Christmas Market Etiquette - How to Have a Merry Visit

Christmas markets bring a festive sparkle of lights to freezing cold winter cities. There are countless beautiful ones in Europe. I created a list of Christmas Market visits in Hamburg, Berlin and Dresden and Vienna and publish these in the coming days. Whether you are into ice rinks, festive shows, biscuits, drinks or Christmas carols, you will find it ... People’s behaviour on Christmas Markets makes a big difference to the experience, read on to have the best time.

A merry go round with colourful decorated sculpted horses, one with the name Dorothy.

The Clothes - What to Wear on a Christmas Market

If you plan to visit Christmas Markets, you better wrap up warm. You will spend all your time outside, it gets dark at around 4pm. Temperatures can go down below zero degrees Celsius, even during the day, and most certainly in the evening. Most cities have several markets, and you probably want to stroll from one to the next to make the most of the festive experience. You don’t want to give up and go back to your hotel room because you are too cold. Wear winter boots, a woollen coat, a scarf, put on gloves, and seriously, you might even consider putting on long underwear. Once I had been wearing a camel-coloured coat, someone poured a nice cup of hot red mulled wine over it. Ever since that episode I stick to dark blue and black coats.

The Language - Vocabulary for your Christmas Market Visit

Learn to say “Thank you” in the local language, everybody working in the stalls will be grateful. Oh, and while we are at it, please always say “Thank you” and consider throwing a smile over the counter too. The people serving hot drinks to a zillion intoxicated visitors deserve it. For a mug deposit, you will have to pay EUR 3, they know that you don’t want that, don’t tell them over and over, just hand over the money. Thank you.

The Hot Drinks on Christmas Markets

First, hot drinks are a great way to battle the cold. There is this age-old divide between eggnog and mulled wine fans. Some are in the first group and would never event try the latter. If you can’t decide between the two, keep in mind that eggnog is stronger than mulled wine. A delicious spiced hot apple juice will keep you warm too. Don’t get all excited at the first drinks stall and drink too many hot alcoholic drinks at once; the fun would be over too soon. Cheers. Say no to straws, if somebody offers one to you.

The Food on Christmas Markets

Go hungry to make the most of it (better not drink mulled wine or eggnog before you eat something). There is plenty of choices, and you are going to be surprised about the variety of spiced biscuits, one can say that nearly every region has got their own recipes, and there are also often differences from town to town. Buy some to take home with you; they make very special Christmas gifts.

The Crowds on Christmas Markets

Most Christmas markets in Europe are packed with visitors; I guess it is just the way it is. Stay calm, be friendly and don’t get upset about the crowds, everybody wishes to be served first or to be there alone, but to be honest, that would be so very lonely. Enjoy the festive season. Small children love Christmas Markets, obviously. I asked several dog owners and they all said they wouldn’t take their beloved furry friend to the markets, but still, some people can’t leave their tiny friends at home. The fact that children and dogs are smaller than you doesn't give you the right to push them out of your way or to step onto their paws. Please mind all feet, fingers and paws.

Locally Made Kitsch on Christmas Markets

There are a lot of handcrafted goods to look at and buy. Don’t make fun of them, because in your eyes it is all very poor taste. It is some people’s livelihood, and they most certainly invest lots of labour and love. Stir up a conversation and ask for the history of these pieces, you might end up hearing a great story. Buy locally made and avoid plastic and you will enjoy the piece for years to come.

The Pickpockets on Christmas Markets

Some people become accountants, some gardeners, some astronauts, some decide to sell houses, and some become con artists or pickpockets, it is as easy as that. Use common sense. Hold on to your bag and purse, never put these on the counter when you pay for goods, never leave your bag behind at your chair or cocktail table or bench when you go somewhere (not even for a second). Christmas Markets are busy places; there are lots of opportunities for pickpockets.

More about Christmas Markets in Europe

Read about these on The Touristin:

Travel Austria. 2022 Guide to Christmas Markets in Vienna.

2023 Guide to Christmas Markets in Hamburg plus one off-the-beaten-path. 

2023 Guide to Christmas Markets in Munich.

2023 Guide to Christmas Markets in Dresden.

Canaletto Christmas Market 2023 in Saxony’s Pirna.

Travel Germany: 2023 guide to off-the-beaten-path Christmas markets in Berlin.

Travel Germany - 2023 Guide to Christmas Markets in Berlin.

Travel Estonia – Visit the Tallinn Christmas Market in 2023.

From Berlin with love