A trip to European Christmas markets is a ‘Teach In London, Play In Europe’ experience that everyone should try. One of our team, Adam, headed over to check out some markets in Germany recently and came back with some awesome tips. Check them out here!
Remember; if you’re heading overseas, pack your Vibe Shirt and send us your photo comp entries. There’s £1000 up for grabs every year for the best snaps! Use #PuttingOutTheVibe or tag us; @vibeteaching if you’re posting on social media!
It’s beginning to look a lot like…markets…
Call me a boring, but I never really saw Christmas markets as my jam. Sure, coming from Australia markets in the cold rather than in a singlet and pair of thongs (that’s a vest & flip-flops for the British) could be seen as a novelty, but I always thought markets were, well…markets. I expected to eat some local food, buy some knick-knacks, get some free samples and just end up cruising around all day, stopping to look at whatever street entertainer was drawing a crowd.
To clarify, what I’ve just said is both true and oh so wrong!
There’s something about European Christmas markets that makes them magical! With giant Christmas trees, decorations, soul-warming food, lights and the history behind the markets, you’ll have an awesome experience that is only made better by glűhwein. I’ve hit up Christmas markets in London, Belgium & Germany with my favourite Vibe Teacher, Katie, (also my wife) and the trips have been awesome! Hope the following tips help!
Markets are markets unless…
The difference between markets at face value is minimal. In my opinion spending more than one day at any market is a missed opportunity. Use the markets as an excuse for a trip to a city you haven’t been to and where possible, go to two different markets over a weekend.
Add in extra activities
Last year we did Bruges markets on a Saturday then Brussels on the Sunday. It was a great call. While there’s probably heaps more to see in the cities than we did, we still snuck in a walking tour in Bruges too, so ticked off some sight-seeing.
This year we flew to Dortmund on a Saturday morning, checked out the markets, snuck in a cheeky football game at Borussia Dortmund that evening (worthy of a whole blog in and of itself at some later point), then headed to Cologne on the Sunday.
One day at each markets was more than enough to see what we needed to. Most cities have multiple smaller market sites (Cologne had seven!), so you get to see the city while moving between markets.
Two birds, one stone!
I’d suggest having a lay-in, especially if you’ve travelled late on a Friday. Even if you’re rugged up, spending a whole twelve hours in the freezing cold isn’t what I’m about (regardless of how magical the markets are). Plus, if you leave at around midday, you’ll probably still be out and about after dark, which gives you the opportunity to see the markets at night. That’s when they’re extra-pretty 😉
Wear more, not less. It’s generally below freezing so layers, layers, layers people! If you want to make the most of the markets you need to be outside. Maximise your warm clothing and minimise the amount of time you spend in a pub or restaurant trying to warm up.
Empty your stomach
Nothing says “Warm me up with some stodgy, filling food” like a German Christmas market menu. My advice is to go on an empty stomach and experience as many flavours as possible. You won’t regret it. The cuisine is warming, filling and total comfort food. Grab yourself a bratwurst (German hotdog), try some deep-fried cheese (that’s right ‘deep fried’ & ‘cheese’ in one sentence), eat some potato pancakes with applesauce (Reibekuchen) and wash it all down with some glűhwein (more to come on that too). The food coma will only make the experience all the more surreal.
Fill your wallet
Make sure you have a ready wallet! The food isn’t particularly expensive, but you almost always need cash. Don’t rely on the credit card like I did. Cash is king.
Get on the glűhwein
Oh glűhwein, you little gem. Glűhwein is German mulled wine. It makes an awesome hand and heart warmer; such a lifeline in the cold. It’s just potent enough to warm your soul, yet light enough that you don’t need to stress too much about getting tipsy.
For around €3 a cup I’d recommend grabbing one at each smaller market site to break up the trip while having some down time.
The Germans know sustainability, so every town or market has their own custom mugs rather than disposable cups. You have to put down a deposit to get a cup, but it’s equally appropriate to keep them as a souvenir. Save this until the end of the night so you don’t have to cart them around all day, or return them and get your deposit back after each cup.
Don’t miss them
Lastly, Europe is at your doorstep! Whether you’re in London for a few months, years or your whole life – make the most of opportunities like these. Get out and see what the continent has to offer (and take your Vibe shirt with you when you do!)