10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Europe’s Christmas Markets

Here’s how to get the best sweets, treats, and gifts at the most festive holiday markets in Europe. (Photo by iStock. Design by Lauren DeLuca for Yahoo Travel.)

By Cailin O’Neil / Travel Yourself

Sure, it’s more popular to visit Europe in the warmer months of the year, but winter is also an excellent time to visit — not only because of smaller crowds and cheaper rates, but also because of all of the festive Christmas markets. I’ve visited a few times during the holiday season, and here are my top tips for making the most of a visit to any of Europe’s Christmas markets.


Europe’s Christmas markets are a fun, festive way to celebrate the holiday season. (Photo: Cailin O’Neil)

Shop Smart

1. Give yourself time to comparison shop: At any market, make sure you give yourself a lot of time so that you can first browse, see the different things that are being offered, check out the prices, and then still have enough time to come back and buy the things you want.

Related: You Can’t Miss These Amazing Christmas Markets in Europe

2. If you see something you want, don’t wait: Although the markets can seem pretty similar from city to city, there will always be different items at each one — so if you see something you love, buy it right then, and don’t just hope that they will have it at the next market.

3. Take cash: Some market stalls do have credit and debit machines, but to be on the safe side make sure you take cash with you. It will also make transactions quicker.


Cookies, sausage, mulled wine, pastries, pretzels…there are so many treats to try at every Christmas market. (Photo: Cailin O’Neil)

4. Ask the experts: The people who work at the stalls can give you tips on the traditional items, their meanings and suggest things that would make great souvenirs. For example, the Nuremburg prune people are kind of ugly and silly looking, and had I not asked about them and learned what they were I probably would have just kept on walking past them. However, I stopped and talked to a vendor and learned all about them: The story goes that they were made by a poor father for his children. Since he didn’t have much money for Christmas, he crafted toys out of prunes and wire, and these dolls have since become a popular Christmas item — so much so that there were several booths that sold zwetschgenmännle exclusively.

Related: Gift Guide: The Perfect Stocking Stuffers for Travel Lovers


Zwetschgenmännle, a.k.a. prune men, are a popular gift at the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt. (Photo: Cailin O’Neil)

Stay Warm

5. Dress smart: Day or night, it can be chilly outside as you peruse the Christmas markets. Many don’t have any indoor areas where you can warm up, so make sure that you dress for the weather.

6. Grab a gass of glühwein: Another great way to stay cozy is of course to enjoy a mug or two or three of glühwein, a traditional German and Austrian drink made of hot wine mulled with spices.

Related: 14 Ways to Find Cheap Flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas 2015

7. Sample the eierpunsch: If glühwein isn’t your thing, try the German version of eggnog known as eierpunsch. It tastes different than the North American version of eggnog, with a stronger alcohol flavor.

8. Stick to the sweet stuff: Most places also have hot chocolate, which will warm you up without slowing you down.

Try a mug of delicious mulled wine to help you stay warm at the Christmas market in Vienna, Austria. (Video: Cailin O’Neil)

Eat Everything

9. This one might be obvious but it is without a doubt the most important tip that I can give you: Eat! You’ll have plenty to choose from: half-meter long sausages, traditional gingerbread, schneballen pastries, Hungarian kürtőskalács (chimney cakes), ginormous pretzels covered in everything from Swiss cheese to chocolates and sprinkles, and so much more. You won’t regret it, and after all you are on holiday so you are allowed a little over indulgence right?

10. Eat more when you get home: Gingerbreads and fancy chocolates also make great presents to bring back home for friends and family. It’ll give them a taste of your travels — and maybe they’ll share.

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