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Discover the magic: Christmas markets in Europe. Part 1

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague's Old Town Square becomes a festive paradise during the Christmas season. The majestic Christmas tree, brightly decorated stalls, and the iconic astronomical clock create a magical atmosphere for visitors to enjoy.

The heart of the Prague Christmas Market is undoubtedly the Old Town Square, where the historic backdrop of the Old Town Hall and the Church of Our Lady Before Týn adds a fairytale quality to the festivities. Here's what you can expect when you visit:
  • Astronomical Clock
The Astronomical Clock, known as the Prague Orloj, is a must-see attraction year-round. During the Christmas market, it becomes even more captivating with its hourly display of the Twelve Apostles and the procession of figurines, including the Three Wise Men.
  • Traditional Czech crafts
The market stalls are adorned with an array of traditional Czech crafts, including delicate glass ornaments, hand-painted wooden toys, and intricate lacework. These make for excellent gifts and souvenirs.
  • Culinary delights
Prague's Christmas Market is a food lover's paradise. Savor classic Czech treats like trdelník, a sweet pastry cooked over an open flame and rolled in sugar and nuts. You can also warm up with cups of svařák (mulled wine) and klobása (sausage).
  • Christmas carols and entertainment
Throughout the market, you can enjoy the sweet sounds of Christmas carolers and local musicians. Their performances add a joyful soundtrack to your market exploration.
  • Unique experiences
Besides shopping and indulging in treats, visitors can take advantage of various unique experiences, such as a ride on a traditional carousel or exploring the Christmas nativity scene, which is a part of the city's rich Christmas traditions.

Prague Christmas Markets in 2023

The Prague Christmas Markets are open daily from 2nd December 2023 to 6th January 2024, including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
The main Christmas markets are held at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, in the heart of the city.
Opening hours are 10:00-22:00. Entry is free.

In addition, Prague Castle holds a sizeable Christmas market on the square in front of St. George's Basilica. The market is open daily from 2nd December 2023 to 6th January 2024.
Opening hours 09:00-18:00/19:00. Entry is free.

Smaller Christmas markets are held at:
  • Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky), in front of Palladium Shopping Centre. Open daily from 25th November to 30th December 2023. Opening hours 10:00-22:00.
  • Na Kampě Square, by Charles Bridge in the Lesser Town. Open daily from 3rd December 2023 to 1st January 2024. Opening hours 10:00-20:00.
  • Havel's Market in the Old Town. The city's main permanent market adopts a festive feel with Christmas stalls and a large Christmas tree. Open: Daily 06:00-18:30.

Two local Christmas markets are held just outside the city centre, 15 minutes walk from Wenceslas Square. May be worth visiting if you are in Prague before the main markets open:
  • Peace Square (Náměstí Míru). Open 20th November to 24th December 2023. 10:00-20:00.
  • Tyl Square (Tylovo náměstí). Open 26th November to 24th December 2023. 10:00-20:00.

Cologne, Germany

Cologne, Germany, is home to a series of wonderful Christmas markets, collectively offering a diverse and enchanting holiday experience. The most famous among them is the Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market (Kölner Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom), which is celebrated not only for its festive offerings but also for its breathtaking backdrop, the Cologne Cathedral.
  • Setting and ambiance
The Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market takes center stage in the heart of the city, nestled beneath the towering spires of the iconic Cologne Cathedral. The stunning Gothic architecture provides an awe-inspiring backdrop as the entire market square comes alive with the festive spirit. At night, the cathedral is illuminated, creating an unforgettable atmosphere.
  • Artisan crafts
The market stalls are filled with a wide variety of artisan crafts and gifts, including hand-carved wooden toys, intricate glass ornaments, and traditional German nutcrackers. The quality and craftsmanship of these items make for excellent souvenirs.
  • Culinary delights
No visit to a German Christmas market is complete without indulging in delectable treats. At the Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market, you can savor regional specialties like bratwurst sausages, potato pancakes, and the beloved Reibekuchen (potato fritters). Don't forget to try the Glühwein, a warm and spiced mulled wine that's perfect for warding off the winter chill.
  • Live entertainment
The market features live performances and entertainment, including choirs, bands, and cultural presentations that add to the festive atmosphere. These performances are sure to get visitors into the holiday spirit.
Cologne's Christmas markets are not only about shopping and indulgence but also about immersing yourself in the rich holiday traditions of the region. The unique backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral, combined with the variety of markets, makes it a special destination for anyone seeking the magic of Christmas in Germany. Whether you explore one or all of Cologne's Christmas markets, you're sure to leave with cherished memories and a heart full of holiday joy.
Cologne Christmas markets in 2023:

  • Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

The biggest of all the city markets in the shadow of the symbol of the city, Cologne Cathedral.
Dates: 23.11.23 - 23.12.23
Times: Sunday-Wednesday: 11.00-21.00
Thursday-Friday: 11.00-22.00
Saturday: 10.00-22.00
Location: Roncalliplatz next to Cologne Cathedral

  • The Christmas Market in Cologne's Old Town

This market is located in the Cologne's 'Altstadt' (the old town) on the Alter Markt and calls itself the Home of the Heinzelmännchen (who were little creatures from a Cologne legend who used to do all the housework until they were annoyed by an inquisitive housewife).
Dates: 24.11.23 - 23.12.23
Times: 11.00-22.00
Location: Between the Heumarkt and the Alter Markt in the old town

  • The Angels' Market

The Angels' Market is the big market in the Neumarkt square, a little way outside the immediate city centre. It is one of the original markets that restarted the Christmas market boom in Cologne in the 70s.
Dates: 20.11.23 - 23.12.23
Times: Monday-Thursday: 11.00-21.00
Friday-Saturday: 11.00-22.00
Location: In the Neumarkt to the west of the city centre

Vienna, Austria

Vienna's Christmas market is a masterpiece of elegance and tradition. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Vienna City Hall (Rathaus), it offers a unique blend of arts and crafts, festive delicacies, and musical performances.
  • Location and atmosphere
The Vienna Christmas Market, also known as the Wiener Christkindlmarkt, is located in front of the magnificent Neo-Gothic Vienna City Hall. The grandeur of the architecture, combined with the sparkling lights and beautifully decorated stalls, creates an atmosphere of pure enchantment.
  • Christmas decorations
The market is known for its exquisite decorations and lighting. A giant Christmas tree, adorned with thousands of Swarovski crystals, stands at the center of the square. This tree is a spectacular sight, particularly when it's illuminated in the evenings, casting a radiant glow over the market.
  • Arts and crafts
The market is a treasure trove for shoppers seeking unique and handcrafted gifts. You can find a wide array of items, from delicate glass ornaments to intricate handmade jewelry and traditional Austrian clothing. Local artisans showcase their craftsmanship, making it an excellent place to pick up authentic Austrian souvenirs.
  • Culinary delights
Vienna's Christmas Market is a culinary delight. The aroma of roasting chestnuts, freshly baked pastries, and seasonal spices fills the air. Don't miss the chance to sample Austrian specialties like Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancake) and Kartoffelpuffer (potato fritters), paired with a warming cup of Glühwein.
  • Musical performances
Live performances, including choirs and orchestras, are an integral part of the market's entertainment. The sound of classic Christmas carols and traditional Austrian music adds a magical touch to the atmosphere.
  • Ice Dream Vienna
Adjacent to the Christmas Market is "Wiener Eistraum" (Vienna Ice Dream), a large ice skating rink that offers visitors the opportunity to glide gracefully under the majestic Vienna City Hall. Skating amidst the stunning surroundings is a unique and unforgettable experience.
  • Children's program
The market also offers a delightful children's program with activities like puppet shows, carousel rides, and the opportunity to meet Santa Claus, making it a family-friendly destination.
  • Vienna Christmas Dream Parade
This lively procession features beautifully decorated carriages, festively adorned horses, and cheerful participants who parade through the city, spreading Christmas cheer.

Vienna Christmas markets in 2023:

Most markets have already announced their 2023 starting dates:

  • November 10th: Am Hof; Stephansplatz; Altes AKH; Christkindlmarkt am Rathausplatz (the “big one”)
  • November 15th: Weihnachtsdorf on Maria-Theresien-Platz
  • November 16th: Spittelberg
  • November 17th: Belvedere; Freyung
  • November 18th: the Schönbrunn market; Wintermarkt am Riesenradplatz
  • November 23rd: Weihnachtszauber, Hirschstetten
  • November 24th: Karlsplatz

You can find updated information on the opening dates and hours here.

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