This December, it was extremely easy to get in the Christmas mood as we experienced the magic of European Christmas Markets. Almost every large European city has their own version of a Christmas Market throughout December and many smaller villages choose a weekend in December to hold their market.
What is a Christmas Market you ask? In my opinion, it's one of the greatest things invented for December! Each market is made up of many stalls or "huts" as I refer to them. The stalls will be selling anything from homemade decorations, food or gluhwein (warm mulled wine). Every market is just a little bit different from the next, some with themes to their stalls or lights across the streets. No matter if it's raining or snowing, you bundle up and make your way to enjoy the festivities of the markets.
Here's a look at our month of December as we made our way to many different markets in Germany, France and Luxembourg.
We learned several things to keep in mind for future Christmas markets:
1. Parking is always the worst part of going to the markets! Try to have a plan ahead of time for where might be the best place to park, parking garages or transit to the city center.
2. Bring cash euro and euro coins! All the stalls deal strictly in euro so be prepared.
3. Try the red (rot) and white (weiß) gluhwein! Both Ara and I tried the red gluhwein and didn't like it very well but found out that we prefer the white.
4. You can keep your gluhwein mugs...or return them! You pay a pfand (glass deposit) on each gluhwein you order, but if you return it then you'll get the pfand back, typically 2 euro. You can also decide to keep the mug as a souvenir.
5. Bundle up! We learned quickly after the first market that the more clothes you wear, the better. We'd even layer up with tights or long johns under our jeans. Wear a warm sweater, thick coat and bundle up with hat, scarf and gloves. You've gotta prepare to be out in the elements--rain or shine, for several hours!
6. Go on a weekday or go early in the day if you choose a weekend to avoid the mass of people. We discovered going to the markets early in the day on Saturday or Sunday meant way less crowds. We did miss out sometimes on the great lights that some of the markets turn on if we were there too early. Overall, we liked going early rather than being there at night to miss the crowds.
Reismühle Kaffeemanufaktur - We started out at our very first Christmas market the first weekend in December at a local coffee roastery with several of our friends. The setting was idyllic as the snow fell as if we were in a snow globe and live Christmas music played around us. There were several stalls with homemade goods and delicious food to enjoy.
Weilerbach Culinary Christmas Market - Our village hosted a market for a week at the beginning of December! Ara and I stopped by the market a couple times while it was open to sample several "culinary" treats including celtic stew, hot chocolate and gluhwein.
St. Wendel - A quiet, village about an hour away from our home. I loved the theme of the stalls in the market, each had fresh greens adorning their stall. We also saw live reindeer! The day we went to this market, the weather was bitter cold and we hadn't dressed very appropriately so it cut our trip fairly short.
Luxembourg - Ara had a business trip to Luxembourg during the middle of December so I decided to join. That night we stopped by the market to try their gluhwein and churros!
Mainz - Our friends, Brittany and William, carpooled with us after church one Sunday to check out two Christmas markets. Our first stop, Mainz--just southwest of Frankfurt. This was one of my favorite markets of the season! All the stalls looked old-fashioned and the names were written in a fancy, old-style writing. We found some great food and gluhwein to enjoy!
Rudesheim - Following the Mainz market, we headed up the road to Rudesheim, which is located on the Rhein River, about an hour and a half from our home. This was such a cute, quaint market. I can't wait to check out Rudesheim again to see the village shine without all the Christmas market huts.
Strausbourg, France - This was the market I was looking forward to all month long! We headed to Strausbourg, about a 2 hr drive from our home, the week before Christmas. This is known as one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe! There are several markets within the city center and we tried to make it to all of them. It was fun to see the difference in food at the French market vs. the German markets.