Dear 2020, Merry Christmas and ho ho… you ho*!
This year has been quite a ride. If like me you want to swear at it due to ruined plans, all the turmoil, and all things canceled, sending you a virtual high five! As we are nearing the end, I was really looking forward to turning things around just a little bit and to getting a handful of the holiday spirit and Christmas atmosphere, which is absolutely magical at the little markets, that are so popular in Berlin, where I currently live.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19, many cities, not only in Germany, Berlin included, but also all around Europe, have canceled this year’s markets. And understandably so, as you can imagine it is difficult to apply strict safety restrictions to such events and still keep them going.
However, before we all turn into Grinches, if you are still in the search for some Christmas spirit and joy, here’s a list of 7 interesting alternatives to the traditional European Christmas markets this year.
1. Winter Pop-ups in Zurich, Switzerland
This year, instead of one big Christmas market, Zurich invites you to seven different pop-up locations and events. First of all, in the very heart of the city, the Bauschänzli has been transformed into a Christmas village on the island, complete with all the usual treats – cute lights, delicious food, and mulled wine.
Another mini Winter Wonderland is waiting for you at Tessinerplatz. There you can find a one of a kind Alpine hut, that will make you feel just like sitting at a fireplace after hitting the slopes.
Frau Gerolds, the popular garden and hot spot, also gets a winter transformation. Every Saturday you can get holiday gifts for your loved ones and pick up some treats from food trucks.
A bit outside of the city, but still worth visiting, are 3 other local attractions.
Starting with some spectacular views, you can get some Xmas vibes at the Uetliberg, Zurich’s own mountain, where the Uto Kulm hotel has prepared its own event.
Equally beautiful arrangements can be found in the nearby cities of Baden and Rapperswil. Smaller in size but still enchanting and filled with sparkling lights and ornaments.
However, if you’re not up for traveling outside the city, there is also hut at Europaplatz, right next to Zurich’s main station, where you can fill up on mulled wine in an outdoor setting.
Find more information here and go grab some raclette!
2. Virtual Christkindlmarkt in Munich, Germany
One of the oldest and biggest Christmas markets in Germany dates back to the XIV century and each year it greeted visitors with up to 140 stalls full of holiday goods. A famous tradition associated with it was the annual Krampus run, where people in the costumes of the horned, devil-like, creatures said to be Saint Nicholas’ “assistant” would chase children. So hope you’ve been nice!
This year the event moved online and you can find the virtual stalls and articles at Munich’s website (available in German).
3. Drive through Christmas market in Landshut and Kalkar, Germany
Two cities in Germany have transformed their usual markets into drive-through locations, where you can still enjoy all the decorations and lights, but instead of going on a stroll using your own feet, you remain nicely socially distanced and drive around in your own car.
The Bavarian town of Landshut calculates that between 600 and 1000 cars go through the winding roads of its drive-through Christmas market, where the passengers can not only admire the decorated trees and light installments but also get roasted chestnuts, traditional sweet treats and savory snacks, as well as grab mulled wine to go in a thermos.
At the same time, the town of Kalkar in North Rhine-Westphalia had a similar idea. For a fee of 12,5 euro, you can enjoy a drive along 2,5km of Christmas decorations and enjoy the spirit from the cozy inside of your vehicle. Of course, all the usual holiday food is also available for purchase as you go. The organizers are hoping for 10000 cars to go through until the event ends in January.
4. Virtual Christmas market in Gdansk, Poland
The Christmas market in Gdansk has been organized annually without interruption for over 25 years. Parades of elves, Santas, fairies went through the narrow cities of the old town, bringing laughter and joy. One of the most recognizable events of this type in Poland, it was nominated in 2019 for the European Best Christmas Market 2020 contest and ended up in 3rd place. However, 2020 came and, due to the current situation, it has followed the footsteps of many others and moved to a virtual space (available in Polish).
On the website you’ll find a colorful map of a holiday town with 50 little houses. Each belongs to e different vendor and upon clicking on it will take you to a description of what they have prepared for you this Christmas season.
5. Christmas decorations in Poznan, Poland
Known as Poznan Bethlehem, this market has been organized annually since 2006 and took 6th place in the European Best Christmas Market 2019 voting contest. Complete with a cute Ferris wheel, classic food and gift stalls, as well as a special festive tram, the event brought many citizens and visitors together every year. One of the highlights was of course the Ice Festival, during which ice sculptors from all around the world competed in creating amazing creations from massive blocks of ice. Every year with a different theme, the magnificent sculptures were lit up and showcased, demonstrating what surprisingly beautiful things you can create with a chainsaw.
This year, even though the main event was canceled, the city has still invested in gorgeous decorations and light installations located in many spots across the city. The most interesting ones can of course be found in the Old Town Square.
6. Mulled Wine walk in Berlin, Germany
One thing you can definitely give kudos to Berliners in the time of lockdown is how creative they are in what they do to make it as normal as possible. Even though all the usual Christmas events have been canceled, and some of them at the very last minute, the locals have gathered to create many (much smaller and compliant with safety and health regulations) opportunities to still get into the holiday spirit in the capital of Germany.
One of them is the shops taking almost instantly to widen their usual offer by selling mulled wine to go. You can now find bars and restaurants offering cups of the tasty drink in pretty much each district. So why now grab one and go on a walk through the city to admire the lights and the big Christmas tree at Brandenburg Gate?
One of my personal favorite spots to grab a hot cup of goodness is MOA Cafe & Bar in Moabit. Watch out though! It has dangerously delicious cakes staring at you from the window while you buy your wine. Very hard to resist!
Note: As of 16.12 Germany will face tighter restrictions and a stricter lockdown. Alcohol sales in public places will be banned, so hurry to get Glühwein in the upcoming days!
7. Socially distanced stalls in Berlin, Germany
One of the areas in Berlin this year, where you can still find booths and stalls that we are used to in the Advent period building up to Christmas, is Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. There 25 booths have been approved by the local district authorities and spaced out, so they can operate within the Covid-19 regulations and provide as much space and distance between visitors as recommended.
You can find most of them in the area of Breitscheidplatz. It is a popular spot, where you’d normally find the Christmas market any other year. The stalls this year are distributed along Tauentzienstraße, Kurfürstendamm and Wilmersdorfer Straße. Dress warmly, grab a snack and go for a walk to soak in some Christmas atmosphere!
Christmas market still open
And finally, there’s still a chance to visit a true Christmas market this year. Head to Tallinn, Estonia, which was actually named European Best Christmas Market 2019. It’s running from 27.11.2020 to 27.12.2020. Lovely traditional booths, filled with ornaments, delicious food and drinks, as well as magical fairy lights are waiting for you there every day from 12 to 7pm.
Despite most markets being closed this year, many cities will still decorate with lights and ornaments to bring in as much holiday spirit as possible.
Do you know of any other nice seasonal things going on in your city? Let me know! 🙂