Warsaw Christmas market – what to expect
I’m one of those people who enjoys more the run-up to Christmas than the actual day itself. So, it’ll come as no surprise that I’m the first to suggest taking a Christmas market break. Since I’ve already done Vienna and Berlin, I decided to check out what was happening at the Warsaw Christmas market.
Warsaw, and Poland in general, tend to get overlooked during this period for more popular choices. The Polish celebrate Christmas just as much as their German and Czech neighbours, and it’s just as bright and dazzling. If you’re looking for a European Christmas market, that’s also surrounded by a remarkable history, you may just enjoy Warsaw.
Warsaw Christmas market location
The Warsaw Christmas market usually starts around the last week of November, but dates can vary. The official website isn’t much help, so plan to visit around late November just to be on the safe side. You can find the Christmas market in Castle Square, which is in the reconstructed Old Town. It also happens to be the location of many of Warsaw’s must-see attractions.
As you enter Castle Square (plac Zamkowy), you get a sense of how the former Warsaw used to be. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, Sigimund’s Column, dominates the skyline, overlooking the colourful townhouses below. The column commemorates King Sigismund III Vasa, the monarch who moved Poland’s capital from Kraków to Warsaw in 1596.
As the location name suggests, the rebuilt Warsaw Royal Castle is also in the square. If you visit during November, you’ll be happy to read that entry is free. I really recommend visiting, as they did an amazing job reconstructing the castle after the bombing by the Nazi Germans.
Arts and crafts gifts
Stocking fillers at every stall
What to expect at the Warsaw Christmas market?
On first impression, the Warsaw Christmas market resembles what you find in many European cities. Wooden hut-like stalls decorated in red and green, selling a wide variety of gifts and edible treats.
As you wander along, you’ll see everything from traditional hot Polish cheese pastries, to not so traditional Middle Eastern baklava. With temperatures hovering around -8/9 in the evenings, I highly recommend warming up with a mug of Gluwein. Spicy, rich and robust, it’s literally Christmas in a cup.
For bargain shoppers, the Warsaw Christmas market is ideal for stocking up on presents for friends and family. Probably truer if your currency is Pound Sterling, Euro or the US Dollar, but nonetheless, there are plenty of deals around. By the end of our trip, we’d taken 3 pairs of sheepskin-lined slippers, Christmas sweets, and festive decorations.
Baltic cheese stall
Cheesy Polish pastries
Not 1, but 2 Santas!
Old Town Market Place
If you haven’t yet frozen over, head to the Old Town Market Place (Rynek Starego Miasta). There are several stalls here selling festive food and drink, as well as an ice skating rink in the centre. Dating back to the 13th century, the area was the centre of Warsaw until the end of the 18th century.
Renaissance style buildings greet you upon arrival, its colors even more luminous in the sunlight. The town hall was once the meeting place of representatives of guilds and merchants, as well as city fairs.
While I recommend visiting during the day to fully appreciate the detail and architectural style, it’s much prettier at night. More people, both locals and foreigners, brave the cold to enjoy an outdoor beer, or grab something to eat.
“With temperatures hovering around -8/9 in the evenings, I highly recommend warming up with a mug of Gluwein. “
Church Christmas market
It’d be amiss for to me not to mention other stalls we came across near the Old Town. Before approaching Castle Square, you’ll pass a catholic church with a neoclassical design. There’s no English name for the church, and the Polish name’s tricky to pronounce (!) but you cannot miss it.
Inside the entrance to the church courtyard are a few market stalls also selling goods and products. If you decide to visit during this time, take advantage of the pure wool items for sale. Given the lower prices, we took a few pairs of alpaca wool and cashmere socks, and all for under £20 (€22/$25).
Plenty of sweet treats on offer
Old Town Market Place
Warsaw Christmas market – the verdict
As much as we enjoyed visiting the Warsaw Christmas market, truthfully speaking, it’s not as good as Prague or Vienna. It’s smaller, and lacks the energy of its larger counterparts.
On the plus side, there’s no-one pushing you out of the way, and you can take many uninterrupted photos! My recommendation is to add the Warsaw Christmas market as a side attraction, rather than base your trip around it. The city makes a great city break destination, and there’s enough to occupy a 3-day itinerary.
Warsaw Christmas market
Hotel options in Warsaw
For fellow boutique travelers, I can only suggest staying at H15 Boutique Hotel. This 5-star luxury boutique hotel in the heart of the city, offers excellent service, a mouthwatering breakfast and a spa.
To experience a boutique experience without the high cost, you’ll appreciate Sleepwell Apartments. It’s situated off the popular Nowy Świat street in Warsaw, offering affordable 4-star accommodation in stylish surroundings.
I cannot mention hotels in Warsaw without mentioning the gorgeous Raffles Europejski Warsaw. Taken under its wing by the Singaporean Raffles group, it’s truly a luxury hotel that satisfies its price tag.
What do you think of the Warsaw Christmas market? Would you be keen to visit? Leave me a comment below — I’d love to hear from you.m you.
Till next time, happy boutique travels x
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