Think about Christmas markets when considering Europe in December, but these colorful fairs are not the only attractions. Equally colorful festivals celebrate the season with lights, ice sculptures, music, and traditional customs that date back centuries.
These winter events combine several favorite things to see and do: shopping, sampling traditional foods, sightseeing, local crafts, pageantry, music, and entertainment. In any of these cities and others throughout Europe, look for Christmas concerts in the churches, beautifully lighted streets, and seasonal displays in department store windows.
Wherever you find them, food is always a major attraction of European Christmas markets, especially in Germany, where the air is fragrant with roasting chestnuts, strudel, spicy sausages sizzling on grills, and the local specialties of each region.
Most of these markets and festivals involve being outdoors, often walking in the snow, cross country skiing, and hiking, so be sure to dress warmly and wear boots or heavy shoes. And bring a pack or tote to the markets because you're sure to be tempted by the beautiful handmade goods you'll find.
Europe's best-known Christmas market, and the first to gain status as a major tourist attraction, is in Nuremberg. The setting could be a movie set, a large square surrounded by medieval buildings highlighted by a pinnacle-studded cathedral bathed in lights. At one side is a magnificent fountain, also brightly lit, and the entire scene is filled with rows of cabins, each its own glittering wonderland.
While in Nuremberg, look for concerts of Christmas music in churches, and tour the old city in a horse-drawn carriage.
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