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Residents of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, regard the annual Christmas Market as a genuine highlight of their year. And, these delightful open-air markets, which set up in towns and cities in the weeks leading up to Christmas, are renowned throughout the world for their cosy and convivial atmosphere. Visitors can stroll from stall to stall and sample traditional Christmas goodies such as mulled wine and hot chestnuts or browse an array of Christmas gifts and festive handicrafts available for purchase.
Yet, even if you happen to be in the Netherlands this Christmas, you can still experience some Yuletide magic – whilst Christmas Markets are certainly less common in Holland, the concept has taken off in recent years and many Dutch cities now organise a local Christmas Market or winter festival of their own. Some of the most popular Dutch Christmas Markets and winter events include the celebrated Christmas Market in the Gemeentegrot in Valkenburg, the lovely Country & Christmas Fair at Castle de Haar in Haarzuilens and the charming Dickens Festival in the historic centre of Deventer.
However, if you want to fully immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit this year, then a visit to the vibrant Dutch city of Maastricht is an absolute must. For it’s here that the country’s largest winter event, “Magisch Maastricht” or Magical Maastricht, will take place. From 30th November to 1st January the city’s main square, the Vrijthof, will be transformed into a captivating “winter wonderland paradise”, complete with ice rink, carousel and Ferris wheel. There’ll also be a bustling Christmas market at the nearby Vrijthof pavilion, where shoppers can choose from a vast range of colourful Christmas decorations, candles and other seasonal merchandise or enjoy typical Dutch winter treats such as ‘oliebollen met poedersuiker’ (Dutch doughnuts with icing sugar), ‘glühwein’ (mulled wine) and ‘warme chocolademelk met slagroom’ (hot chocolate with whipped cream).
And it’s not only the Vrijthof that will take on the appearance of an enchanted winter scene – the streets and lanes that lead up to the square will be awash with glittering Christmas decorations and the trees that line Onze Lieve Vrouweplein are to be illuminated with 200 twinkling ‘mistletoe’ lights. Maastricht’s many theatres, cafes, squares and streets are to continue the festive theme by hosting a number of spectacular musical and theatrical performances, whilst the city’s museums will present a selection of ‘magical’ Christmas exhibitions. Furthermore, Maastricht’s famous shops and boutiques will benefit from extended opening hours throughout the entire Magisch Maastricht event – good news for those of you who plan to cram in a little Christmas shopping between all the fun and celebrations!
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Why not visit to our sister blog, heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad.