‘Tis the season for the original pop-up shop — temporary Christmas markets are opening in cities all over northern Europe.
Here’s a round up of some of our favorite seasonal spots for shopping, skating and enjoying a festive hot drink to warm the soul — and the feet. Plus: one American surprise for those who have been extra good.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM Winter Wonders Nov. 26, 2010 – Jan. 2, 2011
Launched just six years ago, Brussels’ Winter Wonders has evolved into one of Europe’s most elaborate holiday festivals. The scene includes a market with 240 stalls, fairgrounds with a giant Ferris wheel, carousel and other rides; separate skating rinks for adults and bigger kids, and for toddlers; and of course a towering Christmas tree on the city’s light-festooned Grand-Place.
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK Tivoli Gardens Nov. 15 – Dec. 29 2010
Imagine tens of thousands of lightbulbs lit up everywhere in Tivoli Gardens, as the heady aromas of ‘glogg’ and traditional Danish ‘æbleskiver’ (‘dumplings’ served with sugar and jam) engulf you. Add all manner of handicraft gift items, an elf and fairies exhibition, mechanical puppets, and loads of children running around begging to try the rides. It all makes for the best example of the Danish art of ‘hygge,’ or coziness’.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square Nov. 27, 2010 – Jan. 2, 2010
Prague’s Wenceslas Square naturally is one of the star attractions for the city’s annual Christmas markets, which also include installations a short stroll away at Old Town Square, Havelske Trziste, and Manesti Republiky. Featured are Bohemian crystal, wooden toys and other locally crafted items; sausages, corn on the cob and other Czech food favorites, local beers, mulled wine and other hot beverages. There’s also an area in Old Town Square with a petting zoo with sheep, goats and a llama, as well as a special tree brought in from the Krkonose mountains in the northern part of the country.
STRASBOURG, FRANCE Christkindelsmarik Nov. 29 – Dec. 24, 2010
First held more than 400 years ago, this market is the oldest such Christmas event in France and one of the biggest in the country. The area around the cathedral is center stage for the Christkindelsmarik, but also not to be missed is the charming La Petite France neighborhood, with its timbered buildings that seem so appropriate to the season. A skating rink, performances of carols and the requisite giant tree on Place Kleber complete the scene.
TRIER, GERMANY Hauptmarkt Nov. 22 – Dec. 22, 2010
The medieval cathedral forms the backdrop for this market in Germany’s oldest city, which is best known for its Roman-era Porta Nigra gate. Nearly 100 wooden huts tricked out for the season offer all manner of treats, including mulled wine, hot pretzels, and mini pancakes, along with knitted items, special soaps and other locally produced goods. Meanwhile, brass bands provide just the right seasonal soundtrack.
VIENNA, AUSTRIA Schönbrunn Palace Nov 20 – Dec. 26, 2010
Celebrate a la the Habsburgs, sort of, as this Baroque palace falls under the spell of Christmas. Shining in the glow of spotlights, this romantic treasure provides a magnificent setting for a special Advent village. Some 60 exhibitors sell Austrian artifacts —crystal, anyone? — in a seasonal atmosphere redolent of gingerbread and sugarplums, not to mention plenty of gluwein. Less commercial that the market outside of City Hall, this is truly a royal treat.
NEW YORK CITY, U.S. Bryant Park Nov. 5, 2010 – Jan. 2, 2011
Bring your own skates, and glide your way across the free public rink that is the centerpiece of Bryant Park’s winter season. Celsius: A Canadian Lounge offers rink-side views along with lunch, dinner and drinks on an outdoor terrace complete with heat lamps. And, of course, more than 100 boutique set-ups ply their wares, proffering everything from hand-knit ski caps to hand-dipped chocolates.