Archives for January 2016

We Went to the Liège Christmas Market

Liege christmas market

Liège: Cite de Noel” is French for “Liège: City of Christmas”, and that’s the phrase that appearred in a string of bright blue and white bulbs welcoming us to this graceful hardworking town on the banks of the Muese River last month.

Bold talk in December, no doubt. So does Liège back it up? Well that sort of depends.

It depends if you like great Christmas markets, because Liège is home to a couple of them. The center of Liège is transformed to the Village de Noel this time of year, and once inside, charmingly-decorated wooden chalets whisk you away to a wintry – yet warm – place.

Liege Christmas market

A Christmas tree adorned in blue and white stars is the centerpiece of the Liège Christmas market, surrounded by stately buildings like the Palace of Justice and even a fun toboggan run thrown in for good measure. There’s also a second cluster of Christmas stalls located by the gorgeous Liège Cathedral, where you can ice skate and shop in the shadow of the cathedral’s enchanting stained glass windows.

It depends if you’re the type who likes gourmet food at your Christmas markets. Because some people are totally fine with only having basic bulk-bought bratwursts, but in Liège, the specialties available were the most diverse – and delicious – I’ve ever had at a Christmas market. Oysters, tapas, and fresh forest mushrooms were just a few of the delicacies being served up piping hot on the cold night I was there.

liege christmas market

It also depends if you like gooey and warm waffles for desert. Liège is well known as the home of the finest versions of waffles in Belgium, and local waffle hero Massin has a stand set up in the Village de Noel dishing up little hot handfuls of holiday cheer.

liege christmas market

It too depends if you enjoy trying regional Trappist beer and local liquor. Because this being Belgium, the Liège Christmas market offered Trappist beer on tap at what I nicknamed the Chimay Chalet. Peket, the traditional juniper-based liquor of the city, was also widely available in all its festive flavors, and a couple shots of this is a fun way to shoo away the shivers.

 

liege christmas market

It depends again if you like unique European cultures rich in folklore, because Wallonia – where Liège is located – is as special as they come. The Liège Christmas market puts a real focus on this by selling hand-blown ornaments inspired by characters from Wallonia’s rich world of folklore, like the Gilles of Binche and local here Tchantchès. Whether you buy one of these ornaments or just learn a bit more about Wallonia like I did, you leave feeling that you are truly in a unique spot in Europe, with a history like nowhere else on the continent.

Oh, last but not least, it depends if you like luxurious and historic hill-top hotels with sweeping views. I do. The Crowne Plaza Liège is a beacon of warmth and luxury, perched in a prime position on Mont St. Martin above the town. The hotel is seamlessly blended together with centuries-old castle-esque residences, and is the perfect place to get cozy after a chilly night in the city of Christmas.

I think you get the idea, if you really like Christmas, you’ll love Liège.

4 Cozy Christmas Markets in Europe You Could Go To

You’re probably sick of me going on about Christmas markets by now, and I honestly don’t blame you, I am fully aware that I’ve gone a tad bit bit overboard declaring my obsession for them. But you know what? Since it’s never too early to start planning for Christmas and since they are good people out there searching the web for answers about Christmas markets, I might as well be the person to give them halfway reliable information on the subject.

Since European Christmas markets pop up during November and December by the thousands, you tend see almost as many lists about them on the internet, too. Invariably, these lists will  mention the same cast of popular Christmas market characters like Strasbourg, Nuremberg, and Vienna. That’s not what this one is all about, though. This post is about especially cozy Christmas markets. Ones that are smaller, more intimate, and where you won’t necessarily get steamrolled over by a tour group (not that there is anything wrong with that).

cozy christmas markets

Wolfenbüttel, Germany

On the fringes of the mysterious Harz Mountains which inspired the Brothers Grimm and just a quick train ride from Hanover, Wolfenbüttel charms with a timbered town square, warm welcome, and one of the best Fuerzengenbowle bartenders I’ve ever met. Fuerzengenbowle – warmed wine spiked with rum and sugar and lit on fire – is a specialty of Christmas markets in Germany, and the stand in Wolfenbüttel has been legendary for decades. Well, at least that’s what the gregarious gentleman fanning the flames told me. The Wolfenbüttel Christmas market has history, too, as it’s been going since 1585, and is the type of place where the friendly locals will ask you why you have descended upon their charming town for Christmas, and you’ll look around at the twinkling lights and reply “why on earth wouldn’t I?”.

cozy christmas markets

Bolzano, Italy

Straddling the line of Italy and Austria in South Tyrol, the Christmas market in Bolzano is home to a level of refinement you would expect from Northern Italy combined with all the warmth of a traditional mountain Christmas market in Austria. With the soaring Dolomite Mountains in the background, the market in Bolzano sprawls out in the main town square ringed by churches and quintessentially Italian porticos (those arched walkway thingys). The coziest part of the Bolzano Christmas market is the wonderful hidden forest off the square filled with Christmas trees all sparkling with twinkling lights; the perfect place for enjoying a sparkling wine with that special someone and creepily taking a picture of a different couple from a distance.

cozy christmas markets

Oberndorf, Austria

The soulful and spiritual classic Christmas song “Silent Night” was created in this snowy and snug town near the Alps in 1818. The chapel where the song was first performed is still standing, and each year a small but cozy Christmas market is opened Thursday through Sunday during Advent in front of it. This Christmas market in Oberndorf is a more solemn affair than your typical Christmas market, but that only adds to the atmosphere.

cozy christmas markets

Angel’s Market in Cologne, Germany

In the middle of the German metropolis of Cologne, the Angel’s Market is a peaceful oasis of cozy Christmas market spirit. Dangling from the trees at the Angel’s Market are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of illuminated stars that, along with all-white chalets, set a mood for the market like no other in the city. The crafts, food, and crowd at the Angel’s Market are classy, and that adds to the atmosphere. Stop by the appropriately-named Gabriel’s Bar for a mulled wine and then hop over to the wood-planked smoked salmon stand like we did – you won’t regret it.

 

This post originally appeared on TravelPulse

 

Photo Credit