Skip to main content

Here we will tell you a bit about each of the towns we visited. Join us as we learn about the tradition of the Christmas Markets, visit eight spectacular towns in Europe and their Christmas Markets, learn of the history of the towns, see their colorful markets, and enjoy the magic and enchantment of medieval and castle towns in Europe at Christmas time. We travel through Germany, France and Switzerland. We first learn of the history and traditions of the Christmas market, with historical information and archival material. The first visit the wine town of Bernkastel-Kues on the Moselle River. The town hall is decorated as an advent calendar, with each window ready to open as a new December day approaches. The town is colorfully decorated for the holidays. We drink some Gluhwein, the favorite beverage at the Christmas markets, and learn of its ingredients: wine, cinnamon, nutmeg, laurel leaves, sugar and oranges. We enjoy the storybook town tucked into the Riesling vineyards, the historic, half-timbered buildings with their slate roofs, the narrow cobblestone streets, and the Christmas Market snuggled within. We now come to the city of Nuremberg, home of the most famous Christmas Market in Germany. With its Franconian location and traditional Christmas Market, it is constantly packed with visitors. We learn of the history of the town, see archival footage as to its destruction during World War II, and a look at its Castle above the walled Old Town. Then we visit the glorious Christmas Market, and learn of its traditions and its special productions, including gingerbread, Nuremberg sausages, angels and figures made of prunes and nuts in Franconian dress! The market is filled with beautiful Christmas decorations. We leave as a local community band serenades the crowd with a Christmas carol. Our next visit is to the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Situated along the Tauber River. This famous tourist town is a medieval gem, as well as a year-round Christmas town due to the success of the Kathe Wolfhart Christmas Store, which started in Rothenburg. We see the well-preserved medieval buildings decorated for Christmas and learn of the town's history. We walk the wall that surrounds the town. We see the charming horse cart passing through the most photographed "intersection" in Rothenburg, and a view from the top of the Town Hall. We now visit with Harald Wolfhart in his fabulously decorated Christmas store, designed to resemble a Franconian village on a snowy day. He tells us how the store, started by his refugee parents, developed because of the interest of American servicemen and women serving in Germany after World War II in obtaining the unique wooden Christmas decorations made in the Erzgebirge region of Germany. Mr. Wolfhart tells us about the traditions of the music box, the nutcrackers, the pyramids and the smokers, as we see these beautiful decorations inside his store. Next we watch the school children decorating the Christmas trees in front of the Town Hall for the opening of the Christmas Market that night, gasp as the giant Christmas tree in the center of the square is lit to start the Christmas Market, and wander among the booths with their decorations, Gluhwein and regional food. Now we arrive in another wine town, Rudesheim. It is another small town with cobblestone streets and taverns, and surrounding vineyards. The market is wedged within the narrow streets, and is vibrant and sparkling. The weaving through the narrow streets is not just because the streets are winding, but because of the consumption the Gluhwein. Couples and families walk through the markets enjoying the celebration. Before we leave Rudesheim just after a light snow, leaving a beautiful white blanket upon this wine town. We make a special visit to alovely little town, Michelstadt. It is a charming, quaint medieval town with a storybook charm. We see its Gothic style Town Hall, and the many half-timbered buildings. Its Christmas Market sits in front of what many consider to be the prettiest market square in all of Germany, and along the streets that lead out from the market square. Despite its small size, the town is energetically decorated for Christmas with larger than life-sized models of the traditional decorations we saw in Rothenberg. A huge pyramid dominates the little square it sits in. We also see a nutcracker, choir, manger scene, the Three Kings, and Santa and his reindeer. This is one of the most charming Christmas Markets we have seen. We now move to France, with a visit to Strasbourg in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. We learn about the town, and see the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, the burgher houses, and the La Petite France portion of the town, with its canals and locks. One tradition in Strasbourg is the "all-out" decorating done by the shopkeepers in the front of their stores. Garlands, bright colored balls, polar bears, angels; anything goes, and is done "big." We visit two of the Christmas Markets in Strasbourg. One sits under the Cathedral, where we see a Santa band playing a tune, a cart with roasted chestnuts, and of course Gluhwien and decorations of all types. The second market specializes in regional products. We see a local craftsman wood-working in his stall, lots and lots of sweets, food, decorations, and even a Christmas tree lot. It is a magical sight. From France we travel into Switzerland, and arrive in Basel. A large city, it has an historic old town where the Christmas Market is located. After learning a bit about the history of the city, we move into the old town. As it happens, the traditional Saturday farmers market has been set up on the day of our visit, but with special Christmas products. Not only lots of local produce, but evergreens, mistletoe and other holiday arrangements. And never have we seen so many blocks of cheese! Nearby is the thriving Christmas Market. Gluhwien from a huge brass pot, gifts and decorations galore. Basel is also beautifully lit up at night. We have a chance encounter with a collection of Harley Davidson's all decorated, in what must be considered "way over the top" style, as Santa's sleigh. Okay you U.S. riders, you have a new challenge. No holiday visit to Switzerland would be complete without a visit to a town in the Swiss Alps, and we visit as our last stop the town of Lucerne, a side trip from Basel. We see the beautiful background of the snow covered Alps and Lake Lucerne. We are treated to another chance encounter, this time a parade of men in white farmer's shirts banging huge cowbells. We learn that this is a tradition of Saint Nicholas Day, the day we have visited Lucerne, to banish darkness and evil. We see the traditional Chapel Bridge and learn some of the history of Lucerne. In the town we see the small Christmas Market, observe a visit by Saint Nicholas and his sidekick Schmutzli, who as legend has it gives out gifts to good children or hits them with a switch if they were bad, and listen to the local school band performing Christmas songs.