December Dreams for 2021!
Why the Christmas Markets of Europe are a MUST on any travelers bucket-list!
Good Morning Adventurers,
I can hardly believe that Christmas is only 9 days away! I feel like this festive season has flown by, and unfortunately, without many of the fun, special, and unique traditions we all love experiencing each and every year.
SO, instead of feeling bummed, I want to fast forward your adventurous hearts to December 2021 for a bit of dreaming for your next off-season adventure….preferrably with a cup of Glühwein at hand!
I know for many people, traveling during the month of December is just too difficult with work and family schedules.
BUT, at some point in your life (even if it’s 20 years from now), I urge you to book a week or two off at the start of December… and get on a plane to Europe to explore the Christmas Markets!
Fun Fact: The first official Christmas Market was recorded in 1384 in Saxony, Germany. In the beginning, the markets only sold meats, but as the years went on, desserts, crafts, music, drink, and dancing were all added parts of the experience.
Why This Needs To Be On Your Bucketlist:
#1 Almost every country in Europe has a market, so you have many destinations to choose from!
#2 Flying early in the month of December is not expensive. In fact, it’s considered off-season travel, so the prices are a lot lower than normal travel times.
#3 Pricing for accommodation is also a bit lower since it’s early December. Week day rates at specialty hotels & castles tend to be a lot lower.
#4 You don’t have to be religious to enjoy them. The festive cheer is on another level to anything I have ever experienced. These markets are for everyone!
#5 The markets run 7 days a week, so you have plenty of opportunities to enjoy them no matter what day of the week you are visiting.
#6 Off-season travel means less crowds, and a lot more opportunity for authentic experiences. You will be surrounded by locals enjoying the festive season alongside you!
#7 Most countries in Europe have no problem with consuming alcohol outdoors. This means you can enjoy a hot or cold alcoholic drink around the fire pits without feeling like you are breaking the law.
#8 Most of the markets finish up on December 23rd, while some continue on through January 6th, so you’ve only a short window to enjoy them. But this also means you don’t have to sacrifice your yearly traditions or spending the holiday with family.
You can get the best of both worlds- you just need the time off to do it.
“But Rachael, which markets are your favorite!?!”
Great Question! While I still haven’t seen close to the amount I would like, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience quite a few across Europe. Here are my three favorites (and the word for “Christmas Market” in each countries language)!
#3 Vánoční trh
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague. Is. Magical.
I repeat: Magical!!
There is no better way to describe it. Especially in the winter. We were lucky enough to get snow during our month in the city.
Prague is a real fairytale come to life.
The Gingerbread has a very long and complicated history. It’s honestly difficult to know exactly who created this masterpiece in which form first!
The Greeks claim the first gingerbread came from a monk who brought it with him from Western Greece in 992 AD. They say he spent his days teaching Christians how to make this bread in the North of France. But the Germans say…
They started it, and then spread it to Sweden in the 13th Century.
Others still say the first gingerbread biscuit AKA “cookie” (as us ‘Yanks’ would call it), was noted in the 17th Century in England.
Regardless of who the true hero of the story is, gingerbread made it’s way to the Czech Republic… and it’s a big deal here! You’ll see Pernik na Figurky (Gingerbread) everywhere!
Old Town Square in Prague is stunning and full of the festive buzz. You can enjoy the markets from 9am-10pm each day.
Trdelnik (pictured above!), is a circular sweet dessert covered in sugar and cinnamon. The hollow inside is filled with chocolate hazenut spread, nuts, whipped cream, and even ice cream!
(Remember: Calories don’t exist at Christmas Markets)
You will find these sweet treats on everycorner around the city and the markets.
I’m a big hazelnut fan, so I was in heaven.
My personal favorite was the Klobása (Sausage) and Potatoes mixed with amazing spices in MASSIVE skillets. I went back for seconds!
#2 Marchés de Noël
By now, you probably know that Paris is my all-time favorite city on this planet. I adore the city, the history, the food, the wine, and the Parisians (even the grumpy ones!).
It’s ridiculously gorgeous everywhere you turn.
You have so many different Christmas Markets to choose from all over the city.
I particularly love Notre Dame Market, Place Des Abbesses Market in Montmartre, and The Christmas Village at La Défense.
While the Christmas Villages on the Champs-Élysées & Trocadero (Eiffel Tower) are stunning, they are too packed with people. Instead, I recommend stopping off the metro for some photos in the evening and continuing on to another market.
Now to the truly important stuff: CHEESE!
This is me stuffing my face with a raclette sandwich. More details to come!
Top Cheese Dishes You Must Try:
#1 Aligot - Cheese, Garlic, and Mashed Potatoes all blended together into one. It is the most ridiculously stringy goodness I have ever consumed.
This amazing dish, originated in the monasteries of Southern France during the 12th century. The monks served it to pilgrims as they made their way on the famous Camino de Santiago.
#2 Sandwich Raclette - These most melty and beautiful cheese you may ever try.
The wheels of cheese pictured below are under HEATERS and melt directly onto bread… that is topped with cured meats. It’s a game changer.
#3 Tartiflette - This is a plate loaded with cheese, potatoes, bacon, & onion.
This dish was created in the French Alps, so you can really imagine how comforting it is to consume after a day on the snowy mountains.
Finally, #1 on my list, Garmisch-Partenkirchen!!!
It’s impossible to find the right words to talk about our time here. We spent two months living at the base of the stunning Bavarian Mountains, skiing everyday.
The village received record-breaking snowfall during this time, so we were incredibly lucky with our timing.
While Munich is ranked as one of the top Christmas Markets in Europe, I would highly suggest getting on the train for an hour and head south to Garmisch for a few days.
The ambience of the small village— and the Bavarian people— made this Christmas Market so dang special for us. Being located in a smaller village was so much less crowded (which I appreciated even pre-COVID) and it made our visit feel more authentic.
Keith walking back with our skis at the end of the day.
The traditional Bavarian architecture is what I think of when I imagine Christmas Markets. Many around Europe are modeled off of the market layouts across Germany.
Plus, they look like gingerbread houses!
Garmisch was the most stunning location I have had the pleasure of visiting during the winter season. It is really fun to visit the markets completely in ski gear, all cozy, with a Glühwein in your hand.
In regards to food, the Germans really know how to cook beautiful sausages!
Three Sausages I Recommend to Enjoy at the Markets:
#1 Knackwurst - Filled with smoked beef and seasoned with garlic.
#2 Bratwurst - A mixture of Pork & Beef. Usually topped with fresh sauerkraut!
#3 Frankfurter - Filled with Pork, tastiest with some spicy mustard! (Pictured above)
Finally, I loved watching families ice-skate together on the outdoor rinks. With a view of the glorious mountains behind them… and the speakers around the village playing out Christmas carols… my heart almost burst!
Christmas Market Honorable Mentions:
While I didn’t go into depth about these locations, they were also spectacular in their own unique ways!
#1 Rome, Italy
#2 Barcelona, Spain
#3 Cologne, Germany
#4 Berlin, Germany
#5 Galway, Ireland
#6 Porto, Portugal
And there you have it.
If you have made it this far, I appreciate you taking your time to read it. And I hope it gives you some ideas for future adventures with some festive flair! If Christmas Markets are on your bucket-list, you know where to reach me. It’s never too early to start planning!
I am beyond excited (and hopeful) for travel in 2021, now that the new vaccine is being rolled out across the world. Plus, I am ready to get to work in January 2021.
Wishing each and everyone of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season.
Thank you for all the support, love, and kindness you have shown me and my business throughout this crazy year.