The first stirrings of the festive season are signaled in Luxembourg City by the flashing lights of cherry pickers and the buzz of power tools. In no time, giant gingerbread chalets mushroom to the sound of Christmas songs. The aroma of candied nuts knits with woodsmoke in the brisk, wintery air. Small children peer from beneath padded ski suits at the spinning carousel. Their parents eye accessories and trinkets for sale in the main square. Above the throng, bulbs in fiery colors trace shapes on the side of a giant Ferris wheel, the same lights reflected in the puddles at their feet – and all this before we’ve even reached December. Winterlights is here!
Luxembourg City’s handful of Christmas markets, part of the Winterlights Festival, are open daily from November 18th to January 1st and with the exception of rainy days, are the beating heart of wintertime fun in Luxembourg. Follow the St Nicolas parade down Avenue de la Liberté to the Niklosmaart. Take a spin on the big wheel at the Wantermaart (Winter Market) on Place de la Constitution, which goes as high as the Golden Lady statue and offers magnificent views of the Pétrusse valley. If heights aren’t your thing, ride the classic carousel in the same square. Potter around Lëtzebuerger Chrëschtmaart (Luxembourg Christmas Market) on the Place d’Armes and pose for photos in front of the dizzyingly tall Christmas tree before joining in the Christmas songs at the bandstand. The best time to visit is after dark, when sparkling whispers of light trailing between trees and buildings will endow you with the wide-eyed wonder of Christmas as a child.
Hearty food and hot seasonal drinks
Grab a bag of sweet chestnuts from the miniature train roaster and quickly shed their charred skins to release a steaming explosion of nutty sweetness. For drinks after work, the snack is often Gromperekichelcher, a trio of salty potato cakes served with apple purée. The recipe for Gromperekichelcher is unique to Luxembourg. Kniddelen is another rich, wintery dish popular at the market. These dumplings look a little like fries and are served with a creamy sauce and a generous smattering of bacon pieces. Most of the options for eating on the run are meaty: think grilled pork cutlets, wurst and burgers. Diners can also book a place in one of the indoor chalets to access a broader menu.
Each winter, the main outdoor bars issue a special edition mug in which they serve hot drinks. For the cost of the pfand (your deposit) you can take home your mug as a keepsake once you’ve have finished its contents.
Glühwein, a hot, spiced mulled wine, either red or white, warms the soul once the crumbs from your sizzling snack have been wiped from your lips. There’s no shortage of soft drinks, wine and beer; one inventive bar at the Wantermaart sells hot chocolate laced with rum, and a whole array of stronger tipples can be added to your mulled wine on extra cold (and merry!) evenings.