|Christmas market by Lake Geneva in Montreux, Switzerland|
Discovering the holiday traditions and uniqueness of each city makes the visit and purchases a more meaningful experience.
|Harbor Christmas Market on a ship floating on the Rhine river, Cologne, Germany|
|Scenes from Christmas market in Maastricht, Holland|
|Local salami specialty at a Christmas market in Lausanne, Switzerland|
Do some research beforehand: If you don't want to miss special appearances or performances like the Christkind at the Nurnberg market, make sure you check the website of the Christmas Market for performance times and plan your trip accordingly. Double check the hours of the market or markets you want to visit as well.
|Christmas Market at Place l'Ancienne Douane, Colmar, France|
Check the weather but be prepared for anything. Living in Germany for so many years, I learned to never leave the house without sunglasses, an umbrella, and an extra scarf. Often I've used all three in one day.
It is likely, if you are just visiting a city for the market, you will be spending several hours there walking outside (comfortable shoes alert!). Make sure you check the temperature upon your arrival time and planned departure time and dress accordingly. Bring an extra scarf or glove liners, or heat packs if necessary as the temperature can change drastically. No one wants to go home early because even filled with copious amounts of glüwein, they consume, they are still freezing.
|Sword fighting demonstration at the Medieval Christmas market in Munich, Germany|
Visit other attractions - Research of other attractions you would like to visit in the city. Most of these I knock out in the morning when I arrive and then I visit the Christmas markets. Or I take a break between daylight and evening visits. You also do not want to miss the markets at night, when they are all it up and become the most magical. So plan another circle back (perfect excuse for a glühwein) as evening descends. Prioritize the list into "must visit" and "would like to visit". Note their hours. If you have time, you can always circle back to your "would like to" list.
|Living light sculptures at the Tollwood Christmas market in Munich, Germany|
Get maps. when you arrive at the train station, visit the tourist information booth. Most likely, there will be two maps, one of the city and one of the Christmas Markets. Often there are several Christmas markets within the city, the main one, and several offshoots. Some are themed. Sometimes there is a Christmas market at the train station as well. Pick up both maps. The Christmas Market map is usually a lot less detailed than the standard city map. I've often found myself referring to both to get around.
|View of the Cologne Dom from a Christmas market in Cologne, Germany|
|Christmas Market located under the arches of the Grand-Pont |
(Le Marché du Terroir et de la Vigne des Arches) in Lausanne, France
|The fabulous Gay-friendly Pink Christmas market in |
Munich's Glockenbachviertels, Germany
Make sure you have the times and platforms of the return train times, especially the final one before you leave the station so you have flexibility in deciding when to return.
|Christmas Market in the Velvet Cave in Valkenburg, Holland|
Shop carefully and creatively: Even my friends who swear they are are not shoppers can't resist picking up a few items. I find the best items to be unique to the place. Handmade or regionally, locally produced items make great souvenirs. Before buying an item, ask yourself "Can I get this back home?" If it is something you can easily find at a store home, why bother having it take up room in your suitcase? I'm all about the suitcase real estate. Check where the item is manufactured. If it says "China", I usually put the item back unless I need it for a specific purpose.
|Traditional Bavarian straw Christmas ornaments, Christmas market, Munich, Germany|
|Vintage Christmas ornaments for sale at a Christmas market in Cologne, Germany|
Tour the entire market first, then circle back to buy the items you've had your eye on. Many booths sell the same types of goods and you might find something similar you like better or at a lower price at another booth. The only exception is my "one left" policy. If there is only one left, and I love it, I don't pass it up in case I cannot find it somewhere else.
|Käsespåtzle at Tollwood Christmas Market in Munich, Germany|
Bring a Backpack - I usually wear a cross body bag with easy access to my cell phone, money, tickets, personal essentials like lipstick and antibacterial wipes. I wear my camera around my neck. I also bring a lightweight backpack that contains two lightweight shopping bags with long handles so I can sling those over my shoulders if I run out of room in my backpack for my purchases. I store my extra outer gear and umbrella in the backpack as well.
If you decided to visit another attraction that does not allow backpacks, you can check the backpack and still have all your valuables in the crossbody bag.
|Christmas market in Strasbourg, France|
Bring Small Money - You will make better friends with the vendors if you do not routinely hand them large bills for them to change. Make sure you are carrying small denominations of the local currency. This can also speed up the process of paying if there are many people at the booth waiting to purchase goods.
|Strip Tease tent at the Santa Pauli Christmas Market at St. Pauli, |
the Red Light District in Hamburg, Germany
Ask vendors Before You take pictures of their goods: - This specifically applies to booths selling handmade items. I learned this the hard way at a marzipan stand at the Nuremberg Christmas market selling delightful creations like fruits, vegetables, and figures sculpted out of marzipan. I started excitedly snapping away until the vendor screamed at me. Loudly. I was stunned.
When vendors (especially older, not social media savvy ones) see people taking pictures, they are fearful of others stealing their ideas and making those items on their own to possibly sell them themselves. Now I always ask before I snap at these types of booths. If it's I am making a purchase, I ask after I have paid. My way of buttering them up a bit before I ask.
|Nutcrackers like these on display at a Christmas market in Hamburg, Germany are always a lovely gift.|
Don't ignore the local stores: After your time spent at the Christmas market - if you have some to spare, visit some of the local stores. I focus on the ones that are not part of a chain, like local home goods stores. I have found some of my favorite unexpected holiday items and gifts in these places.
|Christmas market entrance in Aachen, Germany |
depicting the city's famous Printen spiced cookies
A Christmas Market with a Conscious - Tollwood in Munich, Germany
Aachen, Germany Christmas Market
Cologne, Germany Christmas Market
Freiburg, Germany Christmas Markets
Hamburg Has the Sexiest Christmas Market in Germany
Munich Christmas Market Roundup
Munich - Tollwood, A Christmas Market with a Conscious
Colmar, France Christmas Market
Strasbourg, France Christmas Markets
Maastricht, Holland Christmas Market
Valkenburg Holland Christmas Market in the Caves
Basel, Switzerland Christmas Market
|Musicians/Carolers at a Christmas market in Freiburg, Germany|