Christmas markets will make a comeback this year, and South Africans travelling to Europe have many options.
Not only does Christmas markets celebrate the festive season, but it also sheds a spotlight on small businesses.
Air France shares five Christmas markets South Africans should add to their bucket list:
The Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg is one of the oldest markets in Europe. The market is centred around the cathedral square and Place Broglie and nestled among some of the city’s most beautiful buildings. The streets around the market are decorated with twinkling lights and festive garlands.
The market itself is home to over 300 wooden stalls selling festive treats, foods, gifts and more. Make sure you try the delicious confectionaries, including the popular Pain d’epices – a firmer version of ginger cake. Vaccinated travellers need to complete a sworn statement to enter France and apply for a Pass Sanitaire.
Prague, Czech Republic
The city’s main Christmas market is held in the popular Old Town square every year. The market is set in the very heart of the city where dozens of wooden stalls are set up and offer a variety of items such as traditional Czech blown glass balls, products made of glass pearls or straw, hand-embroidered tablecloths and wooden toys.
Try Czech grilled sausages and skewered foods or indulge in chimney cakes and roasted chestnuts. The market is surrounded by attractions like the Astronomical Clock. Fully-vaccinated travellers can enter the Czech Republic without needing to be isolated or taking a PCR test.
The Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi in Finland is another popular spot to visit during Christmas. As Rovaniemi is the official home town of Santa Claus, travellers can expect reindeer and husky rides, snowmobile tours, excursions to the Forest of the Elves and an Elf School teaching vital lessons on magical culture.
If you have time, check out the post office which receives Santa’s letters from believers worldwide and the city’s popular glass-topped igloos where visitors can get a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Fully vaccinated travellers can visit Finland without quarantining while unvaccinated travellers are still unable to visit.
Germany boasts some of the most popular Christmas markets in the world. Dresden's Striezelmarkt was first held in 1434 and is widely considered the world’s first Christmas market in existence. Berlin’s popular markets are considered some of the best in the world.
There are several festive markets to choose from at this popular destination, with the most popular being the market at Charlottenburg Palace. Expect Christmas tunes sung by an Orchestra, carnival rides, heated food tents and over 250 stalls selling gifts and traditional treats.
Make sure you savour the cuisine at the markets, with Bratwurst smothered in mustard and the popular lightly-spiced Lebkuchen popular options. Double-Vaccinated travellers can enter Germany without quarantine. All travellers entering Germany will need to complete pre-departure digital registration.
The quirky Scottish capital hosts an exciting Christmas market held every year at the East Princes Street Gardens from mid-November to early January. The venue is one of the city’s most beautiful city parks that transforms into the ultimate winter wonderland every festive season.
The park is home to one of Europe’s largest outdoor skating rinks and the popular 33-metre-high ferris wheel, dubbed the Edinburgh Eye. The market is home to an array of vendors who sell some of the best local crafts, food and drink that Scotland has to offer.
Glass baubles, Harry-Potter themed gifts and haggis sausage rolls are just some of the most popular items on sale at this market while Santa’s Grotto, where children can meet and listen to Santa himself tell a magical story, is the main attraction every year. The market also hosts a variety of special events and musical performances throughout the season. Vaccinated travellers do not need to quarantine.