Crossing Borders

This is my first Christmas season in Europe, and there is only one thing I’ve had on my mind: Christmas Markets.

So, after some extensive research on the best ones in the area and their opening dates, it was time to book. Now, the Netherlands didn’t seem to have many, so I knew a bit of traveling would be required. There was one place, or country, rather, that I knew I could trust: Germany.

Of course, many recommended the big city favourites, like Cologne, but I wanted my first time to be something a bit more charming. And, one city that continued to pop up, even among the more likely options, was Braunschweig.

To be honest I had never heard of the place! But, it was described as one of the most atmospheric Christmas markets in Germany, with elegant illuminations and a delightful atmosphere. So, I knew I had to investigate it myself.

Early Saturday morning, I woke up, threw a few things in a bag, and headed off to the train with my best travel companion, Sophie. We had a 6 hour journey ahead, but with a few snacks bagged up and a good book to read, it didn’t seem that daunting at all.

Unfortunately, however, a 15 minute delay on the first leg of our journey led to a missed connection and a 2.5 hour additional wait.

This wait came early on in Hilversum, a small Dutch town I knew nothing about. Determined to make the best of it, we darted out from the train station and made our way to the city centre.

hilversum

hilversum city centre

Just in time to catch the Saturday morning market.

hilversum market

hilversum market
Equipped with florals, Christmas trees, and fresh stroopwafels.

hilversum market

hilversum market

stroopwafel hilvesum

hilversum saturday market

The streets were similar to what I had begun to recognize as Dutch architecture, with cobblestone roadways and brick shops. And, not a single street was missing a holiday lamp or bulb.

hilversum

The morning chill was still in the air, and I figured this was as good of time as any to grab something to eat. My only goal for the weekend was to eat cake (and lots of it), so I figured hey, why not start now.

I meandered into a trendy looking shop, which thankfully let dogs inside too.

your koffie hilversum

apple cake

your koffie hilversum

your koffie hilversum

Sheltered from the cold, I ordered a chai latte and a slice of apple cake ( fresh from the oven). Piled high with chunks of apple and sprinkled with cinnamon, it was just what I needed.

apple cake

apple cake
The soft sounds of Jason Mraz played in the background, while I relaxed and settled into mini-vacation mode, easily passing the time and forgetting the stress that a delayed departure can create.

Eventually back on the train, we eased into Braunschweig just as the sun was setting.

I quickly checked into our hotel near the station, put on a change of clothes, and headed out to make the most of lost time.

The city of Braunschweig had graciously offered me a private tour, and I was happy to accept. The next two hours were full of town history, hidden spots, and an appreciation for what the city had become.  We walked through the old town, navigated through the crowd of the Christmas market, and wandered around the city hall and major churches. But, I’ll have more on that later.

braunschweig

braunchweig christmas time

braunchweig at night
braunschweig at night

braunschweig at night

By the end, I was absolutely starving and looking forward to a good meal.

Reservations were booked at Monkey Rose, in the Altsadt, and after checking out the menu, I was more than excited.

braunschweig monkey rose

The rustic, intimate interior set the mood for a delightful night of discussion with Braunschweig tourism, and it was just what I needed after a few weeks of solely dining at home.

Walking in, you pass between a curtain and a stone hallway, and feel as though you’re headed into a secret speakeasy for the night. The staff glides you to your table, where you’re seated with your guest among dim lighting and relaxing music.

The menu changes often, but you can check it out here.

We shared an antipasti and bread to start.

monkey rose antipasti

And then the ravioli with smoked duck breast, red cabbage, and mushrooms;

monkey rose ravioli

As well as a hearty portion of codfish, parsnip risotto, and pickled beetroot.

monkey rose entree

Each dish tasted even better than it looks, if that is possible. Cooked to perfection, hearty (perfect for the cold weather), yet also delicate with the pairing of ingredients. Definitely a gem in the city, and I highly recommend paying a visit if you’re in the area. Book a reservation first if you can.

I passed on dessert as I was actually quite full, and managed to make the Christmas market just before close.

braunschweig christmas market

braunschweig at christmas

braunschweig christmas market

braunschweig christmas marketThe twinkling lights of each stall, the illuminated structures, and the scent of mulled wine and fried treats was just as delightful and charming as I had expected. But, I’ll have more on that tomorrow. 

This post was in collaboration with Braunschweig tourism, who graciously sponsored my visit. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and I highly recommend a visit! I’ve since evaluated a few other markets, and something about this one is just splendid. 

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