The Christmas market tradition seems to have started in Germany and Austria and that area back in the 15th century. They can trace the Dresden markets to 1434. There are some markets that may be even older. They take place in the 4 or 5 weeks of Advent, before Christmas from late November through December.
They have become huge tourist attractions in recent decades and many countries now have them. While the goods can be somewhat expensive, you will also get lots of really well crafted items and can try foods that you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to try. The crowds at most of them can be very claustrophobic and you’d want to watch your wallets! You could even make a strong case for them being tourist traps, I suppose.
While in Manchester, U.K. recently, I managed to catch the opening weekend of their Christmas market. It started life as a German style market but has grown though much of it is still in that theme. There’s little wooden huts across several squares and streets with the Town Hall square being the main area. The crowds got to be a bit oppressive at one point so we made our escape but we saw quite a bit of it.
Someday I would like to visit some of the ones in Europe, like the Dresden one or maybe Vienna. There’s something about the old squares surrounding the markets that’s appealing. I have a friend that has just got back from a river cruise and stops along the way for the markets. I can’t wait to hear her stories and see her photos!