Holiday Shopping at Europe's Top Christmas Markets

Though Nuremberg's market is neither the largest nor the oldest, most agree that it is one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Every stall in Nuremberg's main square, Hauptmarkt, has a signature red and white-striped awning, and one can rest assured that each cabin will be designed uniquely and authentically, because each year every stand competes to win the prize of best design.

If the aesthetics aren't enough, the food is sure to win you over. Nuremberg is known for its spicy gingerbread, which scents the air, as well as its roasted bratwursts and Nuremberg Plum People, which are figurines carved from prunes. After you've filled your belly, shop for hand-dipped candles, music boxes, carved, wooden toys, and nutcrackers amid twinkling Christmas lights and live music. If you have children with you, stroll down to Kinderwihnacht in Hans-Sachs-Platz and find hands-on candle-making and cookie-baking stalls as well as a carousel and a steam train.

Estonia:

Tallinn

The Estonian capital's Christmas market has only been around since 1991, but one would never guess that it is relatively new in the Christmas market world. Situated in the cobbled Town Hall Square, where the first Christmas tree is said to have originated, the market's cozy, low-key atmosphere is bound to make you feel as if you have just entered a winter's fairytale. Because of its northern latitude, snow is almost guaranteed, and though the temperature may be low, there is plenty of mulled wine, warm food, live folk music, and candle-lit restaurants surrounding the square to warm your spirits. As far as shopping goes, some of Tallinn's specialties are wooden, star-shaped lamps, sweaters, socks, and bobble hats knitted from undyed wool, seagrass animals, and hand-crafted rugs and quilts. For children, Father Christmas and two of his elves visit every night, and there is an open-air ice-skating rink close by on Harju Street.

Austria:

Vienna

The 'Christkindlmarkt' in front of Vienna's Town Hall is the most popular of several Christmas markets in the "Heart of Europe." Deemed one of the oldest and best classic Christmas markets by the over 1 million visitors it gets each year, this market is sure to fill your shopping bags with traditional yuletide treasures, fill your belly with roasted chestnuts, and fill your heart with Christmas spirit. The market's atmosphere is enhanced with a large Christmas tree, eight nativity scenes, a children's cookie-baking workshop, and regular choir concerts starting on the first week of Advent.

Though the market is an attraction in itself, part of its appeal is the festive Rathauspark that surrounds it. Take a break from the bustling market to stroll through the park and admire trees, pavilions, and open spaces lit with twinkling lights shaped like hearts or gingerbread men and hung with snowflakes. While in the park, make sure to send a postcard from the "Post Office in the Clouds," and to visit Frosti, the talking, singing tree.

If you have time, some other Christmas markets in Vienna worth seeing are in Frevung, Spittelberg, and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo.

Denmark:

Copenhagen

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