For our first Holiday Season in Luxembourg, and never having been in Europe during the Christmas Season, I was very curious about the Christmas markets.
To me, Christmas in the States can feel very transactional and forced, and I hadn’t been able to enjoy the season so much in the past. But now living in Europe, I was fortunate enough to visit four very different markets this year: Luxembourg (of course), Trier, Strasbourg and Vienna.
As I have gotten older, I have found Christmas to be a time of year associated with stress and worry about gifts, finances, and travel. Christmas markets felt like an escape in a way, allowing me to just drink, eat and enjoy the atmosphere of the season. I was especially impressed by the variety of vendors and products available.
The first market I visited was in Luxembourg. My friends and I went over to try the Gromperekichelcher and Glühwein. One of the most talked about things when asking friends and coworkers about the Christmas markets was the Glühwein.
"It’s a delicious hot wine that you drink from a mug to stay warm in the cold."
Perfect! I do not do well in the cold so anything that might help is welcome. I bellied up to the bar with a group of friends and ordered a Glühwein Rouge. Blech! Hot, very strong alcohol and anise hit me like a tidal wave.
Maybe the white is better? Ehh. Slightly, but still wasn't able to get a whole mug down.
The flavour was so intense, I could barely handle even the scent of it upon the mug approaching my mouth. Although the Glühwein was not for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the hot chocolate with Baileys - even though one was more than enough as far as sugar is concerned.
The following Friday, now with my mom, husband and brother in law in tow, we drove to Trier to explore the different market and traditions there. We again tried the Glühwein, both red and white, and while none of us enjoyed it, we did enjoy a bowl of Spätzle and Lardons.
We wandered the stands and knocked out a bit of Christmas shopping with some unique gifts for family and friends back in the States. My mom's favorite thing was the beautiful Christmas pyramid in the city center, something we only knew from American Christmas movies.
Upon my mom's request, we drove to Strasbourg the following day to stay two nights and explore the market there as they are the "Christmas Capital of the World." I was awed by the amount of decor and time the entire city puts into the decorations.
The stands were crafted from wood and looked so Christmas-y, covered in lights and garland. Each building in the city center was all decked out, a group favorite being the teddy bear covered restaurant and the live advent calendar around the Hermes store.
We enjoyed a little bite of each type of food we could find, and again attempted the Glühwein, as we were determined to understand the appeal, again to no avail.
After our family flew back to the States, my husband's request for his birthday was to visit Vienna. We flew out, determined to sightsee, and just eat tons of Schnitzel. Checking in to the hotel, they gave us a map of all the Christmas markets, but we left it behind as we set off to sightsee.
We had been a bit marketed-out and were not going to focus on that this trip. Well, after about 10 minutes of walking around, we were sucked in and awed by the markets. First, the vendor selection there was so different than anything we had seen in Luxembourg, Germany and France, so we were intrigued by all the options to purchase. Additionally, the discovery of “hot punches” was enlightening, sweet and warm, but not overly strong; it was the perfect warm winter drink, especially the apple strudel punch. Wow.
We had finally agreed that for us, this was the superior hot winter beverage. We spent the whole weekend popping in and out of markets in between visits to monuments and plates of Wiener Schnitzel.
At the conclusion of all these markets, I can confidently say that the Christmas Markets are one of the most enjoyable and surprising things I have experienced in our nine months in Luxembourg. I had not expected the caliber of time and effort that would go into these gorgeous traditions.
Given that Christmas was not always my favorite time of year, I was so pleasantly surprised by all they had to offer. I am definitely looking forward to this time of year again next year and adding a few more cities and markets to our list.