What is it about vendors selling local wares from huts clustered together in a central square that is so appealing? Is it the twinkling lights that are draped on the trees? The sound of music that fills the air? The chill that is warmed by wood-burning fires? Maybe it’s the mulled wine that amplifies the festive atmosphere. I think, however, it is the quaintness of the markets that I find most enjoyable. Friends and families come together in an age-old tradition under the soft glow of lights to stroll the lanes, peruse the merchandise – and sip warm gluhwein.
Housesitting for the holidays in Nijmegen, Netherlands, we anticipated there being an opportunity to visit at least one festive market to revel in the Christmas atmosphere. We overachieved by visiting three Christmas Markets near Nijmegen: Klever Weihnachtsmarkt, Beek Kerstmarkt and Kerst op de Grote Markt Nijmegen. Each market, while essentially quite similar, displayed unique elements.
Christmas Markets near Nijmegen: Klever Weihnachtsmarkt
Being close to the German border has its advantages; one being that it is just a half hour bus ride to Kleve, Germany, which hosts a traditional German Christmas market. In addition to the handmade crafts for sale from wooden huts, there was a large stage, a small petting zoo and many booths selling local fare.
The foot-long bratwursts, sautéed mushrooms and reibekuchen (potato pancakes) were all a big hit – but the booths selling gluhwein (spiced, mulled wine) with a dash of rum appeared to be the most popular with the crowds.
Christmas Markets near Nijmegen: Beek Kerstmarkt
The small village of Beek, where we are staying, is basically a suburb to Nijmegen. The population of 3,500 live in red brick homes that fan out from the center where there is a grocery store, butchery, bakery, pharmacy and a post office. When we saw signs for the local Christmas Market, we weren’t going to miss it.
Tables under tents, rather than wooden huts, surrounded the perimeter of a small parking lot and a round bar was set up in the center. A band played from the stage at the far end – until it was time for raffle prizes when Santa and his helpers would take the mic. The food options – slow-cooked chicken satay and salmon with cucumber salad – were not particularly traditional, but definitely delicious.
And, of course, it paired well with the gluhwein. The market was a small, but festive affair – as the evening progressed and the bar got busier, even Santa hit the dance floor.
Christmas Markets near Nijmegen: Kerst op de Grote Markt Nijmegen
Of the three markets we attended, the one in Nijmegen’s central square, Grote Markt, was by far the most picturesque. Surrounded by historic buildings under the glow of the church bell tower, wooden huts clustered together around a giant Christmas tree. The gluhwein was hot and the stroopwafels (caramel and wafer cookies) were warm. A small fire was burning in a wood stove and a woman played holiday tunes on a piano.
Unfortunately, it was awkwardly vacant of crowds. We arrived in the late afternoon and encountered bored vendors and a dark stage; perhaps our timing was just off. There was plenty of holiday spirit in the air – just no one there enjoying it.
We want to know: Have you visited Christmas Markets near Nijmegen? What kind of Christmas Markets get you in the holiday spirit? Tell us in the comments!