Raised in Massachusetts and educated in New York, Ben is a Northeast transplant that has spent the l...
A Christmas Market round-up for the Netherlands03 December 2013, by Benjamin Garstka
It’s that time of the year again: long dark nights, frigid cycling, greasy food and dreary grey days that encourage hibernation. Yes, winter in the Netherlands and the accompanying mumbles of "echt Breitnerweer."
Yet along with the onset of the cold comes the holidays and that can only mean one thing: Christmas markets!
Although a typically German custom, the Netherlands is full of traditional Christmas markets, fun winter fairs and special holiday events that guarantee to get you out of the house and into a festive mood.
Traditional Dutch markets
On the Dutch yuletide map, Maastricht is undoubtedly a hot spot. Come the end of November, the city transforms into a wintery fairy-tale with Magical Maastricht playing host to ice skating on the Vrijthof, an array of Christmas market stalls, a grand carousel and even a Ferris wheel.
Offering an alternative to the outdoors, the Valkenburg Christmas Market takes the concept of the holiday market underground - literally. The caves and caverns under Cauberg make browsing the many stalls both cosy and festively enchanting.
Heading back up north, be sure to stop by Eindhoven and check out the Fijne Feestdagen Festival with its month-long programme that includes a variety of Christmas markets, carolling and musical performances, and extended shopping hours.
If you happen to be in Amsterdam and don’t want to journey too far, then hop on the train and stroll through the charming, stall-lined streets of Haarlem during the city’s popular Kerstmarkt or venture further south to the picturesque market taking place at Keukenhof Castle.
Holland’s more contemporary markets
The Netherlands has a rich market culture and this is no different during the holidays. When searching for that special gift, perfect accessory or winter pick-me-up, there are plenty of alternative shopping options.
Tired of the same old ornaments and gingerbread cookies? Then pay a visit to the special Christmas edition of Rotterdam’s Swan Market, where you can find a range of lifestyle goods including vintage fashion, affordable art and fair-trade food.
Putting a funkier twist on the holiday market, creative platform Sunday Market offers a variety of unique and handmade artistic and design-oriented products by resident entrepreneurs in Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek.
Also in Amsterdam, Roest’s Winter Warehouse brings a contemporary flavour to the market scene by serving homemade glühwein and oliebollen and to satisfy your taste buds while you browse the assortment of smartly priced, one-of-a-kind gifts made by locals.
Photo by Flickr user martin_vmorris
Photo by Flickr user Chris Friese
Beyond the "markt"
Too much shopping? Don’t fret! There are plenty of other winter and holiday-themed activities taking place alongside the markets.
Head to Deventer this December and flashback to the time of Charles Dickens during the annual Dickens Festival. Accompanying a 200-stall Christmas market, the Victorian era is re-enacted in grand style through a variety of famous characters (think Scrooge and Oliver Twist), top-hatted gentlemen, wealthy well-clad ladies and vagrant vagabonds.
Back west, The Hague has taken action against generic shop windows through TINK, an initiative that sees artists, creatives and entrepreneurs competing to produce the most fantastic window displays outside Madison Avenue.
Whether you’re pennywise or a spendthrift, jolly or more of a Scrooge, the holiday season in the Netherlands certainly has something for you.
So down some glühwein, sing a schlager and spread some yuletide cheer like the locals with a hearty "prettige feestdagen"!