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Christmas Markets in Europe: Germany and France

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Last Updated on June 2, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Merry Christmas! As we travel full-time, Christmas has come to mean something a bit different. I miss a few traditions but love adding new ones and simplifying down to the most important things. The Christmas Markets in Europe were a great addition to our celebrations this year.

When picking a location for our Christmas this year, Strasbourg France kept showing up on all the lists on Christmas in Europe. It is touted as the “Capital of Christmas”. Fun fact: it is also the capital of the European Union.

We’ve now visited six Christmas markets in France and Germany and there are a few fun tips I want to share!

Tips to Enjoying the Christmas Markets in Europe:

Find Your Favorite Christmas Market Hours

The vibe and feel of each market changes from day to night and I highly recommend seeing them in both! Our favorite time to go is about 3 pm. It gets dark early here as the sunset is currently 4:30 pm. We like showing up to get a bit of the daytime light in order to see the market and city properly and then watch as dark creeps in and beautiful lights come on. I think all markets are better at night, so if you have to pick just one, go at night!

Wear Layers

Christmas Markets in europe: 2 of my boys enjoying the ice skating rink

Be prepared for COLD. We’ve had an endless summer for nearly 18 months in our travels and we knew it would shock us to have cold weather again. However, after having many, many visitors from cold states in the US, they can confirm it is REALLY COLD. Temperatures hover between 30-40 degrees (0-10 C), but humidity can make it feel much colder. We always have to remember gloves, hats and warm socks. We also dress ourselves and all the children in long underwear, bulky sweaters, and thick outer layers. We haven’t regretted it! In a pinch, you can usually find a vendor selling gloves and hats for those poor people who are freezing. Of course, pricing is at a premium.

Get a Warm Europe Christmas Market Mug

Christmas Markets in europe: a stocking mug with hot chocolate

When you are freezing and wondering how the locals do it, notice all the delicious warm drinks, and adorable Christmas mugs! We aren’t wine drinkers, but the mulled wine smells divine. You’ll always find it, along with hot cider, hot chocolate and sometimes mulled orange juice or “kinder wine”, which is just mulled juice. What is mulled wine? It’s steeped in spices and served hot. You’ll notice most people stop for a hot drink more than once to warm back up in the low temps. Be warned: it is usually nearly boiling hot!! Watch those tongues and little hands. It’s great to hold with gloves to get warm again!

Eat a German Meal

Christmas Markets in europe: food stand making crepes

We can eat a meal at most of Europe christmas markets, but food choices vary. You’ll always find sweets! Common ones: gingerbread, chocolates and these delicious mouse domes covered in chocolate. They are similar to a marshmallow and come in various flavors. In some of the markets, we have also found escargot (try it! It’s quite delicious in a pesto kind of sauce), tons of sausages, potatoes mixed with cheese, sauerkraut, pretzels, pizza, scones with sweet or savory toppings, hot cheese melted onto bread and creamy mushroom soup or gravy. Yum, yum, yum. The food tends to be very German, even in France.

Do Some Holiday Shopping

The amount of hand-made crafts vary widely by market. Sometimes we come away a little disappointed on this front since most of what you’ll see comes straight from China. You’ll find a lot of the same thing at all of the markets. However, Stuttgart, Germany seemed to have the most original, truly homemade crafts of all the ones we have visited so far. Otherwise, you’ll always find Christmas ornaments, gorgeous candle holders with painted globes, candles and some local items, like coffee or decorations. We’ve found a lot of village houses (for your Christmas village at home), homemade candles, leather goods, wood crafts and even cleaning supplies! Be sure to have an extra suitcase or room as you’ll be sure to buy at least a few souvenirs. We have to figure out how to ship ours home. We bought a few ornaments for our tree here in France, a wood Christmas decoration and a hand-carved, hand-painted nativity from Frankfurt. Most of the little shops do NOT ship for you, but post offices are plentiful. The one that did ship for us told us 99 euros is the flat fee to ship international.

Give Yourself Enough Time to Enjoy It

Christmas Markets in europe: a lite up tower decoration

How much time should you budget for a Christmas market? This depends on your crowd, of course, but in general we spent 2-5 hours at each one. The kids get bored with just the shopping, but thankfully, they always have something for the kids as well!

Enjoy the Activities for Kids

Christmas Markets in europe: my kids waiting in line for the little Ferris wheel

Markets are very kid-friendly and full of activities. Besides a few displays where your kids want to touch and you don’t want them to, everything else is easy with kids. There is plenty or treats and food and there is always at least one kid ride. We’ve seen many carousels or small kid rides. Pricing is 2-5 euro per kid and typically you can buy more tickets for a discount. At some of the markets, they’ve had full-on carnival rides! (The one in Paris next to the Louvre was the best). We’ve also seen lots of ice-skating rinks, Ferris wheels and child rides at all markets. Note for ice skating: gloves are mandatory, so they will rent you some if you don’t already have them. They also have the training supports for the ice.

Find out more tips and watch all of our Christmas Market videos below:

See the Christmas Trees

Christmas Markets in europe: the big lit up Christmas tree in the middle of the market

All of the markets have a main Christmas Tree, which is usually near the city cathedral. These are very impressive and often are live trees that live in the square and are decorated for Christmas. The one in Strasbourg has been decorated for over 80 years and is hundreds of feet tall! It is incredible and they are always better at night.

Go Through Security

Christmas Markets in europe: increase security with police cars and bag checks

In larger cities we have seen lots of police or military presence. In Strasbourg, you actually have to pass through a security and bag check to get to the city center. This is due to the bombing a couple of years ago. Thankfully, the Europe christmas markets are taking this seriously and we were glad to see a lot of security around.

Be Prepared for Crowds

Christmas Markets in europe

Be prepared for some serious crowds, especially on the weekends. Even in low temperatures, these can be mega crowded. Bigger cities are more crowded, of course, so a little one like Colmar on a weeknight is totally manageable. Stuttgart was a mad-house with wall-to-wall people in many sections. Pushing a stroller through them was a feat!

What do we think are the best Christmas markets in Europe?? I wish we could visit them ALL, but so far…

Chris: Stuttgart, Germany because of all the local crafts. There are over 300 stalls and they have competitions for the best stall decorations. They can be amazing!

Leslie: Strasbourg and Mulhouse, France for the incredible Christmas vibe. The Christmas tree in Strasbourg is my favorite.

Kids: Strasbourg for the ice-skating rink. They had the best time trying this out and entertaining us adults with their falls.


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