Festive fun: Christmas markets to visit in Romania this winter season
Europe’s Christmas markets are famous worldwide, and attract countless tourists each year. They also represent an unbroken link with the continent’s past. Below is a list of some of the most anticipated Christmas markets in Romania this year.
Essentially a German tradition, some of the earliest Christmas markets date as far back as the 15th century. The German city of Dresden first opened a Christmas market in 1434, while Nuremberg’s is estimated to have first taken place in 1530. Back then, religious feasts allowed scattered communities to gather and buy and sell goods and artisan crafts.
The Industrial Revolution in the early to mid-1800s greatly expanded the scope of such markets, as many more products were suddenly available to be purchased. Christmas markets, as a result, only got bigger as time passed. Nowadays, European cities compete for the title of Best Christmas Market, with Aachen, Brussels, Strasbourg, or Vienna vying for the first place each year.
In Romania, the tradition is much more recent. The first official Christmas market took place in Sibiu in 2007, and that is no coincidence, as the Transylvanian city contains Romania’s strongest links to the once-numerous group of ethnic Germans living in Romania. That year, Sibiu enjoyed the status of European Capital of Culture, and the Austrian Embassy in Romania was a partner of the local authorities in organizing the Christmas Market. More and more such markets appeared throughout the country, and have become an established tradition in many Romanian cities ever since.
Bucharest Christmas Market
Location: Constitutiei Square
Open: Nov 20 – Dec 26
Bucharest City Hall will set up a Christmas market this year through its cultural events organizations ARCUB, PROEDUS, and CREART. The market will take place between November 30 and December 26, ending on the second day of Christmas. Back in October, local authorities invited private companies to participate in the market and help ease costs. As a result, visitors are sure to find traditional products straight from farmers from all corners of Romania, but also handicrafts, sweet gingerbread, hot mulled wine, regional pies, cured meats, baked goods, and more. A large stage will also welcome the performances of Romania's top artists. More about it here.
Sector 6 – West Side Christmas Market
Location: Drumul Taberei Park
Open: Nov 25 – Dec 27
The capital’s districts are also going to organize smaller Christmas markets around the city. Sector 6 is opening its “West Side Christmas” market on November 25 in Drumul Taberei park. The contracted organizers, UNTOLD Universe, have the famous Untold and Neversea festivals under their belt and are set to create one of the biggest Christmas markets in Bucharest this year. A model of the market was made available online. A giant tree, and a matching Ferris wheel, Christmas lights, and a series of workshops for children and adults are set to warm the hearts of those who visit the market. Ten food trucks, along with plenty of hot mulled wine, a traditional Christmas drink, will ensure that tourists also taste the holiday cheer.
Timișoara Christmas Market
Location: Victory Square
Open: Dec 1 – Jan 2
Timișoara’s beautiful Victory Square will host this year’s Christmas market, which will begin on December 1, Romania’s national day, and end after the New Year, on January 2. The first concert to be held on the market's grounds will be on December 1, and will feature Romanian traditional music and the pop rock band Voltaj. Throughout the entire month of December, 50 Christmas stalls, the result of an architectural project by the Events for Tourism association, will enrich Timișoara’s central square. There will also be a skating rink and merry-go-rounds. Throughout the city, smaller, neighborhood Christmas markets will bring the holiday cheer to those unable to reach the main events.
Sibiu Christmas Market
Location: Main Square (Piața Mare)
Open: Nov 11 – Jan 2
A real trendsetter when it comes to Christmas markets, Sibiu will hold its 15th edition of the event in the city’s Main Square, which will be covered with shining Christmas lights. Santa’s workshop will welcome children once more, and a skating rink will also be set up. Hand-painted jewelry, Christmas mugs, and decorations, some brought over from Bethlehem, along with the finest local dishes featuring Angus beef and vegetarian burgers, will offer visitors an unforgettable experience. Finally, a Ferris wheel will take people above the market and its surroundings, allowing them to enjoy the sights. Organizers set up a webcam feed of the market so it can be enjoyed from afar as well.
Craiova Christmas Market
Location: Old Town & Mihai Viteazul Square
Open: Nov 11 – Jan 8
Craiova, in the south of Romania, is expecting over 100,000 visitors for the opening of its Christmas market. The date will coincide with The Artist Awards, during which Romanian musicians will receive awards for their art.
The fun is far from ending there, however. Last year, the travel website European Best Destinations ranked Craiova’s Christmas market among the top six most beautiful in Europe. This year, local authorities have dedicated an entire square kilometer to the event. Uniquely-painted Christmas stalls, polar bears, penguins, and other figures, not to mention over a million lights, will be spread over five squares to welcome all visitors. Children and adults alike will also be able to skate across a 700-meter rink. The star of the market, however, is a brightly-lit 20-meter Christmas tree. Despite the grandeur, local officials argue that measures will be taken to reduce the market’s consumption of electricity.
Cluj Christmas Market
Location: Unirii Square
Open: Nov 18 – Jan 31
Relaxation is the main theme of this year’s Cluj Christmas market. Organizers ask those who visit to forget their worries and join them for a month and a half of song, cheer, and stories in Cluj’s Unirii Square. Forty-five days of concerts will see beloved artists like Voltaj, Direcția 5, Alexandra Ușurelu, Iuliana Beregoi, Școala de Muzică Voltaj Academy, The Beat music school, and Armonia Music take to the stage. Santa’s trolley will travel Cluj’s 101 line during this period, while Santa’s house will welcome children through its doors. Santa’s letterbox, a Ferris wheel, a carousel, Radio Rudolf, storytelling by the fire, and as many as 86 Christmas stalls chockful with food and gifts are sure to warm the hearts of visitors to Cluj’s Christmas market this year.
Brașov Christmas Market
Location: Council Square
Open: November 30 – January 3
Brașov’s Christmas Market returns to its usual venue in the city’s Council Square as part of a wider program called The Magic of Winter. Besides the impressive Christmas tree and more than 40 stalls with various season items and products, visitors will be able to enjoy carol concerts, performances delivered by children, choirs, and music and dance schools. Santa Claus will meet the young ones every evening between December 17 and December 23, at Santa’s House. Elsewhere, the winter celebrations program also covers the reopening of the former Saxon bank (22 Michael Weiss), now the Apollonia Culture Bank, which is set to host various cultural events; a free-entrance ice rink in Sfântul Ioan Square; several Days of Giving (December 3,10,17) in Unirii Square, where visitors can donate toys and presents for children in need; and workshops teaching participants how to make Christmas decorations and presents in Titulescu Park. More about the program here.
Oradea Christmas Market
Location: Unirii Square
Open: Nov 26 – Dec 26
Oradea, in northwestern in Romania, will hold its Christmas market between Nov 26 and Dec 26. Visitors will be welcomed with goodies, sweets, Christmas decorations, and thousands of gifts, all under a ceiling of colorful Christmas lights. More information will follow on the Facebook page and the website of the event.
Constanța Christmas Market
Location: Oleg Danovski Park
Open: Nov 30 – Dec 25
The organizers of Constanța’s Christmas market boast that their event could warm up even Grinch’s heart to the wonders of the holiday season. Taking place between November 30 and December 25 in the Oleg Danovski Park, Constanța’s Christmas market will feature live music, train rides for children, a magic carousel, the traditional nativity scene, Christmas stalls, and the unmistakable Christmas lights. Dance crews and singers representing the region’s diverse ethnic groups will also take to the stage to put on their best performances for all visitors.
(Photo source: A previous edition of Brasov Christmas Market by Emicristea/ Dreamstime)