Being a kid in a Greek city next to the sea, I always had the same dream every Christmas. A dream of white (and cold) Christmas. After many years, this dream came true and living in Innsbruck, I can be that kid again. Living the dream. It’s December, there’s snow and Christmas is around the corner.
You know what’s also around the corner? Actually around many corners… Christmas markets. There are 6 well known markets around the city (not to mention the pop-up markets). Write those names down: Marktplatz, Golden Roof (Old Town), Hungerburg, St. Nikolaus, Wilten and Maria-Theresien-Straße. The setting in Innsbruck is idyllic and although it sounds kitschy, it’s actually pretty awesome. I am proud to admit that Innsbruck changed the way I feel about Christmas, in a very good way that is. The festive and lovely atmosphere of a Christmas market (Christkindlmarkt) plays a very pivotal role in this.
Just like all roads lead to Rome, all Innsbruck roads lead to the city center and the most “famous” markets. The one in Marktplatz and the one in the old town, under the Golden Roof. I still remember my first visit some years ago. I mean, we have all seen something similar – maybe up close or in a picture or a movie. For me it was almost always pictures or movies.
Small wooden “houses” build one next to each other, showcasing and selling anything from Glühwein to hand tools made out of chocolate and edible snowballs (Schneebälle). No they’re not made out of ice, but that’s what they are called though. It’s actually a Bavarian delicateness and I am glad I can find it here in Innsbruck! Decorative accessories, scented candles, wooden “old” lamps and sculptures, local producers, my beloved Speck, spices, flower teas, cheese and honey. These are only few of the things you see, taste and smell in a Christmas market. If I added everything, I would have had to write a whole encyclopedia.
Walking around the pebble roads, you literally get intoxicated with the scent of Glühwein – that warm sweet wine we drink around here (especially during Christmas time). The combination of wine, cinammon and clove is so vivid, one can smell it even by thinking it. A bit further down the market, you can see fish fillet being cooked in a huge wooden stove, where the flames are licking the back of the fish. I feel like I want to taste everything at the same time, and while I am about to order my Glühwein and get this fest started, two smiling angels approach me and ask me if I want to be in selfie with them… I mean, if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is!
A pro tip when visiting a Christmas market is never stay stationary for too long. First of all, it’s usually cold and movement helps, and secondly you are missing out on the fun. Another pro tip is to look up. Yes, look up. There are plenty of decorations hanging from buildings and houses. Sometimes also lighting shows with state of the art projectors. I made out Pinocchio, the Booted Cat, Snow White… Like I said, living a childhood dream all over again.
After all that, it’s time for a second Glühwein and now I am going to hang around the Golden Roof, because we’re about to light up the light bulbs of the 14-meter tall Christmas tree. It’s kinda weird because there’s a count-down and it’s not new Year’s Eve yet. Oh, well… I am too happy to argue with tradition! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Lights are on, the people cheer, rejoice and exchange wishes of Merry Christmas! I know it’s a bit early, but hey…
That’s what the Christmas market is actually. A taste of Christmas. A taste of Innsbruck. Experience your own Christmas magic in one of the many Christmas markets in the city (or in all of them)! I need to return my Glühwein cup and head on home.
P.S. These markets are open for almost a month; every day (and night) can be magical!