From Brussels to Vienna, these historic markets specialize in handmade crafts, mulled drinks, and other holiday treats.
Brussels' Christmas market has been around only since 2002, but it pulls off its Plaisirs d'Hiver/Winter Pret ("Pleasures of Winter") festival with elegant style. The theatrics include a nightly sound-and-light show on the Grand Place and a market surrounding the Bourse (Stock Exchange) and along Place Sainte Catherine. In keeping with that Belgian spirit of a United Europe, the 200+ wooden chalets host artisans from around the world hawking a kaleidoscope of Christmas wares, handmade crafts, and souvenirs. Not that Belgian traditions are left out; browse the many food stalls for pots of moules (mussels) and caricoles (peppery whelks or winkles), Belgian fries and fluffy Belgian waffles, seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts), and Belgium's two most welcome additions to world cuisine: fine chocolates and powerful beer. At one end of the shopping, near the fish market, you'll find a spinning, glittering 160-foot Ferris wheel, and, at the Place de la Monnaie, a nearly 8,000-square-foot ice skating rink.
Look For: The Winter Wonders guest of honor. Each year, Brussels invites a different guest to set up a market-within-the-market to share some of its own traditions. Past invitees have included Provence, Québec, Tallinn, and Lapland.
Dates: Late Nov.–early Jan.
For More Info: plaisirsdhiver.be