Christmas markets Find your Christmas Holidays in Europe
Families and solo travelers alike will delight in the Christmas splendors that the following cities have to offer. Talk a stroll with the family and enjoy the holiday lights in Varna, Málaga, and Pécs. Explore traditional Christmas markets in Lisbon, Madrid, and Budapest. Experience how holidays are done on the islands of Tenerife and Mallorca, or go to Barcelona and check out the unique twist the Catalans have on Christmas. In some of these places, holiday festivities even run through the 6th of January. Don’t fret if you find yourself away from home this December, any one of these places is sure to fill you with the holiday spirit.
Get excited about Budapest during the Christmas season! Market stalls line the streets in the main plazas and the festivities—ice skating, concerts, food and drink vendors—are a sight to behold. Try some of the typical Hungarian holiday food like beiglis (poppy seed rolls) and forralt bor (mulled wine). Besides traditional markets with Hungarian yuletide gifts, there is a Christmas themed boat ride along the Danube and several of the cities streetcars are decorated with lights, making for a fun and unique way to see the city during the holidays.
Although you might not associate Málaga with holiday festivities, it has one of the most impressive displays of Christmas lights on the peninsula. From November 24th through January 6th, the city is decked out and two of the main streets, Alameda Avenue and Larios Street, are can’t miss attractions. They even have several enormous Christmas trees that are lit up around the city. Málaga is also known for its holiday concerts held in the streets. Enjoy the music while perusing the stalls for artisanal goods, sweets, and figurines of the nativity.
Lisbon’s budding Christmas activities are sure to offer something to any kind of traveler. If you are looking for holidays lights, make your way to Rossio Square to see light shows in the evenings or head just a short walk away to the Plaça do Comércio to admire the buildings lit up along the banks of the Tagus river. To satisfy your sweet tooth, try King’s Cake (Bolo Rei), Portuguese French toast (Rabanadas), and Portuguese Crème Brulée (Leite Creme). There are also holiday concerts in churches and be sure to check out the Lisbon Christmas market at Campo Pequeno to finish up your holiday shopping.
Barcelona is filled with all different types of Christmas activities—from a centuries old holiday market in the Gothic neighbourhood to the Three King’s Parade (Jan. 5th), as well as a variety of lights throughout the entire city. However, perhaps the most eccentric Catalan tradition is the “tío de Nadal.” This roughly translates to the Christmas poop log. This hollow log is filled with presents and has a happy face drawn on the front. Children have a stick and must whack the log until the presents come out! The tío de Nadal is usually present at any children’s activity throughout the holiday season.
The capital is the place to be for Christmas in Spain. Christmas markets are scattered throughout the city with the vendors in the Plaza Mayor being the most famous. Lights line the streets and there are gigantic Christmas trees to see in the major points of interest throughout the city (stand under the tree in la Puerta del Sol for a fantastic view). The Three Kings Parade on January 5th is a momentous occasion in Madrid and is a can’t miss event. For something new, try the Winter Solstice celebration called “The Procession of Light,” celebrated in the Madrid Río park on December 21st.
Varna, located on the Black Sea, has an impressive holiday spirit. The Christmas lights are the main attraction in this city. They hang overhead along the streets, curl around lamp posts, and illuminate Santa and his sleigh in addition to other holiday characters. Varna has Christmas Markets and its own holiday gastronomy as well. Be sure to try Koledna Pitka, a Bulgarian honey bread with a coin inside; if you find the coin, you will have good luck throughout the following year.
To add a splash of sun to your Christmas vacation, head to Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. Tenerife is host to a variety of holiday activities and attractions. Santa Cruz is one of the two capitals of the islands and, at Christmas time, has markets, nativity scenes, and parades. If you are visiting on the 25th of December, make sure you attend the free concert by the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra. For those craving a little slice of winter, Mount Teide can have snowfall. Snow or sun, Tenerife has something to offer all travelers.
Not to be outdone by Budapest, Pécs boasts its own impressive Christmas events. Through December 24th, head to Széchenyi square to discover and explore the largest Christmas market in the city. Have a glass of forralt bor, Hungarian mulled wine, while strolling along the stalls and admiring the homemade holiday crafts and food. Pécs is full of festive lights during the holiday season, and the Christmas tree illuminated in the main square will inspire a warm holiday glow in even the coldest traveller.
The laid-back island atmosphere of Palma de Mallorca and some other cities such as Alcudia makes it a wonderful and unique Christmas get-a-way. The island capital is home to modest Christmas markets as well as rides and attractions for children. At night, the streets in the center of the city are tastefully decorated and make for the perfect ambiance to peruse the shops or just admire the scenery. The Three Kings parade in Palma also has its own special flair as the kings arrive by boat, a favourite for Majorcan families on the island.