It may be dark when you wake up in the morning, and dark by the time you get home, but winter does have some advantages. Christmas markets in Europe bring millions of people onto the city streets during the winter months: Stuttgart’s alone attracts around 3 million visitors each year!
A huge array of handmade gifts are on offer, along with cakes, roasted nuts and the ubiquitous glühwein. Markets are also excellent for language learners – you’ll have the chance to practise your skills on a captive audience while improving your vocabulary!
So, where can you enjoy the top Christmas markets in Europe while learning a language?
Freiburg, Germany (22 Nov – 23 Dec 2018)
There’s something about Freiburg’s cobbled streets and Black Forest setting that makes it the perfect place for a Christmas market. Stalls fill the Rathausplatz, Kartoffelmarkt, Unterlindenplatz, Franziskanerstraße and Turmstraße, selling a huge array of Christmassy trinkets, cheeses, meats and pleasing warm drinks.
Montreux, Switzerland (22 Nov – 24 Dec 2018)
Montreux in the summer time is famed for its jazz festival and its gorgeous position on the shores of Lake Geneva. In the winter, the mountains are covered in snow, the air is crisp and the Christmas market takes over town.
Heidelberg, Germany (26 Nov – 22 Dec 2018)
Explore the classical old town of Heidelberg as the sweet scents of stollen and gingery German Christmas cakes waft through the streets. Five city squares host some of the most idyllic European Christmas markets: Bismarckplatz, Anatomiegarten, University Square, Kornmarkt and Market Square. The famous university town has an old-world charm that somehow feels even more “old worldly” and charming at Christmas.
Vienna, Austria (17 Nov – 26 Dec 2018)
The grand capital of the Habsburg Empire does Christmas properly. The market opens earlier than most, and 20°C days during the earliest weeks are not unheard of, but when the cold air comes, this is one of the top winter city destinations for Christmas markets in Europe. A number of Christmas markets spring up across town, the most popular being in front of the Town Hall (Rathaus).
Barcelona, Spain (23 Nov – 23 Dec 2018)
Looking for something a bit different from a Christmas market? Look no further than Barcelona. The Catalan capital hosts the Fira de Santa Llucia Christmas market each year, in a tradition that dates back to 1786. One thing that makes the Catalan Christmas market stand out is the character of the Caganer, a little chap who appears in Catalan nativity scenes and… umm… goes to the toilet. The tradition has been around since the seventeenth century and kids enjoy finding him in otherwise charming nativity scenes!
Munich, Germany (27 Nov – 24 Dec 2018)
Records first mention a Christmas market in Munich in 1642 and the tradition continues today, with markets famed for Bavarian glasswork, intricate nativity scenes and king-sized bratwurst. The Marienplatz market in the city centre is the biggest draw, but the Tollwood market is an increasingly popular alternative.