Come winter, and memories of warm evening by a crackling fire; cold, crisp days; and traditional celebrations for the holidays come to mind. All these activities can be very enjoyable in Europe. There are various reasons to travel in winter with a host of destinations on offer.
Christmas travel can entail fewer crowds at popular destinations, provide a break from the usual routine and double up as a special gift. So get set to see Praque and Budapest decorated for the holidays, sample Sachertorte in Vienna, or wander through Christmas markets in Stockholm.
Germany's Christmas markets, for instance, are famous for great food, wonderful gifts and fantastic times. A visit to any German Christmas market will ensure that you imbibe the Christmas spirit. Whatever you plan to do in the Christmas market -- buy Christmas gifts, sip on a Gluhwein (hot spiced wine), or purchase Christmas sweets, you are sure to have a fabulous time.
The German Christmas markets offer a range of gifts and Christmas items to select from. These include the famous wooden nutcrackers as well as handmade Christmas ornaments and gifts.
Every Christmas market in Germany, and you can choose from the many, has its specialities, but regardless of where you go you will come across great Christmas market foods such as Glühwein (Hot Spiced Wine), hot chocolate, hot fruit punch, sausages (all sorts), knobibrot, lebkuchen (Gingerbread), marzipan, sauteed mushrooms with various sauces, potato pancakes and gulasch.
When visiting Germany's Christmas markets make sure your dress is warm. It is extremely cold in the winter in Germany and the open-air Christmas markets entail warm clothing. So do double check to see that you have a heavy winter coat, gloves, warm socks, boots or well-insulated shoes, a scarf and a hat.
Most German Christmas markets start around November 23 to 25 and last until December 23. A few actually go until December 24. It gets dark soon in winter in Germany, so by 4:30 pm or so you can start enjoying the lights and the magical night-time atmosphere. The markets stay open from around 9 or 10 am and close anywhere between 9 pm and midnight depending on the city as well as whether it is a weekend or weekday.
There are rides on train and carriages and carousels for children. Some markets even have petting zoos. Some Christmas markets have special zones where children can make their own Christmas gifts.
Each German Christmas market has its own speciality. However, regardless of which one you go to you are sure to find plenty of Christmas treasures to bring home as well as be able to revel in the Christmas atmosphere that Germany offers.
You can also slip across the border from Germany into France to the Strasbourgh Christmas markets. One of the biggest Christmas markets in France with a breathtaking setting in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral, it is certainly worth a visit. France, known for its great markets, is a must visit destination during Christmas. There are numerous Christmas markets throughout France that offer wonderful handcrafted ornaments, marvelous gifts and scrumptious food items.
Another country worth the visit is Belgium. As Christmas draws near, Christmas markets also make their appearance in many cities and towns in Belgium. Most of the cities and towns will be aglow with colourful illuminations around their main streets and shopping centres. The celebrations begin with St. Nicholas on December 6th.
The various shops display holiday treats such as marzipan, flat hard cakes known as 'klaasjes' and 'speculoos', a hard gingerbread molded in the form of St. Nicholas. Another plus point about Belgium is that in all the major cities across the country, shopping will be possible on the four Sundays preceding the holiday. One can spend leisurely Sundays browsing through the shops and choosing the right gifts.
So pack your bags, and fly into Europe for your special Christmas shopping.