By Alexandra Barancova
Had enough of those tiresome weekends spent in shopping malls scavenging for gifts, whilst millions of other determined hunters are competing to get the best catch? Would you like to impress your grandma with some custom knitted woolen socks? Christmas markets are the way to go. Soak up the festive atmosphere, sip on a warm cup of hot chocolate and pick out a unique gift for your friends or family.
Although you would probably find something that resembles a Christmas market in just about every town around this time of year, let’s face it, most of them are not at all the real deal.
One which is worthwhile visiting however is the market of Valkenburg. From the 15th of November until the 31st of December, the little village in Lumburg annually transforms itself into the Netherlands’ “true Christmas Town”. Concerts, parades, markets: name a Christmassy event and it’s there. What’s unique is the setting in which the local markets take place: the Fluweelengrot and the Gemeentegrot (the Velvet Cave and the Municipal Cave). This makes Valkenburg’s Christmas market the largest and oldest underground one in Europe. Definitely worth a visit!
Another recommended Christmas hotspot in the Netherlands is Maastricht. Here markets pop all over the city’s numerous squares from the end of November until the end of December. If you haven’t gotten into the Christmas spirit yet, you are bound to be infected by the thematic decorations, pretty lights and endless stalls. An ice skating rink is the cherry on top of the cake.
If you are feeling extremely adventurous, you may also consider venturing beyond the borders of the Netherlands into Belgium. Visit Brussels between the 29th of November and the 5th of January or Bruges between the 22nd November and 2nd January and experience an impressive display of Christmas trinkets set against the backdrop of picturesque architecture.
Even our hometown offered its very own Christmas event, whose location certainly made me feel like a royal. The Country & Christmas Fair was held in castle De Haar in Haarzuilens, close to Utrecht, from 20 to 24th of November.
So get out there and enjoy the combination of travelling and celebrating. And don’t be put off by the sleazy weather; the heat from your hot chocolate and the sweet smell of gingerbread will be all the more rewarding.