marketplace, this tradition has since then spread throughout europe like wildfire, leaving holiday cheer and shiny ornaments in its path.
Nowadays all of Europe celebrates Christmas with these marvelous markets that are great places to learn about local culture and tradition during the holiday season. Also, there's nothing quite like scoping out the locals and tourists in the classic chaotic scenario of beautifully decorated stands overflowing with hand-crafted gifts, homemade sweets and salty treats. As the number of markets increases with time, it's impossible to list all of them; however, we've tried to highlight those which we think offer something truly unique to the Christmas market scene. We invite you to exchange homes in these cities and discover these 5 Christmas markets that made it into our top 5 countdown!
#5: Mercatino di Natale (Florence, Italy)
Italy is always a great place to home swap at any time of year. Whats more, if you find a swap during the christmas season to Florence, you will discover a charming outdoor market filled with toys, window decorations, Easter flowers, specialty foods and wines, fresh pretzels, fluffy cotton candy and traditional cranberry-filled strudel. Yum.
#4: Fira de Santa Llúcia (Barcelona, Spain)
In the middle of the Gothic neighborhood there's a market filled with over 200 years of tradition. Extremely popular among the Barcelonians, here you can find everything that one might imagine: Christmas trees, nativity scene moss, Bethlehem figurines...all kinds of decorations for the holidays. This is also the place to learn some interesting facts about Catalan tradition, such as "Tió Caga" a christmas log with a painted face that brings gifts to the children, or the other famous icon of christmas, the "Caganer" who is a nativity scene figure which is literally "poo-ing." Plus, behind the market there's a wonderful place to grab some hot chocolate on Pretitxol Street.
#3: Mercado de Navidad de Tivoli (Copenhagen, Denmark)
This market is inside a famous amusement park, the Tivoli Gardens. The location couldn't be better, as the park is decked out head-to-toe in holiday decorations, lights, ornaments, and a nice big ice skating rink filled with happily twirling children! Inside the market, there are dozens of stands selling all kinds of home decor and artesanal decorations, from antique childrens' toys to hand-crafted local merchandise.
#2: Christkindelsmärik (Strasbourg, France)
The proximity of this city to Germany and its influences are most likely why this market has become one of the most famous in France. Founded in 1570, it maintains the very same Christmas spirit as when it first began. As you wander through the market listening to carols and holiday music, you will find all sorts of interesting objects and other traditional crafts: christmas ornaments, games, figurines for the nativity scene, more games... plus, you must try the spiced hot wine and tart flambé! Also, beyond the markets stalls the city itself is extra charming during this time of year.
#1: Striezelmarkt (Dresden, Germany)