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Christmas Markets

Submitted by on November 23, 2012 – 12:01 amNo Comment

A European holiday season tradition that’s spreading beyond the continent is the Christmas Market.

Once the exclusive preserve of German-speaking countries (think: Austria, Germany and parts of Switzerland), the markets are found in Sweden, England and the United States.

Road Trips Foodies like ’em for the special holiday foods (gingerbread cookies and Glühwein most prominent), but those looking for distinctive gifts shouldn’t miss the special offerings of Christmas decorations and handicrafts.

**The Christmas Market in Dresden, Germany (traditionally called Striezelmarkt) is the country’s oldest Christmas Market — dating back to 1434. Its name derives from Hefestriezel, a sweet delicacy which centuries later has become know as “Dresden Christstollen” (German Christmas Cake). The market takes place in the historical part of the city center between the Frauenkirche and Münzgasse.

**Gengenbach, Germany, is unique. The highlight of the charming Christmas market is the “Advent calendar”. This is a calendar like no other: it is actually the Town Hall. Throughout Advent, each day brings a new image in one of the building’s 24 windows. “The opening” takes place at 6 p.m., when the town hall is dark. Suddenly, the 200-year façade comes to life with blue, red and silver lighting up the stone statues, as another “window” opens. This year, the theme of the calendar is “highlights of the past”, with favorite images from the last 16 years recreated, from Marc Chagall to popular children’s tales. On the final day (December 23, 2012), when all the windows are open, the Town Hall is the biggest Advent calendar in the world.

**The Christmas Market held in front of City Hall in Vienna, Austria, can be traced back to the year 1298. Today, 140 stalls inspire the spirit of the season with finely crafted Christmas decorations and endless handicrafts. Especially fun for children is the Christmas workshop, where they can make trinkets and bake cookies. It runs through December 24, 2012.

**Also in Vienna, the Schönbrunn Christmas Market takes place through December 26, 2012, in front of the city’s Schönbrunn Palace. The daily concerts, scent of mulled wine and gingerbread in the air, the beautiful Christmas tree all conspire to put you in a festive mood.

**A third holiday tradition in Vienna is the Spittelberg Christmas Market. Stall after stall lines the narrow lanes of Spittelberg, the Biedermeier district near the MuseumsQuarter. In this artist enclave, choose from fine ceramics, hand-blown glass, rugs, batik and silk paintings, silver or brass jewelry.

**Dating back to the 15th century, the romantic Christmas Market on Cathedral Square lights up the heart of Salzburg, Austria. Tree vendors occupy the Residenzplatz beside the huge Baroque masterpiece, while artisan stalls offer wonderful wearable art and festive trimmings. Choirs and folk musicians conjure the true Christmas spirit through December 26, 2012.

**Enter the fairytale world of Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria, through December 24, 2012, along a torchlit path that leads to an enchanting Advent calendar, picturesque wooden huts, and the aroma of seasonal delicacies. As you linger over a cup of hot mulled wine amid hundreds of Christmas trees glittering with holiday lights, you’ll know the warmth of gemütlichkeit.

**With a backdrop of snow-capped mountains ringing a decorated town center, Innsbruck, Austria, seems like one big Christmas snow globe. Its Christmas market centerpiece is the medieval square in front of the Golden Roof, where you can sample Tyrolean fare and check off your entire gift list until January 6, 2013.

**Nestled between medieval buildings and spread out right in front of the City Hall, market stalls beckon everywhere with glittering ornaments, local handicrafts, and Christmas treats through December 24, 2012.

**Christmas markets are held through December 23, 2012, on the Baroque main square and in the Volksgarten of Linz, Austria. Warm up with hot punch while strolling around the festive huts and humming along with the orchestra and choir. Special features include a crèche exhibition and workshops, where you can create your own Christmas presents.

**Claiming only 439 inhabitants, Rattenberg is a postage stamp of a medieval city covering little more than 27 acres. Austria’s smallest city — and a picturesque step back in time — it sets the stage for a charming Christmas Market and the quintessential Advent experience.

**The seductive scents of gingerbread, punch and roasted chestnuts fill the air at Burgenland’s Christmas Markets in Austria through December 24, 2012, considered unique for their handmade gifts and such traditional artisan craftwork as broom making and basket weaving. Most castles—including Esterhazy, Halbturn and Lockenhaus—open their courtyards to bestow a festive majesty on market-goers.

**In Lausanne, Switzherland, Les Marchés de Noël run through December 24, 2012. There are five different markets: traditionel, artisanal, familial and design. The fifth — des bonnes affaires (or, deals) — is December 28, 2012, through January 5, 2013, and specializes in after-Christmas sale items.

(Photo of the Christkindlmarkt at Innsbruck by Christof Lackner, ©Innsbruck Tourist Office)

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