So, you want to travel this winter, but you also need to buy Christmas gifts. I get it. Why not accomplish both at the same time and make your gift recipients feel special because you've actually bought them a souvenir of your trip. Who doesn't like that?
If you're heading to Europe, maybe one of these 10 destinations will rock your world, plus allow you to hit up one of the best Christmas markets out there:
Though this market is fairly new (est. 2002), it has quickly become very popular. The Winter Wonders guest of honor is a great way to get a little pseudo-vacay, too. Each year, a new international guest is invited to set up a mini market in the market to share their traditions and local goods. Awesome, right? While you're there, don't forget to get in on some traditional Belgian foods, watch the nightly sound and light show, and shop from worldwide artisans.
Browse among the many lighted Christmas trees and pick up locally-made crafts from the many vendors. You can also walk along the lighted lakeside, fill up on æbleskivers (iced doughnuts with black currant jam) and glogg (spiced wine). Look for the town crier that visits each weeknight between 5 and 6pm.
London is definitely for shoppers. Regent Street is decked out in amazing lighted "art" and markets and holiday decor take over the whole city. You'll find the city's largest ice skating rink in Hyde Park, carolers, a giant Ferris wheel and a traditional German Christmas Market, but also several smaller markets can be found elsewhere in the city. In early December you can watch racers balance fruitcake on spoons during the Great Christmas Pudding Race. When you're not shopping or taking all the pictures of the holiday awesomeness, make sure to do some other sightseeing, possibly by purchasing a London Pass to skip queues and do more touristy things for less.
An 85-foot Christmas tree is the center of this amazing market. There's no shortage of delicious local foods and drinks, but there are also several smaller markets dotted around the city, which all have their own themes, like the Medieval Market. There's also a Christmas tram that doles out spiced wine and gingerbread. Yum!
Prague, Czech Republic
Find a wide variety of goodies to bring back home. Among those things on offer are crafts, handmade jewelry, wooden toys and Bohemian crystal. There's tons of sweets, too, which you may want to return home with. December 5th is St. Nicholas Day, where you can see St. Nick wandering town with an angel and a devil in tow, tallying up the naughty and nice.
If you love nativity scenes, then you'll love Rome at Christmas. The city sets up scenes all over. There's also carnival games, giant doughnuts and more variations of peanut brittle than you can eat. In early January, for Epiphany, the Christmas Witch comes to visit to bring even more presents after Santa.
Salzburg, AustriaDating back to the 15th century, Salzburg is home to one of the oldest (though smaller) markets. Fewer than a hundred stalls come together to sell furry slippers, pewter crafts and more, so it's much easier to see everything there is on display while munching on roasted chestnuts and gingerbread. Don't forget to look for the advent calendar (one of the world's largest).
This town was just recommended to me by a friend, so it's now on my wish list. The oldest and best Christmas market in France is based here and you can drink mulled wine out of a boot mug, watch nativity plays, listen to carolers and shop the many wooden stalls for beautiful things to bring home. Look for the city mascot that you can take back to the kiddos in the form of stuffed white storks.
Home to a massive Christmas market that dates back to the 17th century. Almost 300 stalls are part of the market, so there's no shortage of options for gifts and souvenirs. Sheepskin clothing, wooden toys and nutcrackers are just a few of those things you'll find.There's plenty for the kids to do, too, including candle-making workshops
Home to one of the most popular markets, you should be ready for the crowds. After a couple glasses of "Christmas punch" and you're unlikely to care too much. Stay somewhat sober though, so you can enjoy the traditional ambiance of the market, because you won't see many tacky stalls here. There are over 30 advent season concerts throughout the market, so make sure you work some of those into your visit.
Are you traveling for Christmas? If so, where are you going?