Which European Christmas markets are still open this year?
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European Christmas markets are a great way to celebrate the holiday season. As the temperatures drop, picturesque town squares come to life with mulled wine, local delicacies, Christmas carols, ice skating and knick-knacks for sale. Traditional Christmas markets date back hundreds of years and are still popular today in many European countries.
Before the pandemic, it was an easy weekend away to experience authentic Christmas markets in Europe — Germany especially is world-renowned for its spectacular markets. While they normally take place fully outdoors in well-ventilated spaces, rising cases in some cities have meant the markets are cancelled for the second year in a row.
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What to expect from a Christmas market visit this year
Operating and entry conditions will vary from country to country, and even city to city within the same country and you should check exact entry times, dates and conditions before visiting as these can and do change regularly.
A key change for 2021 is that many will now have a vaccination requirement for entry. Where the market is fenced with a single entrance point, you may be required to show evidence of vaccination or recent recovery from covid to gain entrance.
Where markets are scattered throughout busy city centres, you can walk through the markets without proof of vaccination, though you may be required to obtain a free wristband in order to purchase anything, from ornaments to food and drink. These wristbands can be found in clearly marked booths dotted around the markets after showing both a vaccination certificate and valid photo identification.
Opening hours may be reduced in the evenings to discourage late-night socialising or to comply with local curfews.
Mask-wearing rules will differ from city to city — you may be required to wear a mask at all times in the markets when not eating or drinking even though the markets are outdoors with plenty of ventilation. Others may only require masks when indoors. There should be very clear signage in multiple languages at all market entrances to advise both locals and tourists of the mask-wearing rules you should follow. It would also be wise to take note of what locals are doing so as not to offend.
Remember that while you may have become accustomed to avoiding using cash during the pandemic, some of these small independent, temporary stalls may not have facilities to accept payment by card so bring some cash with you if you would like to purchase anything while you are there.
What markets are open and closed?
Here are some of Europe’s most popular Christmas market destinations, and their current opening status.
- Austria: Expected to reopen on Monday 13 December following the current lockdown ending
- Belgium: Open, the nightly curfew no longer applies
- Croatia: Open
- Czech Republic: Closed, though some have managed to partially reopen as “Winter Farmers Markets”
- Denmark: Open
- Estonia: Open
- Finland: Open
- France: Open
- Germany: All markets in the Bavaria and Saxony regions including favourites like Dresden, Leipzig, Munich and Nuremberg are closed. You can still enjoy markets in the likes of Aachen, Baden-Baden, Berlin, Cologne and Frankfurt.
- Hungary: Open
- Poland: Open
- Slovenia: Open
- Spain: Open
- Switzerland: Open
- Sweden: Open
- United Kingdom: Open, though note for the massive Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park, for this year you must pre-book tickets to help with capacity controls.
While celebrations may be a little muted this year because of the pandemic, if you can live with the above conditions you will otherwise experience a fairly normal European Christmas market for those that are open.
Featured image by Summer Hull / The Points Guy, taken before the pandemic
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