Last updated: 08:00 PM ET, Wed November 18 2015

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  • Sam Schuler | November 18, 2015 8:00 PM ET

    7 Christmas Markets in Europe Worth Experiencing

    7 Christmas Markets in Europe Worth Experiencing

    PHOTO: Whether it’s French flair or a Scandinavian setting, Christmas markets in Europe are special. (Courtesy Auto Europe)

    Auto Europe knows that Christmas markets hold a special magic everywhere, but with centuries of tradition to build on the Europeans have truly learned to capture the spirit of the festive season.

    From mid-November Europe’s city and town squares come alive with festive lights, the smell of local delicacies, cheerful fireside chatter with hands wrapped around warm mugs of mulled wine, and, of course the search for that special gift you will never find in a department store.

    Whether you want to experience a Christmas market with French flair, German gemütlichkeit or a snow-white Scandinavian setting, Auto Europe brings them within easy reach. To help you decide in which direction to steer your rental car, we compiled a list of seven not-to-be-missed Christmas markets in Europe.


    The Alsatian city has been dubbed the “Capital of Christmas” and rightly so. With the magnificent Strasbourg cathedral as its main setting, it is easy to understand what attracts more than 2 million people during the festive season. Visit the 300 stalls spread throughout the city, marvel at the Great Christmas Tree on Place Kléber and sample some traditional food such as pickled cabbages (choucroute) and gingerbread in the La Petite France district. 


    A mountain backdrop and a 14 metre high Christmas tree made of Swarovski crystals are just some of the unique features of the Christmas markets in Austria’s “Capital of the Alps”. Sip on some glühwein (mulled wine) in front of the famous Golden Roof and listen to trumpeters playing traditional Christmas carols from different balconies above. Find fairy tale characters in the small alleys and ride the nostalgic carousel on the Marketplace Square.


    Dating back to 1434, the Christmas market or Striezelmarkt in this former East German city is an absolute highlight for all traditionalists in search of authenticity. The gifts and decorations sold in Dresden still come from the nearby Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) where they were first made hundreds of years ago. And don’t leave without tasting the famous Dresden Christstollen, a special kind of Christmas cake which originally gave the market its name.


    Rent a car in the Czech Republic and, not too far from Dresden, the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square in Prague are transformed into a winter wonderland during the festive season. Traditional handicrafts such as embroidered lace, wooden toys and puppets and dolls dressed in traditional costume are on sale, while the smell of meat roasting on fires mixed with the sweater aroma of cakes and pastries fills the air.


    In the land of Hans Christian Anderson you can expect to be charmed by Christmas markets right out of fairy tales. The market at Kultorvet Square, lit up by thousands of Christmas lights, is in fact named after Anderson. Many tourists and Copenhageners alike also flock to the market in Tivoli Gardens with Santa Claus and his reindeer, a great many fun rides, and lots of traditional eats, drinks and gifts to be enjoyed in a true Nordic Christmas atmosphere. Rent a car in Copenhagen this winter and experience one of the most authentic European Christmas markets available.


    Back in Eastern Europe the beautifully lit Christmas market on Vorosmarty Square bustles with the chatter of friends and family meeting to drink mulled wines and feast on Hungarian pastries, sausages and roasted chestnuts. Take time in between mingling with the locals to buy presents for your loved ones back home, because the people of Budapest take pride in the quality of their handicrafts such as traditional embroidery and lace, wood carvings and pottery.


    A skating rink, a sea of stars and another magnificent cathedral contribute to the magic of Christmas in Cologne. Here the distinct smell of baked apples and cinnamon biscuits mix with that of the mulled wine. Near the cathedral stalls are arranged around a huge Christmas tree, while the outdoor skating rink on the Heumarkt Square brings back memories of winters long past. After all the excitement of shopping and skating, let yourself be dazzled by the sea of shining stars at the Angel Market on the Neumarkt Square.


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Sam Schuler Europe by Car

Sam Schuler Sam Schuler is a travel writer, photographer, graphic artist and a member of Auto Europe's marketing team in Portland, Maine. An Oregon native, Sam has enjoyed trips to France, Italy, Bermuda, and Mexico on multiple occasions. Sam continues to draw creative inspiration from his travels, documenting many of them in a variety of mediums, including travel blog writing and photographic exposes.
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