Christmas markets around the Baltic
A source of seasonal magic since the Middle Ages.
Every year, town and city squares across Europe are transformed into festive winter landscapes. Tents and stalls sell everything from Christmas sweets and warming drinks, to hand-crafted souvenirs. Christmas markets have always been a natural part of the Advent period, and they’re a perfect way to get into the holiday atmosphere.
The very first Christmas market was held in Dresden, Germany back in 1434, and today there are more than 2,500 in Germany alone. Over the centuries the tradition has spread, mainly to the near-lying countries of Northern Europe, but there are also Christmas markets in Barcelona and Bath.
So what exactly is a Christmas market? It’s a true experience for all the senses. It brings out the child in us and spreads festive cheer. It’s something we do together with others, a public festival with performances, dancing and activities to take part in.
It’s also the ideal excuse for a trip away in early December – especially this year, with the pandemic largely behind us. Christmas markets can be found in most German towns and cities, and elsewhere in Northern Europe, but here we focus on three.
Historical Christmas traditions in Århus
Århus in Denmark undergoes a true festive transformation at Christmas time. Historical traditions and light installations spread a Christmassy atmosphere across the beautiful city. The Christmas market in Den Gamle By, or Old Town, takes you on a journey through the history of Danish Christmas, which hails back 400 years. Experience centuries of Danish tradition, enjoy some Danish delicacies, shop in historical boutiques, and learn all about baking gingerbread. An adventure that’s as entertaining as it is educational – and also one the whole family will enjoy.
Christmas magic in Riga
Riga is the perfect destination to celebrate Christmas the classic, traditional way. After all, that best-loved of all seasonal traditions – decorating the tree – is said to come from here.
At the annual and wonderfully atmospheric Christmas market on Dome Square, the air is full of wonderful festive fragrances: mulled wine, burnt almonds and spiced teas. Listen to beautiful Christmas songs, and shop for Latvian gifts to put under the tree, such as wax candles and craft pieces made from wood and silver.
Classic – and unexpected – in Hamburg
Hamburg Christmas Market is often hailed as one of the best in Germany. As you enter the historical market – Rathausmarkt or City Hall Marketplace – you step into an exciting Christmas fairy-tale that appeals to visitors of all ages.
As well as gingerbread thins and warming mulled wine, you’ll also find glass sculptures, hand-made soft toys and international delicacies.
Text by Paula Halldin