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The magic of Christmas markets

This post is sponsored by Cash Passport Prepaid MasterCard

Have you ever had a travel experience that has changed your understanding forever?

I had come to love the late trains of Italian Railway and the magical mystery adventures they sprung on me. Living in a tiny village in Tuscany with my father’s cousin meant at least three trains to get anywhere and one late train out of three was a good trip, but one late train meant the rest of the connections were lost. I lost a lot of connections.

The first time it happened I stayed on the station and fretted, but by this time I knew to roll with it and snuck off Florence station to do some last minute Christmas shopping.

I mumbled some really bad Italian to a guy about wanting to buy some Christmas presents. He sent me off, ‘Thataway, thataway,’ with a flurry of arm waving.

After slippy-sliding my way along the icy stone streets, I wandered into a cloud of sweet, warm, nuttiness. I turned the corner and Santa Croce piazza opened up in front of me. Photo credithttp://blahblahmagazine.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/shutterstock_165927266.jpgThe warm light of the stalls, people in fabulous coats, hats and scarves milling around shopping for hand felted decorations, sculpted stone pieces and artisan leather goods. Children laughed under decorated trees and mistletoe, eating toasted chestnuts. Photo creditThe best Christmas Markets in the world | Blah Blah MagazineI’d stumbled into the pages of a storybook. This was Christmas! Growing up in a warm climate with picnics on the beach and barbequed turkey has always been fun, but it doesn’t relate at all to the narrative of Christmas found in the books I loved. Now, it all made sense.

I vowed to go to a different country for Christmas every year. A promise I’ve happily never kept, mainly because I love my family and New Year’s Eve in Sydney, but every year I find myself lingering over European Christmas market photos. One day I will go again, but where?

The best Christmas Markets in the world

My lovely friend Karen is a lover of the Christmas market and has visited about ten. Her all time favourite is Prague.

‘It’s such a pretty city and the fact that it can snow really makes the perfect atmosphere,’ she says. ‘You hug your gluhwein while listening to the local musicians or shopping for nick-nacks. It’s exactly how you want it.’ Photo creditThe best Christmas Markets in the world | Blah Blah MagazineShe’s also a huge fan of the German markets. ‘There are so many in Germany and they’re all lovely. I think Coburg was my favourite.’ Photo creditThe best Christmas Markets in the world | Blah Blah MagazineBerlin is also amazing.’

Apparently, there’s great art and jewellery at the Berlin markets, I discovered in my online travels. Photo creditThe best Christmas Markets in the world | Blah Blah Magazine I may have ended up down a research rabbit hole and might’ve bought my mum this bracelet on Etsy.com from a vintage jewellery stall.The best Christmas Markets in the world | Blah Blah MagazineBut don’t worry, I saved money, which makes it all okay.The best Christmas Markets in the world | Blah Blah MagazineI used our lovely sponsor’s Cash Passport Prepaid MasterCard. Sign up was easy-peasy and it cut $17.01 off the price (nearly ten percent). There was an $11.31 difference in the exchange rate Etsy set if I wanted to pay in Australian dollars, rather than Euros, and the exchange rate I could choose at Cash Passport. Nor did I pay the 3.3% international credit card transaction fee my bank would’ve charged me, saving a further $5.63.

I was surprised, because I thought Etsy would be a lot fairer and so I had a look around and their exchange rate is better than other online marketplaces and shops, which seem to be very creative with their rates. There doesn’t seem to be any regulation on the rates companies charge just for doing the currency exchange for you.

Anyhoo, if you get a Cash Passport valued above $200 AUD before the 31st December, 2014, you will get a BONUS $10 AUD on your card. Simply enter BLOG10 when prompted in the application form (this offer is only available to the first 500 customers).

Mind you, you’ve only got a couple of days if you want to take advantage of the end of the Cyber Monday sales on the US websites or whip over to Sweden for the start of their Christmas markets…

The Swedish markets are my favourite eye candy. I love Swedish design and handicrafts, but really I have fantasies of dashing through the snow on a sleigh and you can at Jamtli, östersund in the very north of Lapland. Lookie…The best Christmas Markets in the world | Blah Blah Magazine

A girl can dream. My Swedish friend Klara says she loves the Christmas markets in the castles around Sweden.

Mårbacka is quite magical. Or, there is the traditional one in old town in Stockholm. Photo creditThe best Christmas Markets in the world | Blah Blah Magazine

And an arty one, at our Stockholm art school each year,’ says Klara.

Now, I want to take my kids to a European Christmas market, so they can step into a storybook with me. But first we have a mighty fine competition.

UPDATE: the winner of the Cash Passport prize is Sarah from Creating Contentment. Congratulations!

What’s your favourite beauty treatment?  I’d love to hear in the comments below.


About BlahBlahMagazine

Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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  1. The swedish one with horses sounds amazing, dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh…

  2. I spent Christmas in Germany as an exchange student when I was 16 years old and I can still remember as clear as anything the wonder I felt as my host family guided me around their local Christmas markets. Just a magical experience! But I must admit the Florence markets look even better – I bet you spent heaps!!

  3. Oh Hun, this seriously is my utopia! Which works out as I married a man who is snowboarding obsessed so most our planned & overseas holiday is around some kid of location that contains snow! Lol
    I have only been in the US at Christmas (pre-hubby though). But my most moving experience was walking alone through Niseko village whilst the snow just drifted down, so peaceful & scerien moved me entirely & I’ll never forget it.

    • I’ve got an idea. we go on holiday together, hubby’s go snowboarding together and we go marketing. My first experience of snow like you describe was in Tokyo, not as romantic as Niseko, but very magical for me at the time x

  4. Couldn’t agree more! Germany and Sweden have awesome Christmas markets. I especially loved the one in Munich. But I also must mention the Christmas market in Budapest – the food was delicious! I’ve heard France has lovely markets too.

  5. I have heard the Munich one is wonderful. It’s funny you mention Budapest, because it came up a lot when I was doing the research. It sounds amazing. There are too many good ones!

  6. Oh, to be a world traveler. All of those places look magical with their holiday dressings.
    And what a sweet giveaway – I pinned the image and would love, love, love a long massage as my chosen beauty treatment. Mmmm…yes. Especially as it is cold here and the ground is frozen with snow and sleet.

  7. I’ve pinned this and I’d love to win this so I can have a facial! Thanks for running this

  8. This photos are amazing! The Prague Markets look spectacular! While Japan isn’t really known for its Christmas spirit, I remember going to the Toji Temple markets in Kyoto while I was an international student over there. So many beautiful treasures.
    Your post is really helping me get into the Christmas spirit, Bele! x

  9. Elizabeth Langston

    Do massages count? 🙂 If so, that’s my fav. If not… probably a nice scrub. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/13229392631729726/ Thank you.

  10. One day I will have a white Christmas… one day! 🙂 xx

  11. Reading the beginning of the article just took me back to my backpacking days of stressing about train connections and stumbling across some amazing gems – including the markets in Florence. Whilst it wasn’t Christmas time I found some lovely gifts to take home to my family.

  12. My favourite beauty treatment would be a good hard massage. Carrying around 8kgs all day is hard work!

  13. Definitely a facial with a really good head massage!

  14. Does face and head massage count as a beauty treatment? That’s mine. love them and always disappointed if a hairdresser decides to not do it during a haircut hehehe. going to pinterest your image to enter the comp now 🙂

  15. Oh those photos are amazing. I bet the smells were amazing too.

  16. I just realised there’s the competition. I’d love a facial and I’m off to pin the image now

  17. This competition is a great idea, especially for this time of the year !!! A facial treatment would be perfect to give me a chance to relax, let it go, breathe and be pretty to celebrate with family and friends !!!

  18. Pinned! I’d love an Aveda facial, cheers…

  19. My favourite beauty treatment is a pedicure. With all my running I toe nails are awful, anything to make them look a little nicer in summer shoes is needed!

  20. I would get a massage to relieve the aches and pains from dragging all my Xmas shopping (and luggage) around from the Manchester Chistmas markets in the UK! They occupy every available square and the smell of mulled wine and chestnuts is oh so Christmassy!

  21. Thank you for running this lovely competition. A pedicure would be really nice. I’ve been having trouble with my feet for some time now and I really think a good pedicure would help me a lot to soothe my feet and help me get through all that I need to do on christmas day. Thank you. I will go and pin the image now.

  22. Is there anything better than a deluxe facial? Consider it pinned.

  23. Geez, I really need a manicure before Xmas hits.

  24. I have actually just written a post (not published yet!) of the most awesome places to visit at Christmas and one of these markets was on the list! You should add this post to the link up when I publish it! I would love to see any one of these magical fairybook places – I think that there is something special about fairylights in the snow.

  25. Can I enter even if I don’t have a Pinterest account? I’d really like a massage.

  26. I love a bath. I love that I can tailor it to meet my particular needs in that moment, adding a bit of this and a bit of that to the water. I love adding essential oils so that it is scented and adds extra healing properties. I love the heat of the water and the time out from life. I love that I can ignore my children cause I really cannot get out and do whatever for them. I love the relaxation and the muscle relief. Yep, my favorite beauty treatment would have to be a bath.

  27. The Korean bath house was a long time favourite of mine, sadly they let it run into disrepair, but if it were renovated again, I’d be there in a flash. They had the ginseng soak, an amazing scrub that left me kilos lighter and a nice firm massage to finish. Heaven. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll pin the image.

  28. Massages with eggnog, or some other such Christmas panacea to relieve the last 2 months of Christmas rush madness… Also, I can thoroughly recommend visiting the Hotorget & Hotorgshallen markets in Stockholm. Just amazing…

  29. Pinned… Jingle bells, jingle bells…Pitera me all the way. SK11 would be my choice lovely lady. x

  30. Reckon I could get a motel room for 1 person for under $100?
    Just me. Sleeping. For a whole night. Ahhhh.

    That’s the #1 beauty treatment I could use right now 🙂

  31. I’m going to go with a foot massage. Every night my feet ache! Time to put the zing back into my step xx

  32. I would definitely buy a massage. Or a whole bunch of them. Technically not a beauty treatment, but the relaxation helps keep my attitude beautiful! haha!

  33. I’m curious about the hot stone massage. I’ve always wondered what it would be like, sounds divine.

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