Travel Picks: Top 10 Christmas Markets in Europe
LONDON (Reuters) - Many holiday shoppers order their gifts online to avoid crowds, but there are some unique shopping opportunities around Europe during the holiday season that can be enjoyable for the whole family.
Traditional Christmas Markets, originating in Europe but now popping up all over the globe, provide a celebratory atmosphere and seasonal delicacies to enjoy while shopping for your gifts. To help you determine your next shopping destination, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com (www.virtualtourist.com) compiled a list of the "Top Ten Christmas Markets."
1. Vienna, Austria
Advent, the period of preparation before Christmas, begins on the Sunday four weeks before Christmas Eve, so Viennese celebrations and decorations often begin in mid-November. Rathausplatz, the square in front of the city hall, is home to Christkindlmarkt, a traditional Christmas market with more than 150 stalls selling gifts, Christmas decorations, gluhwein (mulled wine) and hot chestnuts. Two other popular Christmas venues are the Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung, which is more traditional and sells handicrafts, and the Christmas Market in front of Schonbrunn Palace, which offers the imperial backdrop and hosts a New Year's market, staying open until January 1. The market on the Rathausplatz runs from Nov 16 at 5 pm to December 24 - other markets around the city on average run from around Nov 20 - Dec 23.
2. Salzburg, Austria
One of Europe's oldest markets, the Christkindlmarkt in front of the Salzburg cathedral is a more intimate affair than some of the larger city's markets. The town's baroque architecture and looming Hohensalzburg Fortress give it a fairy tale feeling, heightened by the sparkling lights and holiday garlands. As the birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg has an outstanding musical tradition, so there are wonderful choral performances and opportunities to hear some of Europe's best students perform. In fact, the city also has another musical claim to fame: Joseph Mohr, the lyricist behind the famous Christmas carol "Silent Night" was also born in Salzburg.
3. Munich, Germany
While many people associate the Bavarian capital with Oktoberfest, Munich also holds a fantastic Christmas market in the center of the city on the Marienplatz. The market surrounds an enormous Christmas tree, which glitters with almost 2,500 lights. While sipping on gluhwein (mulled warmed wine) or beer, visitors can find many traditional Bavarian gifts, like wood carvings and gingerbread called lebkuchen. There are also smaller themed markets throughout the city - one unique to Munich is the Manger Market, which sells the pieces and important components for those who want to build an authentic manger.
4. Prague, Czech Republic Continued...