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Storybook shopping in Europe

In Europe, shopping for Christmas presents is more than just making a list and checking it twice. It’s a tradition filled with romantic fairy lights, charming merchandise, and mulled wine. 

St. Stephen’s Basilica
VISUAL TREAT. Shoppers at St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market are treated to a stunning light painting show projected on the facade of the basilica. (Photo from budapestchristmas.com)
Streets transform into a scene straight out of a fairy tale, with snow-capped cathedrals and wooden chalets; twinkling and magical. Christmas markets are aplenty in Europe, and here are four to start.

Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market
Berlin, Germany

Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market  Berlin, Germany
Lights twinkle at Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt square.
Already stunning throughout all seasons of the year, the three historical buildings at the Gendarmenmarkt square stand bright and proud with decorative lights during Christmas season. Artisan stores offer Christmas goods like origami craft, belts, glass art. Expect to find fragrant food stores that offer German, Austrian, and Bavarian dishes as well as gourmet delicacies. 

Did you know? Don’t panic if you order mulled wine and are charged higher than the price indicated at the market. The extra amount is a deposit for the mug. Feel free to return or keep it as a souvenir as they are usually specially designed for the year-end event. 

Where to stay? Both COSMO Hotel Berlin Mitte and Titanic Gendarmenmarkt Berlin Hotel are within walking distance of the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market. Situated in the cultural and shopping area of Berlin, they provide easy access to the city’s attractions. 

St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market
Budapest, Hungary 

St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market Budapest, Hungary 
The Christmas market takes place in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. (Photo from budapestchristmas.com)
The market is famous for one of the largest 3D light painting shows in Europe, where visitors can be part of the narratives projected on the façade of St. Stephen Basilica. There’s a skating rink that’s free for children under 14, and culinary booths offering a taste of Hungarian specialties such as fried sausage and pálinka (fruit brandy).  

Did you know? Hungarian children can receive gifts twice during this jolly season. On Dec. 6, children leave shoes on their windowsill to get small presents like sweets or chocolates. Bigger gifts come under their Christmas tree on the eve or morning of Christmas. 

Where to stay? Stay at the Kempinski Corvinus or Hotel President to enjoy Christmas in Budapest with many Christmas markets nearby. St Stephen’s Basilica is also just a few minutes away. 

Old Town Square
Prague, Czech Republic

Old Town Square Prague, Czech Republic
Indulge in Czech Christmas cakes and hot chocolate at Old Town Square.
The Christmas market in Prague’s Old Town Square is one of the most beautiful and liveliest markets in the country with plenty of dance and choral performances to entertain visitors. Visitors can indulge in traditional dishes such as roasted ham, sausages, Czech Christmas cakes, and local beers. Winter got you? Keep warm with hot beverages such as honey wine, grog, and hot chocolate. 

Did you know? Instead of turkey, Czechs traditionally serve fried carp for their annual Christmas Eve dinner. 

Where to stay? After exploring the Christmas market, rest at the cozy Ventana hotel located next to the Old Times Square, a few minutes’ walk from the market. Or stay at the comfortable Iron Gate Hotel & Suites Prague which offers a variety of room types to fit different needs. 

Karlsplatz Art Advent
Vienna, Austria

Karlsplatz Art Advent Vienna, Austria
Art Advent in front of the imposing Karlskirche church. 
This is an alternative market for art and culture enthusiasts to shop for unique and high quality Christmas-themed products and more. Vendors actually have to pass a panel of judges in order to showcase and sell their crafts at the market. The food and beverage stalls serve organic cuisine and drinks.

Did you know? On Dec. 4, Austrians get twigs from cherry trees and place them in a vase with water. It is believed that if the twig blossoms by Christmas Eve, the family will be blessed with good luck. 

Where to stay? Check in at Grand Ferdinand - Beyond Stars and Standards for a stylish stay in the heart of Vienna and not far from Karlsplatz Art Advent, or stay luxuriously at the Schlosshotel Romischer Kaiser. 

Check out Agoda for more options on where to stay.

Topics: Storybook shopping , Europe , Christmas

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