The big comparison of Christmas markets in Central Europe




 Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Krakow
Jingle bells, jingle bells, tell me... which one did I like the most? I honestly can't decide. Each of these cities' Christmas markets have something interesting to offer.


VIENNA


Vienna has the most ornate Christmas city decor, walking through the town is like being a part of a Christmas fairytale.
Christmas markets ale held in several places, amongst which the most popular is the market of Rathaus (Town Hall). It's  the best photospot, including the ice rink and a ferris wheel.
Christmas market in Schönbrunn and Belvedere Castles are more traditional and smaller, but there's more space around, so it's not so crowded.


WHAT TO DO: 
  • skate on an ice rink with beautiful atmosphere,
  • ride the wheel.
WHAT TO BUY:
  • one of the beautiful Christmas glass ornaments,
  • anything with the picture of Mozart or empress Elisabeth of Austria, which are probably the most popular Austrians ever (Mozart's balls are often a good thing to made fun from).
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK:
  • bratwurst - white sausage,
  • glühwein - red mulled wine,
  • apples in caramel.
PROS and CONS
+ atmosphere
+ you'll make amazing pictures
– very expensive
– crowded

BRATISLAVA


If you travel to Vienna, visit Bratislava Christmas markets (come on, it's only 60 km apart!) too. It's much smaller, but has an unique atmosphere. All stalls are designed in the same wooden style with red-white roofs, thus it's very cozy.
In Bratislava, there are two main markets - find Staromestské námestie (Old town square) and Hviezdoslavovo námestie (Hviezdoslav Square).

WHAT TO DO: 
  • skate on a small ice skating rink for free,
  • join the Christmas tram, riding loops around the city - it's a beautifully decorated tram playing Christmas carols inside (and the ride is free too 😏),
  • enjoy the view from Radnica (City hall).
WHAT TO BUY: 
  • traditional Slovak Christmas decorations from reeds, wood or ceramics.
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK: 
  • lokša with various fillings,
  • cigánska - pork meat in a bun,
  • punč - wine with fruit,
  • varené víno - mulled wine, 
  • hot Tatratea - caution, it contains a lot of alcohol!
PROS AND CONS 
+ less crowdy
+ cozy
+ cheaper
– smaller

PRAGUE

 
There are many Christmas market in Prague, the most famous are at Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square) and Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square), but it's very crowded as well. If you want to enjoy neat Christmas atmosphere, visit minor (and cheaper foodwise) markets, for example on Náměstí Míru.

WHAT TO DO:
  • witness visual and musical show during lightning of the Christmas tree at Old Town Square every hour from 4:30 pm to 11:30 pm,
  • enjoy the view from Staroměstská radnice (Old Town City Hall).
WHAT TO BUY:
  • Christmas decorations made of Bohemian (Czech) glass,
  • anything lavender (do you love it as I do? 😀).
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK: 
  • trdelník - sweet pastry with coconut/nuts/cinnamon and chocolate,
  • pražská šunka - Prague ham,
  • medovina - alcohol shot made of honey,
  • svařák - mulled wine.
PROS AND CONS
+ pretty decoration
– very crowded on the most popular markets

BUDAPEST


This is my most favorite city of all mentioned. It already has many pretty lights around the city at night, and Christmas markets add up its atmosphere. Christmas markets in Budapest are located at 2 places only - at Vörösmarty Square and near St. Stephen Basilica.


WHAT TO DO:
  • skate on the ice ring (the ring in City Park is the biggest I've recently seen),
  • watch video projection show on St. Stephen Basilica every hour from 4:30 pm to 10:00 pm,
  • go swimming to a bath. It's not a typical christmassy thing, but after whole day spent outside, you'll be delighted to jump into hot water.
WHAT TO BUY:
  • beautifully stitched bags, coats... with folklore patterns.
    WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK: 
    • gulyás - flavoured meat soup, often served in a bread bowl,
    • lángos - I cannot describe it, you must taste it yourself :) I love it with garlic, sour cream and cheese. Yummy!
    • Kolbász - sausage,
    • strudel - cake, usually filled with nuts, poppy seeds or apples.
    PROS AND CONS
    + pretty decorations
    + cheap
    – there are only two markets places


    KRAKOW


    Even though Krakow isn't Poland's Capital, many people like to visit its Christmas markets more. It's a place with thorny past, and it's still visible up to today.
    There's only one place where Christmas market is held - at the Main Square (Rynek Glówny). It's the biggest medieval square, so it's very spacious.


    WHAT TO DO:
    • spot a "szopki" - colorful miniatures of nativity scenes and churches all over the city,
    • sit down in one of the terraces covered with transparent glass or tent with a view of the city,
    • take a ride in horse carriage (I have no idea how much it costs).
    WHAT TO BUY:
    • products from wool (slippers, hats...).
    WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK:
    • grzane - mulled wine,
    • oscypek -  smoked cheese,
    • piernik - gingerbread.
    PROS AND CONS
    + tasty food
    + nice small town atmosphere
    – Chrismas market is small

    If you don't have a plan to visit any market this season, or you just want to get inspired, watch my Christmas video form Vienna and Bratislava here:



    © I.V.

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