What to Buy at Europe’s Christmas Markets? Avoid Mass Products and buy Artisan Handmade

European cultures vary widely from country to country, but they all have a similar tradition. One of these common customs is extravagant Christmas celebrations. Towns and cities from France to Estonia all practice celebrating Christmas way before the actual day with Christmas décor embellishing their city’s public areas and charming chalets selling beverages, food, and holiday goods. What you can buy varies widely on where you are, but the traditional Christmas cookies, toys, and cozy winter wear are generally all included no matter the European town. Let’s explore some of what you can buy in European Christmas markets and how to avoid counterfeit or fake goods. Buy locally-made, artisan products in some of the most beautiful places this holiday season.

I’m an avid shopper; since starting my full-time travel life in 2016, I’ve been carrying around extra bags filled with the goods and wears of the local craftsmen. Now that I have a nice big SUV in Europe, I happily fill it with handmade products wherever I go. I can’t help myself. If it’s pretty and handmade, I must have it. I see it as an investment in the future of craftsmen everywhere and encourage myself to spend and spend freely on all my travels. I encourage you to buy handmade; I know it costs more, but if you shop around, you will find it’s not that much more, and it is so much better quality.

As winter descends upon Europe, an enchanting transformation takes place in the heart of charming cities and towns. Streets are quickly adorned with twinkling lights and extravagant embellishments while the cozy scent of warm spices lingers in the air. There’s something utterly irresistible about European Christmas markets. I’m here to give you the lowdown on what treasures await you at these festive bazaars and how to find the best possible options for what to buy.

🛍️ 1. Handcrafted Ornaments: One can never have too many ornaments, especially when they’re lovingly crafted by skilled artisans. From delicate glass baubles to intricately carved wooden figures, these ornaments are not just decorations – they’re tiny pieces of European craftsmanship that will adorn your home for years to come. When choosing, make sure to check the seams and connections of the ornaments. Obviously, mechanized manufactured products will show lines, seems, and lightweight materials. For the real thing, look for stalls advertising hand-crafted ornaments, then hold them; if they are of substantial weight, have maybe a bit of misshape, or fabulously curved corners that are smooth as if a craftsman has hand-perfected them, they should be real. Ask, make sure the person keeps eye contact, and get a feel for some of their other ornaments; checking the ones you like against their other ornaments can help find indications of mass-produced products. A lot of ornaments are mass-produced and sold as handmade with handmade prices. Be alert and keep checking before buying. This will ensure you have purchased a prized crafted ornament that can be given to generations beyond you.

🍬 2. Local Delicacies: Brace your taste buds for a culinary adventure! European Christmas markets are a haven for foodies. Indulge in the warmth of freshly baked gingerbread cookies, savor the sweetness of candied almonds, and don’t forget to try regional specialties like stollen in Germany or panettone in Italy. Mass-produced sweets and cookies can be found in market stalls in all markets. In Slovenia, every Christmas market will have ten to twenty percent of the stalls selling the exact same mass-produced cookies. It’s the same in every country I’ve been. If you don’t mind, then enjoy them because, of course, they are delicious. But if you want something more original, then take a closer look. Mass-produced cookies in every country or region tend to have the same packaging. Look for sweets in different packaging or sold from little baskets. Baskets are popular holders for homemade cookies. Don’t be deceived, though. Make sure to check the packaging. If it looks like all the others, it is likely the same thing, and often, the same thing is being sold at higher prices.

🧤 3. Cozy Winter Wear: Embrace the chill with stylish scarves, handmade mittens, and snug woolen hats. Not only will you stay warm and toasty, but you’ll also be flaunting a bit of European fashion flair – the perfect combo for winter wanderings in Christmas markets. It can be incredibly tempting to buy every cute hat or glove you wonder upon. Especially in Italy or France, where the selections are adorable! If you’re after whatever is cute, then that’s fine. But if you want something made by a craftsman, then look for raw wool and, in some cases, sheep skins because often, these people are the ones selling handmade socks, hats, and perfectly softened real wool gloves. They aren’t all craftsmen, and there are lots of people selling Alibaba goods as handmade, so ask them and check the stitching. If it looks machine-made, it probably is. Handmade goods might be a bit rougher unless made by a real craftsman. Check and ask to ensure you aren’t being scammed into buying a mass-produced product.

🎁 4. Unique Handmade Gifts: From handmade soaps, candles, ceramics, jars, and toys to quirky trinkets, European Christmas markets have lots of treasures that are a testament to the creativity of local artisans and make for unforgettable presents. To ensure you have hand-crafted, locally sourced goods, make sure to pay attention. If it’s mass-produced, there will be dozens of others selling the exact same thing. Pay attention to the look and feel of what everyone is selling, then try to find some that are different. Slight, subtle differences or maybe less selection will be indicators of craftsman-made products.

🕰️ 5. Timeless Keepsakes: Consider bringing home a timeless piece of history in the form of vintage-inspired trinkets. Think antique-style pocket watches, nostalgic postcards, or even a classic leather-bound journal to document your adventures. Something unique about true artisanship is the quality that lasts for years. Invest in timeless keepsakes and check out the local antique markets for beauties from another age. To ensure you have quality handmade products, look at the person selling them, ask how they are made, and look them over closely to ensure you have found a real handcrafted keepsake.

🎨 6. Festive Decor: Festive decorations are everywhere in Christmas markets. These are fantastic and will warm your home if you can take some along. Whether it’s a wreath of fragrant pinecones or fairy lights that dance like stars, these decorations infuse your space with the season’s spirit. Dried oranges and spices are easy to securely pack into your bags and take along.

As you weave through the lively stalls of European Christmas markets, let the twinkling lights guide you to merry and bright discoveries. These markets are not just about shopping; they’re about immersing yourself in the joyous traditions of the season and creating memories that will last a lifetime. I encourage you to buy handmade local products and avoid the mass-produced garbage that will inevitably find its way broken in a landfill. The true tradition of Christmas markets is investing in the livelihoods of our friends and neighbors. Immerse yourself in this tradition by investing in the beauty of the handmade traditions, not just for yourself but for friends and family. These products will last and bring much more warmth to the hearts of the loved ones you gift these items to. Have a lovely holiday season, and be safe out there. Subscribe for more travel tips, and have a lovely day.