Best Christmas fairs for ecofriendly travelers

‘Tis the season to be jolly…and to travel! The weeks before Christmas are one of the best times to visit Europe. Not only it’s low travel season (cheaper, less crowded …), but cities, towns and villages, all get in the season’s festive mood with ornate light decorations, special events and local crafts markets.

In recent years, Christmas fairs have been especially attracting increasing numbers of visitors looking for original and sustainable presents for the Holidays. These festive markets feature stalls with traditional gifts made by local craftspeople or small business, and they also offer local delights such as steaming mulled wine, and typical Christmas treats to the the weary traveler/shopper. Singing choirs, holiday plays, winter art exhibitions and fun fair rides complete the experience. Read on to discover some of the best Christmas fair in beautiful historic cities, and of course the local eco-friendly hotel to stay in.

Let the festivities begin!

Bruges Christmas Fair Market

Bruges, Belgium

In this medieval Flemish city, the Midwinter Festival brings holiday cheer with its Christmas market filled with traditional gifts, snacks like waffles with luscious Belgian chocolate, and sweet and tasty hot chocolate or jenever, a gin-like spirit. Also, check out master florists and their display of beautiful Christmas floral arrangements.

To complete your experience head over to the Adornesdomein, an authentic medieval estate in the heart of Bruges where you can hear Christmas songs in the chapel. For a more contemporary season’s mood, check out the first-ever digital ice museum at the Ice Sculpture Festival where video projections light up 60 sculptures, all over four meters (12 feet) high.

Photo credit: visitbruges.com
Where to stay

A perfect place to plan your city wanderings is the Relais & Chateaux Hotel Heritage Brugge. Built in 1869, the hotel has an old-world feel with ornate rooms, a sundeck with city views on the top floor, and a fitness room with stone arches. Below the building, part of a 13th century cellar has been preserved and their sauna and steam bath room are fantastic for relaxing after visiting the holiday sites of the city!

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Salzburg, Austria

Spending the holiday season in Salzburg is like walking into a fairy tale! The tradition of Christmas markets in Mozart’s hometown dates back to 1491 , so  they definitely know what they are doing.

Wander through the market stalls selling sweets, toys, and warm sweaters amidst the smells of baked apple, gingerbread, and to warm up your body and spirit a cup of mulled wine (glühwein) is never far.

Also part of the holiday season in Salzburg are the “Perchten” processions.  According to folk tradition, there are plenty of ghosts and demons going around during the long, cold nights of December. In order to scare them away, people dress up in frightening wooden masks of animals like bears, wolves, or eagles all with enormous fangs, tusks, and horns. It’s a good thing that they’re adorned with bells to announce their arrival!

Where to stay

Stay ecofriendly and in the season’s mood at the Hotel + Villa Auersperg. Located in downtown Salzburg, this boutique hotel features readings of Christmas stories in a festive atmosphere with homemade vanilla crescent cookies and warm punch for the guests throughout the month of December.

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For more info on Christmas events in Salzburg: https://www.salzburg.info/en/salzburg/advent

Christmas market in Ljubljana

Ljubljana, Slovenia

In Ljubljana, one of the greenest city in Europe, the highlight of the holiday season is the Christmas Market along with “The Land of Ice.” Set in a huge hall cooled to -4 degrees Celsius (24 Fahrenheit), fairy tale images made from ice and snow are on exhibition. The city’s Zvezda Park is transformed into a Magic Forest with twinkling lights and workshops for making environmentally friendly Christmas decorations. There’s also a huge “Ice Fantasy” rink. But there’s even more!

Ljubjana winter installation
photo credit: visitljubjana.com

For over 15 years Ljubljana-based artist Zmago Modic has put together an imaginative light display elegantly incorporated into the city’s holiday lights. This year’s theme, “Convergence,” symbolizes the desire for existence and was inspired by the famous touch depicted in Michelangelo’s fresco, Creation of Adam.

Where to stay

Stay green in Ljubljana at the Hotel Park Urban & Green, which boasts views of the old city center and is close to the historic center with all its attractions; if you arrive by train you can also get a nice 15% eco discount.

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See the calendar of events: https://www.visitljubljana.com/en/visitors/december-in-ljubljana/

Prague in winter

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague’s Christmas markets are considered among the best in Europe. The Old Town Square Christmas market (Staroměstské náměstí) is one the prettiest in Prague. Here, little stalls are nestled amidst centuries old Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings. Traditional Czech Christmas ornaments, roasted chestnuts, and Christmas cookies, are all for sale. Be sure to sip some hot wine or warm honey liquor (medovina) while you search for Czech Christmas potpourri (purpura).

In addition to Christmas Markets, this year is the first for the Manifesto Winter Market. Listen to carolers and DJs while you stroll the stalls with a selection of artisanal local products. Pick out a cozy, heated igloo with a fireplace ready for the roasting of sausages and marshmallows.

photo credit: Manifesto.city
Where to Stay

Close to the Wenceslas Square Christmas Market is Hotel Adria, one of Prague’s historic hotels, which has been renovated to offer modern comforts and implement sustainable operations. Its stalactite-decorated Triton restaurant has to be seen to be believed!

For millennials and hipsters the choice in Prague, Mosaic House, whose motto “Happiness, kindness and empathy, combined with eco-initiatives and sustainability” is also perfectly in tune with the holidays spirit!

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For more info: https://www.prague.eu/en/events

Copenhagen Christmas market

Copenhagen, Denmark

Every year, Tivoli Gardens amusement park and arts center transforms itself in a winter wonderland of wooden chalets, twinkling lights, shows, gifts and local delicacies. Follow the aroma of caramelized almonds and Danish donuts through sixty stalls selling holiday sweaters, leather gloves, sheepskin throws, and much more. The Pantomime Theater also hosts the local Father Christmas grotto for the joy of all the children.

Christmas Trainsbury at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
photo credit: tivoligardens.com

Stop at Trainsbury Station to take a magical journey through Christmas land in tinsel-trimmed train cars. New this year is a spectacular projection show on the façade of Tivoli Concert Hall. Enter the hall to see the ballet classic, The Nutcracker. Denmark’s Queen Margrethe herself came up with the set design and costumes for the production.

where to stay

Close to Tivoli Gardens, and conveniently located to reach all the city’s main attractions by public transport, is the ecofriendly Hotel Alexandra. Filled with Danish mid-century vintage furniture and decorated with period textiles and wallpaper, it’s a time bubble of Danish design but with all the contemporary sustainable policies in place.

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Discover all holiday season’s events at: Visit Copenhagen

Green Travel Gear: 12 essential items 

Choosing sustainable hotels and transportation are important factors to travel in an environmentally friendly way, however, the choices made when packing have also consequences on the environment. Here are a few essential items to bring along to make sure your travel will leave the smallest carbon foot-print as possible. 

Let’s start from the suitcase, an essential companion especially for all those trips that last more than a weekend. The international brand Samsonite has added the Eco-Nu line to include sustainably produced luggage. All fabrics, including the lining, are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Sizes include carry-on, 19″, 20″, 25″. Sturdy and yet lightweight, this eco-friendly case has many compartments and can be expanded if needed, while the 360-spinner wheels make it easy to move around.   

Eco backpack from recycled PET

Not just for hiking, a good backpack is also a must on any trip. It is the best way to carry safely all the items that might be needed along the road or at the destination without encumbering movement and pace. The stylish  EcoGear Ocean Recycled PET Backpack is ideal for light packing, but for something larger or more technical the go-to brand is definitely Patagonia with its great range of backpacks specifically designed for gender and sport.  

To pack or not to pack? After we have our bags figured out, it’s time to think about what to put in them. Clothes are always a crucial dilemma when preparing for a trip. Apart from keeping in mind travel plans and climate conditions at the destination, one doesn’t want to be caught unprepared by events, for example what if you get invited to a local wedding reception? Or to go sailing with the locals? The best solution to be ready for all occasions and yet travel reasonably light is to put in your suitcase well-made, comfortable garments that can be easily styled according to the function and occasion. Nau’s travel collection offers some great easy-to-wear pieces made with organic and/or recycled fibers, this way nothing will be able to catch you off-guard in terms of fashion! 

Nau ecofriendly travel apparel
Sustainable sneakers for travel

No matter how you travel, wearing the right pair of shoes definitely makes a difference during any trip, well …. anytime really. Go for a bold style statement while traveling in comfort with the colorful sneakers by Inkkas. Not only are they are crafted respecting the environment by Peruvian artisans, but also for each pair of shoes purchased one tree is planted.  

For more technical hiking or mountain shoes look no further than La Sportiva, available at all major hiking gear retailers. Since 1928, these Italian shoemakers have been crafting exceptional quality boots, while respecting the environment of their original location in the Alps. They have now extended this philosophy throughout their supply chain with the eco-sustainable certification ISO 14001. 

Eco hiking boots by La Sportiva
GoToob eco-friendly travel tubes for food and toiletries

Carrying full size toiletries bottles is not always the best solution when traveling. On the other hand, the travel size option is not very environmentally friendly and not suitable for trips longer than a handful of days. To stash your favorite eco-friendly shampoo, conditioner or any liquid, creamy concoction, Go Toob offers travel bottles in several colors and sizes. Food-safe (FDA approved), and 100% BPA and PC-free. They are reusable and even have an area to write what’s inside, this way there is no risk of confusing shampoo and lotion or baby food and face mask!  

Looking for some cool shades that are ecofriendly and won’t break the bank? Zeal Optics and Blue Planet Eyewear are two brands that manufacture their products using plant derived materials rather than plastic. Zeal Optics specializes in polarized sunglasses designed mainly for the sporty/surfer types. Blue Planet Eyewear offers more trendy shapes, also available for children, and with every purchase they donate a pair of glasses to someone in need through their Visualize Change program. 

Blue Planet eco fashion shades
LifeStraw eco water battle with filter

Wherever you go, a water bottle should always be in your bag, and in this category there really is a plethora of options. LifeStraw bottles stand out because not only are they BPA free and incorporate a water filter that eliminates almost 100% of waterborne bacteria, but for each bottle purchased, LifeStraw provides a child in a developing country safe drinking water for an entire year.  

Another item that is always handy to have when traveling is a personal towel. And when it comes to eco-friendly towels, thanks to Nomadix it doesn’t need to be a boring monochromatic business. Their top of the line reversible towels are available in a variety of colorful patterns and prints. They can be used for yoga (they are slip resistant), at the beach or as a picnic blanket. All Nomadix towels are made from 100% recycled materials. 

Anker portable solar recharger

While on the go, the last thing we want is to have our devices run out of battery power, after all sharing our adventures is now an integral part of the experience. To make sure that this doesn’t happen, a solar recharger is just the nifty gadget to bring along. The Anker 21W Dual USB Solar Charger is one of the most popular choices on Amazon. It can charge two devices simultaneously and it is weather resistant. Since weather conditions and battery status might not coincide, get it with a portable power bank that will always be ready to juice up your phone when needed. 

Didn’t all this talking about travel gear, put you in the mood for more green travel? Check out the latest offers and destinations on Wayaj app on the App Store and Google Play, and book your next earth-friendly adventure!