I fully expect we will travel to Europe in the future, but I don’t expect we would travel in December. So, this is our last chance to experience the Christmas markets! We chose different ones this year starting with Strasbourg, France then Düsseldorf, Germany and finally Leuven, Belgium. A weekend in Amsterdam to see the lights and a performance of Handel’s Messiah was thrown in the mix.
We were in Strasbourg on the opening day of the market and saw it gradually come to life as the crowds got thicker. This Christmas market is the oldest in Europe and one of the biggest. There were 11 markets spread across the city and each had a different theme. For instance, one of the markets was dedicated to traditional Christmas foods and another had booths for charities with items for sale to raise money. During the day, we did our own walking tour of the city and browsed some of the markets along the way. Many of the store fronts were decorated and lights were strung across the streets. It’s a beautiful city looking even better in holiday flair. We had a short break at our Airbnb (super cute apartment in the old city!) and then went back out to see ALL of the markets under lights. Other than the festive atmosphere, the food and wine is what we love most about the Christmas markets. There was vin chaud (mulled wine) everywhere and a cup here and there helped keep us warm. The wonderful thing about Alcasian food is that it’s basically German food with a French twist. Bretzels, wurst, sauerkraut, spaetzel . . . yummmm. Security was evident everywhere. The old city of Strasbourg is completely surrounded by water and all traffic was closed off at the bridges. Security guards were posted at each bridge to check bags and soldiers were patrolling the markets. We really enjoyed this market and now it’s our favorite of all the markets we’ve seen.
Our visit to the Düsseldorf market was kind of short, but it was fun to see the city dressed up for Christmas. I read that there were seven markets, but we didn’t have a map so we came across just five of them. They were relatively small and located within a few blocks of each other. The wooden huts were very cute and slightly different at each market. The German markets look like little mini villages. I expected to see a big market in the area along the Rhine, but that one was actually the smallest with the Ferris wheel being the main feature. The Ferris wheel had enclosed gondolas, but it was still too cold for my interest! We found some good bratwurst, gluhwein and bretzels. Again, it’s really all about the food!
Dick surprised me with tickets to see Handel’s Messiah at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. 😲 Seeing a performance there has been on our to-do list. We decided to make a weekend of it and visit the Rembrandt House and see the light festival along the canals on Saturday. The weather was cold and damp with some rain and sleet, but we managed to be inside during the worst of it. On Sunday before the concert, we visited the English Reformed Church. There was quite a mix of Dutch and expats at this church and we enjoyed seeing the children’s nativity play. When we came out, it was snowing! ❄️ The snow continued the rest of the say and accumulated enough for kids to make snowmen on the Museumplein and sled down the ramps. We had slow travel home on the tram and train, but it was worth it to see Amsterdam covered in snow. This is the first real snowfall that we’ve experienced in NL.
Our last Christmas market selection was Leuven, Belgium. Leuven has a beautiful city hall that is completely lit up for Christmas. That was my favorite part! Most of the market wound through a big park and it felt very festive (Dick said it was gezellig) with all the lights in what was otherwise a dark place (i.e. no street lights). There were a lot of interesting vendors and enclosed seating areas for dining. It was nice to be able to sit while we ate some wurst. We bought some fudge that had lots of unique flavors and a different consistency than the fudge we’ve had in the States. We hope to go back to Leuven to see more of it when it’s warmer.
THE END for our European Christmas market experiences. I’ll miss it. I read that Boston now has a holiday market at City Hall Plaza and perhaps that will satisfy my nostalgia. 😌