Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Tue December 15 2015

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  • Worldwide Scott | December 15, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    4 of the Coziest Christmas Markets in Europe

    4 of the Coziest Christmas Markets in Europe

    PHOTO: Wolfenbuttel Christmas market. (photos by Worldwide Scott unless otherwise indicated)

    You've probably heard a ton about European Christmas Markets lately. And if not, well, I'm here to tell you that they are pretty much the greatest wintry thing ever invented. In a nutshell (nutcracker?), they are outdoor festivals home to little wooden chalets oozing holiday spirit and the sights and smells of warm and toasty food and drink. Basically, you wander between these little huts "oohing and aahing" at gorgeous ornaments and wooden toys, finding deliciously new ways to stay warm in the cold at every corner along the way.

    Then you leave happy and full of Christmas spirit.

    Christmas markets pop up all over Europe during December by the thousands, and you'll see almost as many lists about them on the Internet around this time of year. Invariably, these lists will typically mention the same cast of popular Christmas market characters. That's not what this one is all about, though. This post is about especially cozy Christmas markets. Ones that are smaller, more intimate, and where you won't necessarily get steamrolled by a tour group.

    Wolfenbuttel, Germany

    On the fringes of the mysterious Harz Mountains — which inspired the Brothers Grimm — and just a quick train ride from Hanover, Wolfenbuttel charms with a fairytale timbered town square, warm welcome and one of the best Fuerzengenbowle bartenders I've ever met. Fuerzengenbowle, warmed wine spiked with rum and sugar and lit on fire, is a specialty of Christmas markets in Germany, and the stand in Wolfenbuttel has been legendary for decades. Well, at least that's what the gregarious gentleman manning the flames told me.

    The Wolfenbuttel Christmas market has history, too, as it's been going since 1585, and is the type of place where the friendly locals will ask you why you have descended upon their charming town for Christmas, and you'll look around at the twinkling lights and reply "why on Earth wouldn't I?"

    Bolzano, Italy

    Straddling the line of Italy and Austria in South Tyrol, the Christmas market in Bolzano is home to a level of refinement you would expect from Northern Italy combined with all the warmth of a traditional mountain Christmas market in Austria.

    With the soaring Dolomite Mountains as a background, the market in Bolzano sprawls out in the main town square ringed by churches and quintessentially Italian porticos. The coziest part of the Bolzano Christmas market is the wonderful hidden forest off the square filled with Christmas trees all sparkling with twinkling lights; the perfect place for enjoying a sparkling wine with that special someone.  

    Oberndorf, Austria

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons

    The soulful and spiritual classic Christmas song "Silent Night" was created in this snowy and snug town near the Alps in 1818. The chapel where the song was first performed is still standing, and each year a small but atmospheric Christmas market is opened Thursday through Sunday during Advent in front of it. This Christmas market in Oberndorf is a more solemn affair than your typical Christmas market, but that only adds to the atmosphere.

    Angel's Market in Cologne, Germany

    In the middle of the German metropolis of Cologne, the Angel's Market is a peaceful oasis of gilded Christmas spirit. Dangling from the trees at the Angel's Market are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of illuminated stars that, along with all-white chalets, set a mood for the market like no other in the city. The crafts, food and crowd at the Angel's Market are classy, and that adds to the atmosphere. Stop by the appropriately-named Gabriel's Bar for a mulled wine and then hop over to the wood-planked smoked salmon stand like I did — you won't regret it.  

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Worldwide Scott The Adventures of Worldwide Scott

Worldwide Scott Born in the U.S.A like Springsteen but trying to see the world like Pitbull, Worldwide Scott is the voice behind the hard-hitting travel site of the same name. Employing a groundbreaking strategy of visiting destinations, coming home, and then writing things about them on the internet, Worldwide Scott only tackles the tough questions that other writers wouldn't dare touch: Is travelling fun? Are there pretty places in the world? Do people in other countries wear clothes? Does Europe really exist? And if so, what's the beer like there? Stick around, he's going places.
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