I’m making my way through a bit of Europe, visiting cities and exploring the Christmas markets along the way. In between cities, I’m on board a Viking River Boat, which is lovely. My first stop was Budapest, Hungary where I was able to squeeze in two markets, the Basilica Market and Vorosmarty Square Christmas Fair. But before I share about my visit, I thought I’d chat a little about European Christmas markets in general because it seems that so many people haven’t ever heard of them. I’m sure there are market experts out there and I’m definitely not one, but I’d simply describe them as delightful outdoor markets with many stalls filled with holiday gift items from the country you’re in, handmade goods, confections, and local food specialties. They’re truly the perfect place to stock up on unique holiday gifts and decorations and enjoy a delightful experience in the process. In large cities, it’s common for the markets to be located in large public squares as well as at special landmarks. In smaller towns, you’ll commonly find them in the town square or sprinkled around shopping areas.
I especially enjoyed my visit to the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Fair in Budapest. I loved how classic the stands were - everything you want to see if you're a traditionalist. Things like roasted chestnuts:
gingerbread and cookies:
Dried fruit swags and garlands:
And the traditional foods of the country. I was so taken with how incredibly, wonderfully Hungarian all of the food stalls were and the whole feeling of the night. I was there on a Saturday night and the market was packed (which could be a challenge), but there was such merriment in the air. And along with the scent of mulled wine, cider, chimney cakes, and goulash wafting through the air, it honestly seemed like a fairy tale. And I must say, there is something very magical about visiting the markets at night - you can't help but be swept up in the glow.
We've all seen jars that have been made into lights, but I loved the touch of the red lids here and the mass of them, rather than a few.
Hungary's Traditional Christmas Chimney Cakes, which are made by wrapping sweet raised dough around a wooden form, coating with sugar, and roasting over an open fire. The scent smells exactly like you would dream Christmas would smell like. (See videos below to watch the process!)
It's interesting to visit a market during the day and then to experience it at night. I recommended experiencing both, if you're able. I'd be surprised if anyone didn't throughly enjoy the lights and the glow of the market, as the amount of decorating and lighting that goes into each one is pretty remarkable. And I think there are many things to take away from these markets. For some, it may be the physical items that are purchased, for others, the food, while inspiration may be sparked for a few along with a little launch into the joy of the season.
This is the second post in a series covering my visit to Europe and the Christmas markets in cities along the Danube River, all via a Viking River Cruise.
Stay-at-home mom, Serena Thompson, dreamed of creating a fun and happy little event to sell her vintage and handmade goods. In 2002, she and some friends held the first event in her neighbor’s barn. The sale became wildly popular and began attracting visitors from across the country and recognition in national magazines. Today the event fills the Spokane County Fairgrounds and features hundreds of creatively and carefully curated spaces filled with vintage and handmade goods. Many describe it as a bucket list event, magical, inspirational, and the best vintage & handmade fair in the country. Serena describes it as the happiest on earth.