In 1294, Vienna held its first “December market,” a forerunner to the Christmas market tradition. Today, the festivities center around the Rathaus, Vienna’s town hall, where millions of revelers gather to ring in the Yuletide. Vienna gets a head start on the season, opening the shutters on its Christmas market in mid-November. The market hosts vendors selling handcrafted decorations and artisanal beeswax candles, all surrounded by a park full of twinkling trees bedecked in lights. Music lovers will enjoy the weekend performances of choirs from around the world, and families traveling can take advantage of daily workshop for kids.
The Marienplatz has been the center of cultural life in Munich since the 12th century, so it’s fitting that the city celebrates Christmas here. The celebration kicks off the Friday before Advent with a 100-foot-tall Christmas tree and over 140 stalls crowded into the Marienplatz. Each afternoon, a 5:30 performance by Alpine choruses and brass bands at the city’s Town Hall signals dinnertime, and is followed by flocks of workers wandering into the Christmas market in search of piping hot potato cakes and delicious gluhwein, or mulled wine. As in Vienna, Munich’s Christmas market features a variety of kid-friendly activities.
Christmas markets spring up all around Prague, but the largest and most well-known can be found in the city’s Old Town Square, between the Charles Bridge and Wenceslas Square. Kids love the menagerie at the petting zoo, while adults can score hand-carved wooden figurines and Bavarian crystal. While you’re here, you can gaze upon the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and the ancient Prague Astronomical Clock, walk through the winding lanes of Prague’s Old Town and marvel at the fairy-tale sights covered in snow.