One of my favorite things to do at Christmastime is visit a Christmas market. It was something that I started doing in Chicago, and it became a tradition of sorts to visit Christkindlmarket on Daley Plaza on Black Friday (my family and I being allergic in the extreme to superstores on this particular day). I’m a collector of tacky souvenir cups, and I’m especially fond of die Boot that the mulled wine is served in.
When I moved to Poland, I was able to keep up the tradition of drinking mulled wine out of die Boot, as Poland also shares in the tradition of great Christmas markets. In Wroclaw, the market was fairly German-esque, as Wroclaw sits right on the German-Polish border and has very close ties with German culture. Kraków also has a wonderful Christmas market, but you’ll have to settle for drinking mulled wine out of paper cups.
Italy has wonderful Christmas traditions, but markets are not one of them. There was a market in Milan, but – shockingly – there was no hot wine. Plenty of arancini, though.
This year, I (unwittingly) decided to go a bit overboard with the Christmas markets. Edinburgh has its own winter wonderland happening in the Princes Street Gardens, and it’s quite nice. In addition to the traditional Christmas market fare of hot wine and arts-and-crafts stalls, there’s a carnival and a booth that sells some sort of French delicacy constituted chiefly of bread and melted cheese (needless to say, that was the best six pounds I’ve ever spent). But more on Edinburgh later.
A friend of mine is living in Kraków right now, and we decided to split the distance when we met up a few weeks ago. In finding places to go, my stipulation was that there be a Christmas market and hot wine involved. Yes, I am a sucker for hot wine. No, I will not apologize for it. Rudimentary Google searches showed that Copenhagen fit the bill of splitting the distance and providing Christmas festivities. So off to Copenhagen we went.
Clearly, the Danish people are a people after my own heart, because further Googling revealed that they did not have a single Christmas market. Oh no. They have eight Christmas markets. That’s right – go big or go home, even at Christmastime.
Alas, two days was not enough time to visit all the Christmas markets, especially as my friend and I had to take some time out of our mulled wine sipping to visit the Little Mermaid (which, I must admit, is disappointing if only for the fact that she’s not really a mermaid). But we did manage to cover six of them.
The most picturesque Christmas market was in Nyhavn Harbor, as it’s situated along, well, the harbor. If there’s any way to improve a Christmas market, it’s to put wooden ships in the backdrop. Also, research showed that this market had the best mulled wine. In the Danish tradition, raisins and almonds are added to the hot wine, and for a bit extra, you can get a shot of Amaretto in it as well. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more Christmassy drink.
If you prefer a bit of a larger Christmas market, the one at Kogens Nytorv. This market was quite a bit larger than the one in the harbor, solely because there’s more room on the New Square. There were plenty of food and arts-and-crafts stalls, but perhaps the most impressive was the mechanical windows that lined the outer edge of the market. All of the nostalgic magic of the Marshall Field’s windows in Chicago with all the atmospheric charm of a wood-stall market in Copenhagen.
The absolute most magical, though, the Christmas market that could very well have been Santa’s very own Christmas Village, was in Tivoli Gardens. The world-famous amusement park, complete with the world’s oldest and still hand-operated roller coaster, pulled out all the stops for the Christmas season. Glittering lights, frosted windows, Christmas trees, ornament booths, you name it, they had it. It was a miniature city, decked out for the holidays, with its streets winding around shops, restaurants, and play areas like the stripes on a candy cane. It was well worth the admission fee to be able to wander around in the bustling holiday market.
Plan your Copenhagen Christmas market hopping excursion here.
Still in the States? Check out Christkindlmarket in Chicago!