Gifts, mulled wine and twinkling lights: Postcard from Christmas markets, Europe

Writer and avid traveller, Reetika Khanna's keen observations of all things design come together in a series of postcard entries from quaint quarters across the world.

by Reetika Khanna Published on : Dec 24, 2019

The centuries-old tradition of Christmas markets has its roots in the German speaking regions of Europe. The lure of keeping warm with gluehwein (mulled wine), and the allure of gift shopping at alfresco markets across Germany draw throngs of tourists. Over the years, Yuletide bazaars in neighbouring European countries have expand and sparkle in their own light.

Let us take you through the alleys of few cities that make great destinations for Christmas festivities.

Paris: Move over shades of crimson and fern, the modish Parisian pallet for Christmas is indigo and tangerine with flourishes of wispy white and sprinkles of silver. The Hôtel de Ville Christmas Market in the heart of the city is a visual feast. Vendors housed in chalet-shaped booths sell everything from chic berets and wraps to steaming mushrooms and beignets with a delicate dusting of powdered sugar.

  • Spectacular Christmas decorations at a mall in Paris | Christmas Market | Paris| STIRworld
    Spectacular Christmas decorations at a mall in Paris Image Credit: Reetika Khanna
  • A shopping mall in Paris decked up for Christmas | Christmas Market | Paris| STIRworld
    A shopping mall in Paris decked up for Christmas Image Credit: Reetika Khanna

Luxembourg City: If it’s a Santa Claus you are looking for, you will find him atop a gluehwein stand, barrel in hand! The markets in this fortified medieval town are about family fun with bungee trampolines, skating rinks and ornament crafting for children. Even the trash cans are dressed merrily for the occasion!

Munich: The neo-Gothic town hall makes a dramatic backdrop for the Marienplatz Christmas market that is believed to date back to the 14th century. Traditional Bavarian music and free flowing libations put everyone in high spirits as the sun slips away late afternoon. And every time the wind picks up, the gigantic Christmas tree sways to the rousing rhythm carousing with revellers.

Berlin: Flanked on either side by the French and German cathedrals, the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market is set up directly in front of the Concert Hall. Known for live shows and gourmet foods, it draws an international mix of tourists. There are Rajasthani jewellery boxes and Tibetan prayer bowls for sale amid traditional wood and wool trimmings. And pictures of American Rapper Snoop Dogg attached to jars soliciting tips at a barbecue stand!

  • Berlin Konzerthaus, an example of neo-classical architecture | Christmas Market | Berlin | STIRworld
    Berlin Konzerthaus, an example of neo-classical architecture Image Credit: Reetika Khanna
  • Rajasthani jewellery boxes and other items for sale during Christmas celebrations | Christmas Market | Berlin | STIRworld
    Rajasthani jewellery boxes and other items for sale during Christmas celebrations Image Credit: Reetika Khanna

Wiesbaden: The capital of the western state of Hesse in Germany, Wiesbaden is a cosmopolitan town. Flowerlike stars are spread across the Twinkling Star Christmas market at the iconic red, neo-Gothic church. Grab a cup of Feuerzangenbowle — flaming punch made with red wine, rum and caramelised sugar ­— and find a perch on the Ferris wheel for the best view.

  • 01 min watch A visit to Germany is incomplete without a visit to a Christmas market for a cup of Feuerzangenbowle | Christmas Market | Wiesbaden | STIRworld
    A visit to Germany is incomplete without a visit to a Christmas market for a cup of Feuerzangenbowle Video Credit: Reetika Khanna
  • Wiesbaden turns into a winter wonderland during Christmas | Christmas Market | Wiesbaden | STIRworld
    Wiesbaden turns into a winter wonderland during Christmas Image Credit: Reetika Khanna
  • Wiesbaden Twinkling Star Christmas Market | Christmas Market | Wiesbaden | STIRworld
    Wiesbaden Twinkling Star Christmas Market Image Credit: Reetika Khanna

Rudesheim am Rhein: A quaint riverside town Rudesheim offers an intimate setting. Potters and craftsmen from neighbouring areas showcase their wares along the town’s labyrinthine cobblestone pathways. Beeswax products — candles, salves — are popular with locals. Snoozing cats, sentinel dogs, and chickens are part of the festive landscape!

Heidelberg: What could be more picturesque than a 16th century castle in the mist looking upon a bustling market? Christmas ornaments made from cinnamon sticks and star anise lend a sweet warmth to the crisp winter air. Wooden ornaments and statues made in the Black Forest are easy to find here.

  • A Christmas market against the backdrop of the castle in Heidelberg | Christmas Market | Heidelberg | STIRworld
    A Christmas market against the backdrop of the castle in Heidelberg Image Credit: Reetika Khanna
  • Hooded figurines at a Christmas market | Christmas Market | Heidelberg | STIRworld
    Hooded figurines at a Christmas market Image Credit: Reetika Khanna

Dresden: One of Germany’s most beautiful cities, Dresden has many extravagant markets to offer. The Mittelalter-Weihnacht medieval market in the courtyard of the Royal Palace is a riotous trip into the past. You will see potters, leather workers and wood carvers at work in the dimly light environ, while some men relax in large wooden tubs!

Ornaments made with Star Anise for Christmas decorations | Christmas Market | Heidelberg | STIRworld
Ornaments made with Star Anise for Christmas decorations Image Credit: Reetika Khanna

Brussels: The administrative centre of the European Union, Brussels is best known for Belgium beer and chocolate. The city streets are illuminated with suspended chandeliers and modernistic lights —bright colourful balls on trees and along promenades. Virtual reality hubs amid artisanal wares showcase the city’s contemporary aesthetics in a festive setting.

  • A Christmas market against the backdrop of the castle in Heidelberg | Christmas Market | Heidelberg | STIRworld
    Shopping streets lit up with special lights for Christmas festivities in Brussels Image Credit: Reetika Khanna
  • The Belgium capital illuminated with bright, shiny lights | Christmas Market | Brussels | STIRworld
    The Belgium capital illuminated with bright, shiny lights Image Credit: Reetika Khanna

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About Author

Reetika Khanna

Reetika Khanna

Author of Kismetwali & Other Stories, Khanna is an Atlanta-based freelance writer with an eye for style and a palate for adventure. A former flight attendant, she honed her writing skills at Emory, and Georgetown University, US. She has worked with ELLE as a Senior Features Writer, and as an Associate Features Editor with ELLE DÉCOR, Mumbai. Khanna, who likes to document her travels around the world, is currently working on her second book.

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