Maybe it’s because I grew up in a land of summer Christmases spent at the beach, with endless seafood and fresh cherries, or maybe it’s because I watched too many romanticized American movies as a kid. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a snowy, white winter Christmas with all the Northern Hemisphere traditions. So as Helsinki experiences it’s first snow of the season and the temperatures plummet into negative degrees, I decided to get excited about winter by putting together some photos from two Christmas markets I visited last year and two I’m excited to visit this year. I hope you enjoy and get some ideas about where you could go for some European Christmas cheer!
Helsinki: Senate Square and surrounds
The annual Helsinki Christmas Markets, often referred to as the St. Thomas Market, is held at the famous Senate Square from the first weekend in December up to the Friday before Christmas. With the majestic all white Helsinki Cathedral standing tall above the square and a beautiful old carousel in the middle of the market, this is one elegant affair, with 100 well-organised stalls and many places to sit and drink. As well as delicious sweet and savoury food there are also many Finnish craft and design stores. A little further down Aleksanterinkatu, outside the famous department building Stockmann, there’s also a small cluster of Christmas stalls during the festive season, with many cheery lights, spruce trees, roasted chestnuts and hot Glögi on offer.
Dates and Opening Hours: 1-22 December, Mon-Fri 11am – 8pm, Sat-Sun 10am – 7pm
Location: Map link here
Vibe: Elegant, majestic.
Must try: Smoked reindeer meat and hot Glögi- the Finnish version of mulled wine, served with raisins and slithered almonds in the cup.
Prices: On the expensive end, as Helsinki is in general. A hot mug of Glögi is around 5€.
Tallinn: Raekoja Plats
Tallinn is one of my favorite cities in Europe, and around Christmas time the enchantment of the old town is at it’s highest. Since 1441 the old Town Hall Square has been home to a magical Christmas Market and it’s said that the Brotherhood of the Blackheads erected the world’s first Christmas Tree here, although others claim that neighboring Riga holds this title. Either way, the Tallinn market is full of old world charm.
Dates and Opening Hours: 16th November – 7th January: Open every day 10am – 8pm with hot Christmas drinks till 11pm. There’s also a Christmas program every Friday from 5pm – 7pm and on Sundays from 12 noon – 2pm.
Location: Map link here
Vibe: Like stepping into a Medieval Fairy Tale
Must try: There’s plenty of delicious smoked and spiced nuts and very strong mulled wine! I found the food in Tallinn to be slightly heavier and heartier than that of Helsinki, with many hot pastries on offer. The handicrafts include a lot of amber and wood carvings as well as many hand knitted goods.
Prices: much cheaper than Finland but still more expensive than normal Estonian non-touristy prices. You can get strongly alcoholic mulled wine for around 3€.
Further Details: see here.
As most of my trip will be after Christmas and the German markets tend to finish a little earlier than most, I will only have time to squeeze in two markets- but as one of them in Nuremberg I am confident that I’ll get my fair dose of German festive flare!
Initially I didn’t realise this… but there are many, many Christmas Markets in Berlin. This website lists four of the most popular ones. As I only have a few days in Berlin I’ll likely only check out the one in Schlossplatz in the old town Köpenick area of Berlin. Located amidst cobbled streets, a Baroque palace and the town hall, with traditional food, drink and gifts, the atmosphere is sure to be just what I’m after.
Dates and Opening Hours: 14 – 16 December, Friday 2pm – 9pm, Saturday 12pm – 9pm, Sunday 12pm – 8pm.
Location: Map Link here
This is meant to be the mother-load of all Christmas Markets and I just can’t wait!!!
Dates and Opening Hours: 30th November – 24th December. Daily 10am – 9pm, except Christmas Eve when the market closes early at 2pm.
Location: Map Link Here
Further Details: Here