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Twinkling lights, tall decorated trees, mulled mulled wine – these are some of the things we imagine when we think of traditional Christmas markets. While we see Christmas markets all over the world, Europe is where they all started and arguably where they are made best.
With countless markets across the continent, we’ve put together a selection of the top 5 European Christmas markets that we think you should visit this year, as well as why these 5 are the best. Can’t go to Europe? Check out our top 5 Christmas markets in the US
The oldest known Christmas market in Europe is the Striezelmarkt in Dresden, Germany, founded in 1434. The Striezelmarkt sets the standard for all other markets and is still in operation today – they are celebrating their 588th anniversary.º market this year!
While it has evolved beyond recognition (they certainly didn’t have a Ferris wheel or thousands of bright, glowing lights), the tradition remains the same and has served as inspiration for Christmas markets around the world.
Heavyweights aren’t always in big European cities. While popular destinations like Munich, Vienna and Brussels are sure to host some fantastic Christmas markets, traveling off the beaten path will reward travelers with a more intimate, authentic and unique experience. And with the current strength of the US dollar, all of these destinations are great options for US tourists this year.
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Basel, Switzerland: the best Christmas trees
Nestled in a beautiful corner of Switzerland on the River Rhine, Basel borders Germany and France, making it a city with a unique mix of cultures. Visitors to The Basel Christmas Market are greeted by hundreds of brightly lit trees lining the streets leading to the market.
The impressive main Christmas tree towers above the market and is beautifully decorated by Johann Wanner, a local craftsman and the world’s largest producer of handmade and hand-painted Christmas decorations. Visitors can visit the nearby Wanner store and take home a unique ornament to commemorate their trips to Basel.
Salzburg, Austria: Best Christmas Singers
Better known as the city of Mozart, Salzburg is also home to Josef Mohr, the composer who wrote one of the most famous Christmas carols in the world, Silent Night. The musical traditions of this World Heritage-listed Old Town shine through at the city’s Chriskindlmarkt, where traditional Christmas carols and nightly concerts force Christmas cheer on anyone within earshot.
Budapest, Hungary: best Christmas lights
The Advent Feast at Budapest Basilica is no stranger to “best” lists, having garnered several accolades for its Christmas market in previous years. The shining star of this market are the laser light projections on the Basilica that transform the building into a gigantic Advent calendar where a new window reveals a different painting each day.
Local artisans proudly sell their wares, which are selected by the Hungarian Folk Artists Association with the aim of showing traditional Hungarian culture to everyone who visits the market.
Strasbourg, France: the most charming Christmas market
The self-proclaimed Capital of Christmas, Strasbourg is easily the most charming Christmas market in Europe. Located along the River Rhine, close to the German border, the Strasbourg Christmas Market dates back to 1570. This beautiful fairytale town transforms into a true winter wonderland covered in miles of lights during the festive season.
Visitors can support local artisans selling their crafts at dozens of wooden market stalls and take home authentic gifts of wooden toys, local pottery and hand-blown glass trinkets. No trip to the Strasbourg Christmas Market is complete without sampling traditional foods, including “bredele” (small cookies), “mannele” (brioche shaped like little men), gingerbread and mulled white wine.
Copenhagen, Denmark: Best market for fun
The Tivoli Christmas Market in Copenhagen has something for everyone. Located inside the famous Tivoli Gardens, this market is pure magic. Already a city full of fun, Copenhagen really does its best at Tivoli. The entire market is shrouded in twinkling lights, and the Tivoli Youth Guard plays festive music throughout the park.
Glittering Christmas trees settle among the old school toys, and Santa Claus and his reindeer usually make an appearance. The Tivoli Christmas Market also has several fireworks, and vendors sell delicious Christmas cakes and donuts that go perfectly with a mug from the local glogg.
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This article was originally published on TravelOffPath.com