Whether they involve floating on rivers, shooting arrows at patron’s bums or celebrating a strange, defecating log, these markets offer a unique and fun alternative to the traditional Christmas market experience
The floating Christmas markets in Vilshofen (Tourist-Information Passauer Land)
Every Christmas, the Danube promenade in Vilshofen is home to one of the most unusual Christmas Markets in Germany – a floating one.
Housed in a Wurm & Köck river cruiser and dominated by a huge Christmas tree decorated with more than 4,000 lights and 1,500 baubles, the market offers the usual Christmas market fare of handicrafts, mulled wine and toasted almonds, all reflected in the sparkling waters of the Danube.
There’s also a full programme of concerts, Christmas readings and a nativity play set around the world’s largest wooden crib.
Medieval Christmas Town. Enter if you dare. (Medieval Christmas Town)
For something completely different, head to Shanghai’s Medieval Christmas Town, a colourful market that pops up every December at the Xuhui Binjiang Greenspace. Here, merchants dressed in full Medieval regalia sell food, drink and handicrafts ‘just as they did a thousand years ago.’
The markets also offer a full program of Medieval entertainment, including ‘juggling, music and nonsense’, and knights practicing their archery skills by using guests’ bums as their targets.
Black Forest Christmas Markets (Hochschwarzwald Tourismus GmbH)
Nestled in a gorge, right under the railway viaduct of the Devil‘s Valley Railway in the Black Forest Highlands, Hochschwarzwald’s Christmas village enjoys one of the most atmospheric settings in Germany.
The market also embraces its rustic Black Forest heritage, offering visitors a festive dose of handmade crafts and ‘local’ entertainment, and making it a firm favorite with German families.
High altitude Christmas cheer (Pilatus Luzern)
Not only are the Mt Pilatus Christmas markets in Switzerland the highest in Europe, you have to ride the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to get to them.
Perched above Lake Lucerne, the mountaintop Christkindlimärt boasts 45 stalls selling beeswax candles, nativity figurines, gingerbread and other stocking fillers. An added bonus is the chance to make the return journey by sled, airboard or snow-bike.
Caga Tió (Associació Fira de Santa Llúcia)
Catalonia is home to one of the strangest Christmas traditions in the world: the veneration of a grinning, pooping log called Caga Tió. Nowhere is Caga Tió more venerated that at Barcelona’s Fira de Santa Llúcia, a sprawling Christmas market held in front of the Gothic cathedral on Plaça de la Seu.
Caga Tió takes his place alongside mistletoe, turrón nougat and a series of biblical nativity figurines. There are also plenty of stalls selling Caganers, defecating figurines that locals hide in nativity scenes believing they bring good fortune and fertile harvests.
A Christmas market in a cave (Gemeentegrot market)
The Velvet Cave Christmas markets in Valkenburg aan de Geul are the largest and oldest underground markets in Europe.
Set on a hill, topped by a decrepit castle, shoppers wander through the cave’s winding galleries, bedecked with twinkling lights, amongst stalls selling handmade decorations and homemade produce.
Fancy some Dutch pastries and a cup of hot chocolate? Head for the cosy café set in the 18th century chapel.
The turkeys of Licques, a small village 20 kilometres from Calais, are famous throughout France. Every December, they’re celebrated and feted in the spectacular Fête de la Dinde (Turkey Festival).
The streets of the village are decked in festive finery and hundreds of turkeys parade through the streets under the watchful gaze of a seasoned turkey-herder.
One bird is chosen as the best for the year and locals celebrate by indulging in the region’s other famous foodstuffs: champagne, cheese and the local liquorice-flavoured firewater, all sold from tiny wooden stalls that line the streets.
As Seen On short breaks