Why should you attend a Christmas market?
Christmas in Europe is a special time of year, filled with festivities and wonderful Christmas markets. With their many stalls of presents, beautiful lights, glasses of glühwein (warmed wine), and great holiday cuisine it seems like you are in a winter wonderland.
Attending a European Christmas market is certainly an easy decision – you might be wondering where can I find these Christmas markets and which are the best to visit? Smart Insiders are here to tell you where to go, and what not to miss at a traditional European Christmas market.
Christmas season is underway in the US with Thanksgiving out of the way and heavy holiday shopping amongst us. The biggest difference between the US and Europe during Christmas is that Americans solely celebrate on the 25th of December, but in Europe all countries celebrate Christmas on different days and they have their unique holiday traditions.
When and where can I visit?
There are two schedules that Europeans follow for their celebrations; Advent and The Epiphany. Generally European Christmas markets set up shop the Friday before Advent. Some open as early as late November, but will close on the 23rd, or 24th, of December. Other countries, including Spain, follow the Epiphany schedule that runs until January 6th which is the day to celebrate the gift of the Magi (The Three Kings). If they follow this schedule Christmas markets will run until January 6th.
Christmas markets originated in Germany and still has the reputation for doing them right. The main reason these markets originated was to bring some cheer and light to the long, dark, days of winter. As a result, many European countries have adopted this tradition that includes but is not limited to France, Austria, Belgium, and Switzerland
- European Christmas markets start in late November and run through Advent (Dec 2nd – Dec 24)
- Epiphany (the 12 Days of Christmas after Dec 25th) is typically celebrated in Eastern Europe
How can I prepare?
Almost all Christmas markets are outside so make sure to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing.
Also, there will be lost of food to try so make sure that you come hungry. It’s a good idea to have dinner there since there will be a lot of hot food and drinks to choose from. Also, since it will be dark, the atmosphere will be beautiful with all the lights and decorations.
It is important to bring cash with you. Booths will take cards, but because it is faster and more efficient, it’s certainly a good idea to bring some cash for smoother transactions. Make sure to watch your bags and wallets – there will be a lot of people visiting, which consequently creates the perfect environment for pickpockets.
hat about Madrid? Are there Christmas markets?
Of course there are! Due to the fact that we are located in Madrid as most of you are, we thought it would be best to start searching for what’s closest to us. There are a few places where you can find some great gifts, traditional crafts, and homemade treats. Here is your list for where to go this holiday season.
Plaza Mayor Market
Feria Dulces de Navidad
Paseo de Recoletos Market
Adventsbasar German Market
Plaza Mayor: Christmas Market
The Plaza Mayor Christmas market is officially open and will be the whole month of December. The plaza lights up at night with beautiful candlelit lights surrounding the inside of the square. If you are travelling home for the holidays, this is the perfect place to find small gifts and trinkets to bring home to your loved ones. Here you will find nativity scenes, festive holiday hats, and beautiful Christmas ornaments. Also, if you would like to bring a little holiday cheer to your piso you can buy a miniature Christmas tree to decorate, or a handmade wreath to hang on your door.
Open now! Until late December
Monday – Friday 10:00 – 21:00
Saturday + Sunday 10:00 – 22:00
Feria Dulces de Navidad: Christmas Sweets Fair
If you have a sweet tooth like we do and want to try traditional spanish sweets then maybe this is the place to visit. Head to Plaza de Ópera (Plaza Isabel II) to have your own tapa-styled dessert experience. There are many to choose from, including the famous turrón. If you’re not sure what turrón is (it’s a nougat that normally contains almonds and is cooked with sugar and honey). There are many different varieties to try, so make sure to start tasting now, so you can pick your favorite flavor.
Open November 30th to January 8th
Everyday 10:00 – 22:00
Christmas Market: Paseo de Recoletos
If you’re a person that likes to buy handmade Christmas presents, then this is the place for you. Here you can find many things like: jewelry, pottery, toys, and textiles. Most of the artists are from the region of Madrid, but you will also see some vendors that have travelled from other regions of Spain as well. If you’re looking for something unique to take home to a loved one don’t miss out on this special event.
Open December 1st to December 30th (Except Christmas December 25th)
Everyday 11:00 – 21:00
December 24th + 31st closing early at 15:00