Visiting traditional Christmas markets is one of the fascinating things to do in Europe during the Christmas holidays. Compared to the holiday shopping experience back home in the Philippines, here it can be less busy and crazy. Actually expect a bit more of rustic feel, as wooden houses line up beautifully along the streets that are selling unique goodies, which are quite ideal as Christmas gifts. Some even offer fresh and warm, traditional winter delicacies that entice visitors to stay despite the almost freezing temperature outside the streets.
All throughout December last year, my husband and I went out for a few road trips, passing by Christmas street markets on every town in every country we visit, hoping I can discover how unique one Christmas market is over the other. We visited the Christmas markets in Luzerne and Montreux in Switzerland, Bregenz in Austria, Vaduz in Liechtenstein and Brussels in Belgium.
LUZERNE, Switzerland. What I like the most about Christmas markets is food shopping. I enjoy discovering different delicacies, especially those I have never tasted before. The night Christmas market in Luzerne was a win for me. Every wooden shop offer food specialties from their own respective countries. For our aperitifs (starters), we visited mother Russia to take two shots of vodka; and Portugal to have bacalhao fried balls and egg tarts. It kept me happy as we continued strolling along the old town’s streets of Luzerne.
Luzerne’s old wooden bridge was beautifully gleaming at the mist that night, while the streets of the old town are adorned with the usual sparkling lights and decorations for the holidays. Seldom you’d ever find Swiss streets filled with people wandering around especially at night, but that night the old town of Luzerne was indeed extra magical.
MONTREUX, Switzerland. Or Montreux Noël, it is the annual Christmas market in Montreux that is considerably the biggest and most festive in Swiss Riviera. Over a hundred fully-lighted and decorated chalets along the quays of Geneva’s Lake participated this year, offering a vast array of interesting finds. Small restaurants and food stores are scattered all around. When it gets dark, you’ll find the ferris wheel all lit-up and standing majestically, beautiful lights in every wooden store, and a well-crafted Christmas tree at the suspended platform in the quay with lighted balloons staying afloat by the lake.
The life-sized statue of Freddie Mercury is situated just between the big ferris wheel, and the Christmas tree and floating balloons straddling along the Geneva lake. He would have been so pleased to see all these.
Enchanting Christmas lights. Dolls and eggs from Russia. All colorful indeed.
Specialty foods, kiddie rides and special finds, most of the things we discovered can be traditionally found here in Switzerland. Here I also had my first vin chaud, a red wine served hot that is traditionally made at this time of the year. Also called as gluhwein in German that literally means “glow wine,” it primarily consists of red wine, cinnamon, clove and cardamom (or ginger). Compared to the other one in Luzerne, Montreux Christmas market has more Swiss vibe.
VADUZ, Liechtenstein and BREGENZ, Austria. We were about to visit my husband’s friend who lives in the German side of Switzerland when we also decided to make short visits to Liechtenstein and Austria. I got excited with the idea that I’d be visiting two new countries in a day. I even got more pleased when Vaduz and Bregenz welcomed me with their Christmas markets absolutely open for visitors at daylight.
By then I started to say, “Oh the usuals…” Particularly when I came to see arrays of Christmas decors, traditional delicacies and holiday gift prospects, and yet a fun-filled skating rink with a view of the royal castle situated at the mountaintop in Vaduz and two real donkeys in a manger at Bregenz got me all so fascinated over again.
BRUSSELS, Belgium. Two nights to go before Christmas eve, my husband and I, together with his longtime friend who also brought his wife and two children along, went to meet each other again and see Brussels together. My first visit to Brussels suddenly brought me a slight sense of comfort when I began to hear people uttering French in almost every corner. We’d just left the Flemish side of Belgian town, though no offense, Flemish is just an entirely different language I’m still unfamiliar with.
Thanks maybe to Christmas rush, but it was also fascinating to see the historic capital city this lively and vibrant, particularly at the Grand Place – Grote Markt, as it added more life to expectedly ravishing centuries old buildings. Then off we went to the “symbol of Belgium,” the Manneken Pis. I’ve already got a backgrounder about this boy statue so I wasn’t expecting that much. And yeah, it might not be as big as it should have been, but boy, look how it endlessly pees in a bottomless pit.
As we walked further to explore the town, we started coming in to the busiest Christmas market I’ve ever been so far. Lots of wooden stalls filled with interesting goodies and delicacies, entertaining street performers and fun carnival rides for kids can be all found here. And lots, lots of people around too!
It’s officially Christmas.
Delicious Belgian waffles are just everywhere, and also different, interesting food finds go abounty.
It’s a more carnival feel in the Christmas market in Brussels. There are street performers and carnival games for kids and adults alike.
A beautiful merry-go-round it is, seriously.
And big ferris wheel sitting pretty at night, it adds more spectacular Christmas feel in Brussels.