It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the evenings darker, and the locals are starting to light things up to have some glimmer of hope carry them through these Northern winters. Advent is here, which means all across Europe, Christmas markets have been set up, lights strung, and the Christmas season has officially begin. Not to mention the motivational Krampus parade that hits Alpine cities this coming weekend.
Unlike in the United States, where we have a creeping Advent, one that seems to start the Christmas carols a day earlier each year, Europe has a pretty well set tradition. The fourth Sunday before Christmas heralds the new season, no matter what all the card and toy companies and Starbucks would have us believe. But what do these European socialists know about holidays anyway? Don’t they know the true Christmas spirit is making a quick buck?
a quick buck in Nuremberg
To answer that, yes they do. But they also know the value of keeping something special. This means you can up the price and do less work, because a rare thing is a wanted thing. And there’s nothing rarer than the Christmas souvenir, which unless you’re in Rothenburg, Germany at the year round Christmas shop—which is altogether a creepy place in July—then you have to wait until December to get your favorite candle powered silver spinny-thing or the right Christkindlsmarkt 2016 glass for your homemade mulled wine.
The best Christmas markets are in the Austrian and German sphere of influence. As you go West they get less magical and cozy and more Trump tower—which I suppose is a kind of magical place unto itself. The most common term for the Christmas Market is “Weihnmarkt” or “Advent Market”, though all the different towns tend to have different names for them, and it’s a great place to bring the kids to look at all the beautiful Christmassy goings on while you get good and sloshed on some steaming hot red wine. The following is a list of what I’ve found to be the top 5 Christmas markets. So if you're planning a trip to Europe in December, make sure to add one of these