GUEST FEATURE: Americans in Europe: The Joy of Christmas Markets

GUEST FEATURE: Americans in Europe: The Joy of Christmas Markets

Travelling Wanderer

Travelling Wanderer is all about adventure and a girl who doesn’t like to follow the rules. From #vanlife to spontaneous trips, you will find all types of interesting adventures here.

The best thing about the holiday season in Europe is all the German Christmas Markets. I’m from America, so this wasn’t something I was very familiar with when I studied abroad. Every city, big and small, seems to have some type of Christmas market. I studied in Reading, England, but naturally, I made my way to lots of different destinations throughout November and December.   The first stop was London . I visited the Tate Modern Christmas market and Winter Wonderland. We only walked through Winter Wonderland briefly and didn’t do much, so I won’t say too much about that one. Honestly, it felt like a giant carnival, which was cool. Although it did feel a little over-commercialized and tacky compared to the other markets. The Tate Modern market is the first place I got to try mulled wine and Bailey’s hot chocolate. Wow, I’ve been deprived for far too long. This market was a lot smaller, but I enjoyed the atmosphere. It’s right on the Thames and, although bustling with people, it’s a much more relaxing area to stroll around with friends. The next market I visited was Winchester. The town is so delightful and quaint. We visited some of the historical sites and then eventually made our way to the market area. This place was one of the busiest markets I visited. We could barely walk around or see any of the stalls. Nevertheless, this market had some of the best handmade gifts. My whole experience in Winchester was terrific. The city itself is breathtaking, and the market did not disappoint either. It feels like the type of location you’d see in a Hallmark romantic Christmas movie. Out of all the markets I visited, I think my favorite market was Bath. Everything about Bath is genuinely memorizing, so I think that added to my delight. We took a tour through Bath Abbey first. They showed us the bells that chime various holiday tunes throughout the day, and then we ascended to the roof. It was an incredibly windy day. Mulled wine was sloshing around in our plastic cups as hunkered down in groups and look out over the massive Christmas market below.   Even though I was freezing cold and had hair blowing in my face every few seconds, it’s one of my favorite memories from my time abroad. Everything about the atmosphere in Bath’s Christmas Market was perfect. There was mulled wine galore and Christmas Carolers around every corner. The city was bustling with people that day, so finding food was difficult. We went to at least eight different restaurants that were completely booked. I highly recommend packing some food and buying small snacks at the market. The first Christmas market I visited outside of the UK was in Brussels. I wasn’t overly excited to visit Brussels at first because it wasn’t on my travel bucket list. I was pretty ambivalent, but happy to be traveling nonetheless. To my surprise, Brussels ended up being my favorite stop on the trip. I don’t know how exciting the city is when it’s not the holiday season, but during Christmastime it’s amazing. The market takes up a considerable part of the city center area around Grand-Place. All the stores are decked out in twinkling lights, fake snow, and garland. The stalls at this market also had some of the most unique gifts, from woodcarvings to blown glass. I wanted to buy one of everything. My favorite part was the light and music show they do at Grand-Place every night. It’s not super extravagant, but it’s such a unique and alluring experience to watch. If you’re in Brussels around the holidays, make sure you go to Grand-Place at night to watch. The final market that I visited was in Amsterdam. We didn’t spend too much time there, but I wanted to mention it anyway. It was relatively small and reminded me of the Tate Modern market. The strangest thing about this market was the unusual amount of street performers dressed in costumes. I vividly remember seeing a Grim Reaper trying to interact with people walking around. I hadn’t seen anything quite like that at the other markets. It definitely fits the scene in Amsterdam though. Aside from that, the Amsterdam market was just like any other small yuletide market. After Amsterdam, we traveled back to England, and then I flew home to Baltimore for the holidays. After experiencing the whirlwind of Christmas markets abroad, I have to say that I think Europe definitely celebrates the holiday season better than America. We need to start adopting the widespread market tradition and pull back on the commercialized department store hype. Christmas markets are warm, cheery, and the perfect holiday outing. Plus, nothing beats supporting local artisans and giving a handmade gift. Although there’s nowhere else I’d rather be on Christmas than home; there’s nowhere else I’d rather be for the holiday season than Europe. I guess that’s yet another reason to become nomadic, Ex-Pat in the future.


 

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