In the past decade, we’ve visited our fair share of Christmas Markets, both with and without children!
We’ve learned over the years that a few things can make a huge difference to the overall enjoyment of your trip, so we’ve put together a quick guide of how to get the most out of your visit!
Make sure you have some cash on you when you visit a Christmas Market, especially if you’re intending to buy food there. Although some stall holders will take card payments, many are cash only, or certainly would prefer cash payments! We’re not suggesting you walk around with hundreds of pounds in your pocket, but it’s easier to start your visit with some cash rather than having to dash out of the market and find a bank! (Note to Christmas Market organisers… including info on where the nearest cash points are would be really helpful too)
Time Your Visit Wisely
There’s no doubting that the closer to Christmas you visit a Christmas Market, the more festive it will feel; same goes for visiting in the evening rather than during daylight. However, it goes without saying that these are the busiest times when the crowds could become overwhelming, especially if you have children with you!
We have visited Cologne Christmas Markets twice, once in November and on another occasion the weekend before Christmas, and there was a big difference in our experiences! Yes, the festive atmosphere wasn’t as heightened in November, but at least we could get close enough to the stalls and bars to make a purchase!
Most Christmas Markets are open throughout the week and until at least 8pm, so a weekday trip after work or school would be quieter than going on a Saturday or Sunday.
Turn Up Hungry!
Seriously, don’t have breakfast / lunch / dinner before you set foot in a Christmas Market, as you’ll soon be tucking into a variety of foods! (The same applies when you visit Borough Market in London , FYI). The smells alone will tempt you into sampling whatever regional specialities are on offer, be it turkey skewers, raclette or sweet treats like doughnuts and crepes!
As you’ll already be hungry (see above!) you won’t have a problem with this one! We always try to eat just before midday if it’s a daytime visit or between 5 and 6pm in the evening, just before the food stalls get busy! When we visited Paris Christmas Market, we were able to buy our food without queuing, but by the time we’d eaten, each food stall had a number of people waiting to be served! It’s all about the timing!
Agree a Meeting Point
Whether you’re in a crowd or a couple, it’s easy to lose sight of each other as you make your way around the Christmas Markets, especially during busy times. Designate a meeting point as you begin your visit, where you can all meet up again if you drift apart! At Winchester we chose the entrance to the ice rink, as it was easily accessible from all areas of the market!
Little People and Little Animals
Although we do have two little people ourselves, we would say think carefully about taking young children in pushchairs to Christmas Markets, as all they’ll see are people’s knees (not to mention how difficult it is to navigate a pushchair through a crowd). We choose our visits carefully so our toddlers don’t get overwhelmed in the crowds, as soon as it gets too busy for them, we move on to something they’d like to do. The same goes for dogs; unless you’re prepared to carry your pet around the market, there’s a danger they could get injured in the crowds, and they certainly won’t be having much fun!
Follow Your Impulses
It’s quite easy when you’re browsing a Christmas Market to see something you like, think to yourself that you’ll go back later, then end up going in a different direction (usually to the bar, in our case) or decide not to retrace your steps due to the crowds in the marketplace. For example, at Exeter Cathedral Christmas Market, the first stall we came across sold beautiful pottery decorations, but rather than buying something straight away, we decided to leave it until later… which of course never happened! Seize the moment and if you think you’d like to buy it, go for it!
It’s nearly Christmas… it’s going to get a bit chilly during your visits to the markets, and the thing that can catch you out if you’re planning a full day trip is that it will get colder as the evening draws in, so make sure you’re wrapped up warm! At Chatsworth Christmas Market, I bought a new pair of gloves just to keep warm while we were walking round!
Christmas Markets are the best place bar none to discover and sample local products, food and drinks, so use this opportunity to try and purchase items that you just won’t find online or in high street stores! This is especially true if you visit Reims Christmas Market, where the local speciality is champagne!
That’s just a few ideas to help your Christmas Market visit go smoothly! What are your top tips? Let us know on our Facebook Page!