A Family’s Guide To Christmas Markets: Tips on planning your visit with kids

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Christmas markets are a wonderful way to get into the Christmas spirit and create lasting memories with your kids. Packed full of festive decorations, hot food and drinks, and stalls of all kinds, these markets can be both exciting and overwhelming for the whole family. Planning ahead of time is essential for a stress-free and enjoyable experience. Whether you’re visiting a traditional European Christmas market or a more local one close to home, the following tips will help you to get the most out of your Christmas market experience with kids. With a little preparation and some helpful advice, you can make sure your children have a magical time that you’ll all remember for years to come. The following tips will help you know what to expect and to plan ahead your Christmas market experience with kids

1. What are Christmas markets and why should you visit them with your family?

What is a Christmas market?

Christmas markets are festive marketplaces that typically take place during the Advent season (the season leading up to Christmas) and run for several weeks. They have been taking place for centuries in many European countries as a way to celebrate the holiday season and to promote local products and crafts. There are Christmas markets all over the world, but the best-known markets are in Europe

Why visit a Christmas market with kids?

Visiting a Christmas market with your family is a great way to get into the holiday spirit and create lasting memories. It’s a fun, exciting experience that can be enjoyed by all ages, including babies. Christmas markets are great for families with kids because they offer plenty to see and do, such as decorations, lights, music and entertainment. They also offer a wide variety of festive food, drinks and souvenirs. Christmas markets are a great place to take photographs, and many markets also have activities and events that you can enjoy together as a family

2. Planning Ahead: How to choose a Christmas market and prepare for your visit

There are many factors to consider when deciding which Christmas market to visit, both on a local and international level. You’ll want to think about travel time, costs, what the market is like, and how the weather is likely to be on the date of your chosen market. You may also want to consider growing crowds and potential closures. While visiting the same market every year is nice, you should also consider visiting at least one or two others in your area so your children can experience a variety of different Christmas markets

Keep the following tips in mind as you begin to plan your visit with kids to a Christmas market:

Timing

Christmas markets are typically busiest around the weekends, during the weekdays and in the lead up to Christmas Day. You may want to consider visiting a popular market in the middle of the week or a less popular one near Christmas to avoid the crowds. There are also many seasonal Christmas markets that only open for a few weeks before Christmas, so keep that in mind when planning

Activities for kids

If you’re looking for a Christmas market with activities for the entire family, then you’ve come to the right place! Depending on which Christmas market you choose, there are plenty of options for kids, couples, and groups — from ice-skating to carousel rides and Ferris wheels. The Christmas markets are always popular, with plenty of festive stalls and stalls selling tasty treats. But if you’re looking for something a bit more active, then why not try checking out the best Christmas markets in Europe for a quick summary of the best markets scattered across the continent? From Cologne to Luxembourg, there are markets offering lots of fun activities for the whole family

Whether you want to take a ride on the carousel, try your hand at ice-skating, or simply wander around the stalls — there’s something for everyone. So make sure you pick the right market for you and your loved ones, and get ready for a festive and fun-filled Christmas!

See also under What to expect at the Christmas market: Attractions and entertainment

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Costs

Many Christmas markets have an entry fee, but some don’t. This can vary depending on the market and the season you visit. Some may also have extra charges for certain attractions or food items. Tip: it’s important to plan ahead and set a budget for your Christmas market visit with kids as you may find additional costs creeping in unexpectedly

Local weather

Consider the local weather forecast in the weeks leading up to your chosen market date. If rain is likely, you may want to try another market or shop a little earlier in the day so you can get out before conditions worsen

Closure dates

If visiting an international Christmas market, you may want to double-check the dates of closure for that market. Some markets close for a few days around New Year’s Day, while others close around Christmas.

Tip
Most of the Christmas markets in Germany are only open until Christmas. This means that if you are planning to go to a Christmas market in Germany between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, you will be disappointed because most Christmas markets will have closed by then

In the best Christmas markets in Europe you will find practical tips to plan ahead your visit to a European Christmas market with kids

3. When to go: Dates, times and avoiding peak hours

While you may want to visit a Christmas market as early as possible, you may also want to avoid the busiest times. It is best to visit on a weekday evening or very early on a weekend morning, when crowds are less likely. Alternatively, you can also visit a Christmas market in a nearby city to avoid the local market being too crowded

See how empty the ice rink at the Cologne Christmas market is early on a weekday!

4. What to wear

If visiting a Christmas market in winter, make sure your children have warm coats and hats. Depending on where you live, this may mean purchasing some new winter clothing for your kids before the trip. Wearing comfortable, warm clothing will help your children to stay happy and active, making the experience even more enjoyable for everyone. It’s important to stay warm when visiting a Christmas market, so the best option is to dress in layers and wear wool. Depending on the time of day and weather forecast, you may also want to pack a rain jacket

5. What to expect at the Christmas market: Attractions and entertainment

The attractions and entertainment at a Christmas market can vary greatly depending on the market. You may want to check the guide on the best Christmas markets in Europe. There is a short outline of the attractions of each Christmas markets and linked posts with details. You can also visit the market’s website to find out what’s included and what is extra. You may also want to look at previous years’ market calendars to see what the market typically offers. Expect to see a variety of different Christmas decorations, lights and other attractions, such as Christmas trees and carousels. You may also want to visit the market before it officially opens for a sneak peek at the decorations. Many Christmas markets also have live entertainment, such as choirs and carolers, marching bands and dancers, as well as activities for kids

There are some Christmas markets that are like a mini fun fair for kids, like Luxembourg or Hasselt. Others have many activities organized for kids, like Cologne. Many have ice rinks, like Brussels or Dusseldorf. Each and every one of the Christmas markets is unique, but they are all kids friendly in different ways! You can see an overview of the best Christmas markets in Europe in this list and get an idea of what each market offers

6. Tips on What to Eat and Drink at a Christmas Market

Expect a wide variety of festive food and drinks at a Christmas market, from sweet to savory treats. Many markets have a wide variety of hot drinks, such as hot chocolate as well as warm mulled wine (Glühwein in German, the traditional drink at Christmas markets). You may also find a variety of baked goods, such as cookies and doughnuts, as well as Christmas favorites, such as Bratwurst (sausages) and roasted nuts. Make sure you try local dishes, like tartiflette at the French Alps and fondue in Switzerland. However some dishes are appreciated at Christmas markets away from the country where you can typically enjoy them

Tips
The following are some general tips on eating and drinking at a Christmas market
*Some markets may have a general seating area, but others may leave the seating up to the vendors, so be sure to find a place to sit before you get your food and drinks
*Remember that many of the food and drink items at a Christmas market are meant to be consumed while they’re piping hot, so be careful when tasting and consuming them
*Bring cash! Many vendors accept cards, but there are also several that only accept cash

7. Tips on What to Buy at a Christmas Market with kids

Nothing is as magical as a Christmas market in Europe. From the festive lights, to the cheerful music, to the scent of spiced mulled wine in the air, it’s a paradise for kids of all ages. But the best part is the handcrafted items you can find in these markets. From wooden toys and hand-knitted scarves to intricate ornaments and gingerbread houses, each one is a unique treasure. And if you’re looking for something truly special, you can find it here – whether it’s a wooden nutcracker or a hand-carved wooden trinket box. It’s a great way to find something that will be cherished for years to come. So if you’re in Europe this holiday season, don’t miss out on the chance to explore what a Christmas market has to offer. You won’t regret it!

Kids love to buy Christmas gifts, but you should remember that you’ll likely be visiting several markets, so keep in mind that it’s important to buy some small gifts they can open early. That said, there are many great gift ideas at Christmas markets, including decorations, treats, toys and more. You may want to bring a gift guide or checklist with you to help guide your shopping. You may want to bring your own bags or reusable shopping bags if you plan on buying gifts to bring home. Most markets don’t offer bags, and even if they do, they may run out. If you have very small children, you may want to bring a wagon or stroller to help you carry gifts and purchases

Tip
Taking the stroller with you if you intend to go shopping is one of the best tips when visiting a Christmas market with kids. However, there are pros and cons to both taking a stroller and a baby carrier – see 9. Baby carrier or stroller?

8. Tips for parents: Keeping kids safe at a Christmas market

As with any visit to a busy and unfamiliar place, keeping your children safe is your number one priority. Depending on the age of your children, you may need to keep an eye out for the following dangers and distractions. Usually there should be no issue, but it is best to be prepared

*Getting lost: Parents should keep hold of young children’s hands at all times. Remind older children to stay with the group. There are often lots of distractions at Christmas markets, so it’s important to stay close and keep an eye on each other.

*Being trampled or falling: As you would at any crowded place, keep an eye out for trip hazards such as uneven pavement, potholes, and people’s feet

*Being pickpocketed: Stay aware of your bag and valuables at all times, particularly if you’re in a busy market in a foreign country

9. Baby carrier or stroller?

When it comes to visiting a Christmas market with kids, it’s a tough decision as to whether a stroller or baby carrier is best. Each option has its pros and cons, so what is best will depend on the needs of your family

With a stroller, you have more space for your kids and the ability to store items such as your shopping. It’s also easier to maneuver over the often uneven ground. Furthermore you can bring a blanket or a stroller muff to keep the kid warm

On the other hand, a baby carrier will keep your baby close to you and can be a great bonding experience. It also gives you more freedom to explore the market as it’s much easier to get around.

Ultimately, the best choice for you comes down to your preference and how much space you need. If you want to keep your kids close, a baby carrier is the way to go. But if you need more storage or want a smoother ride, a stroller is the better option. Whichever option you decide on, you’re sure to have a magical time at the Christmas market!

10. Additional tips for an enjoyable experience

While visiting a Christmas market, you may want to keep the following tips in mind to help keep your children safe and happy. If you have a very young child, make sure to stay close by and hold them if necessary

*Many markets are held outdoors, so you should be prepared for both sun and rain
*Wear comfortable shoes and clothes
*Pack some snacks for the journey and for when you’re waiting in line. Older children may want to bring a drink too
*Take a small first aid kit with you. You never know when you might need it, so it’s best to be prepared
*Plan your route before you get there to avoid wasting time. Christmas markets are often very busy, so it’s best to go with a plan in place to avoid getting lost or caught up in the crowds

Wrapping up: Making the most of your family’s visit to the Christmas market

Above all, enjoy the journey and the experience. Many of the memories you make with your children at Christmas markets will last a lifetime, so be prepared to let go of the itinerary and simply enjoy the moment. If you follow these tips, you and your children are sure to have a wonderful time. With some preparation, you can make sure everyone enjoys the experience and creates memories to last a lifetime

Christmas Markets

Are you looking for the best Christmas markets in Europe? Here is a guide with details and practical tips on how to visit with kids

Tip
This post get updated every year with more Christmas markets and current details
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Indoor and outdoor activities, kids friendly cafés/ restaurants, hotels and more all under separate layers

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