This year provided a special opportunity to celebrate Christmas not just once but three times. I really enjoy spending time at the markets and visiting Manchester, Lucerne and Cologne in the space of a few weeks provided ample opportunity for some festive spirit and even more glühwein.
The visit to Manchester has already been posted on this site and although it was a little too busy to really enjoy the best that Christmas markets have to offer it was a great an early start to the festive celebrations. Especially as it had slightly ‘international’ feel with cuisine from most central European countries.
“The whole city is decorated”
Visiting the beautiful Swiss city of Lucerne was not merely about Christmas; however it is impossible to ignore all the events that were taking place. The whole city is decorated, there were trees, lights and plenty of refreshment stalls to enjoy a glühwein or even something stronger to keep warm on a cold winter evening.
The city was hosting the annual “Live on Ice” festival which is a charity event that moves around Swiss cities each year. Sited just outside the Kongress and Kulture Centre, Lucerne it included radio broadcasts, an ice skating rink, live entertainment and of course more food and drink.
There were several Christmas markets the main one was quite small, intimate and was situated near the river for the majority of the month. If this became a little too busy there were several other markets to visit which the city played host to for only a few days or a week at a time. Whilst I was there the “International Market” was being hosted and this was especially interesting with food and craft stalls from around the World, although most were predictably from Europe.
“stalls from Slovenia, Russia, The Czech Republic and Greece”
I really found it quite cool, and judging by the numbers standing enjoying a drink, something to eat or browsing the stalls for a last minute present so did many other visitors. There were stalls from Slovenia, Russia, The Czech Republic and Greece, which provided the option for some gyros, unusual and tempting but not this time!
The final chance to catch Christmas was in the German city of Cologne which seems blessed with numerous markets, many with different themes; visitors are spoilt for choice.
I was lucky enough to spend an evening with a few friends at the closest market to the impressive Cologne Cathedral which understandably is a main meeting point for many locals. This market had quite modern looking stalls, there also seemed to be a plethora of reasonably priced refreshment stalls selling the usual German fare. This meant it was easy to get served and also that although quite busy it was a relatively simple task to find a little space to enjoy the glühwein and some banter with friends.
There was even a stage providing some live music which was not bad at all, the band mixed singing some Christmas songs with contemporary music too, it was an especially enjoyable evening.
The following day prior to leaving the city there was a couple of hours to enjoy another of the markets which was more traditional in its nature. It was the final day of the market and despite the bad weather there were still plenty of people making the most of their Christmas.
“model dwarves and reindeer”
However there was plenty of space and it was the lack of time that had me clock watching rather than the hassle of a crowded market. There were Santas, soldiers dressed in uniforms of the eighteenth century, model dwarves and reindeer all providing visitors with great photo opportunities as well as the accustomed refreshment stalls to enjoy a suitable beverage.
Saving the best to last this was probably my favourite market this year and I was sorry to have to drag myself away to catch a train for the airport. A revisit next year may have to be planned!
The markets of Europe are the perfect place to get into the mood for Christmas. Most major cities have markets, and in some countries even the smaller towns and villages have at least one. They are held throughout December, usually taking place up to Christmas Eve, I am already looking forward to next year!
Hoping you all enjoy your festive period with a triple Christmas celebration of your own. Merry Christmas, eat drink and be very merry without any hang ups and more importantly without any hangovers.