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The sights, the smells, the lights, that feeling of Christmas in the air—there’s something unequivocally delightful about strolling through a festive marketplace during the holiday season.
While certain Christmas markets in Central Europe can be traced back to the 15th and 16th centuries, cultures around the world have since adopted this holiday tradition as one of their own and given it a few local twists. From Salzburg to Stockholm, Quebec City to Cape Town, Milan to New York, these world-class destinations feature an array of seasonal marketplaces that will have you booking your next trip, stat.
WHERE: Sweden During Christmas season in Stockholm, the Swedish capital is transformed with glittering light displays that brighten up even the darkest days of the year, and festive marketplaces add to the holiday cheer. Founded in 1837, the Christmas Market in Gamla Stan, the city’s charming old town, features dozens of red stalls selling all varieties of Swedish handicrafts and traditional Christmas treats. And it wouldn’t be Christmas in Stockholm without a visit to Christmas at Skansen. In the spirit of the open-air museum, which celebrates Swedish history and heritage, the Christmas market features handmade Christmas keepsakes, artisanal goods, and epicurean delights made by traditional methods.
Shop: Christmas ornaments and décor made from woven straw, carved wood, and natural fibers; advent stars and advent candle holders; Saint Lucia items for children; artisanal foods.
Taste: Look for pepparkakor (gingersnap cookies), saffransbullar (saffron buns with raisins), and glögg (mulled wine).
WHERE: France Located on the Rhone River in northeastern France, Strasbourg shares rich cultural history with its German neighbors, including its annual Christkindelmärik, which dates back to the Middle Ages and is the oldest Christmas market in France. Counting some 300 stalls spread throughout the city’s historic center, including along Place Broglie and surrounding the Cathedral de Notre Dame, the festivities also include a Village of Sharing that showcases humanitarian and charitable organizations and a Christmas treats market; and the Bredele market, which features traditional Alsatian cakes, shortbreads, and cookies. A local craft market sets up at Place de la Gare.
Shop: Christmas ornaments and nativity figurines; locally-made ceramics, woodcraft or glassware; tablecloths in traditional Alsatian plaid fabrics.
Taste: Le pain d’épices (French spice cake), bredele (traditional Alsatian holiday cookie that has many variations), roasted chestnuts, flammekeuche (savory pizza-esque “flamed cake”), glühwein or vin chaud (mulled wine).
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