The best Christmas markets in Europe
When you are looking for the best Christmas markets in Europe you will usually see the big Christmas markets in European cities like Nuremberg, Dresden, Lübeck, Strasbourg, London, Vienna, etc. highlighted. In Denmark the Christmas market in the Tivoli Gardens amusement park in Copenhagen is famous – and sometimes you will also see the Christmas market in Den Gamle By in Aarhus (The Old Town Museum) and the Hans Christian Andersen Christmas Market in Odense mentioned .
Why the old town Ribe is special and worth a visit for a Christmas break
But in this blog post we will tell you why the old town Ribe is special and worth a visit for a Christmas break through the festive season – though Ribe is a smaller town on the west coast of Denmark situated by the Wadden Sea National Park – now UNESCO World Heritage.
Christmastime is magical in this old town
When Christmastime comes around Ribe, the town takes advantage of being the best preserved town in Denmark and according to the Danish Agency for Culture it is also the best preserved Medieval town in Denmark.
Year round, Ribe exudes charm from every corner, but during Christmastime, it is even more magical. On a stroll through the historic town centre you will undoubtedly enjoy the beauty of the old and well-preserved houses and the narrow streets and alleys paved with cobblestones.
Ribe is Denmark’s oldest town – but also the oldest town in all of Scandinavia
Ribe has been an international market town since the Viking Ages. Ribe is Denmark’s oldest town – but also the oldest town in all of Scandinavia. While you soak up the ambience of the old town, you will probably notice that Ribe is not a museum like the Old Town in Aarhus (Den Gamle By i Aarhus). The houses are lived in and the love and care the citizens show their town is unmistakable, when you see the well-maintained houses and streets.
Join us for a self-guided town walk in the old town: Town Walk
Peter’s Christmas in Ribe (Peters Jul i Ribe)
“I feel the joy at this time of the year,
when the white Christmas snow is falling down,
then I know it’s Christmas time.
My father goes out every day,
and when he comes home, I stand
looking at his big pockets.”
Christmastime in Ribe is named “Peter’s Christmas in Ribe” (Peters Jul i Ribe). The name comes from one of the best known Christmas stories for children in Denmark through the last 150 years “Peters Jul” written by Johan Krohn in 1866. The author is supposed to have had family in Ribe and have had celebrated a Christmas here.
Peter’s father will guide you through Christmas Ribe on the 4 Saturdays before Christmas.
A vibrant town centre all the year round
While shops and stores in many town centres close down facing serious challenges from out-of-town shopping centres and the growth of online shopping, Ribe has managed to keep its town centre vibrant by adapting to meet the changing demands of the customers’ shopping habits.
This, along with the ancient medieval architecture of the town draws many people from the surrounding area to shop here on a regular basis.
Sustainability and development go together
Ribe town square and most of the town centre has been pedestrianized and beautifully paved. Restrictions on shop signs and street displays help to make the beautiful old town centre more authentic. The shops go very well together with the historic environment and make it attractive for both residents and tourists to go shopping or just walk around.
Lovely places to meet and socialize
A successful mixture of specialty shops, clothes shops, galleries, jewellery stores, gift shops, barbers, restaurants and cafes treat you with the ultimate shopping experience in the heart of Ribe town centre. Most of the shops are independent shops – very few are shop chains.
Cafes and restaurants in the high street and at the town square are great places to meet and socialize while enjoying a cup of coffee or a pint of beer in pleasant surroundings – in summertime outside and in wintertime inside.
This old grocer’s shop smells like Christmas
Parmo Pedersen’s old grocer’s shop in Ribe town centre smells like Christmas. You will probably be tempted by the smell of all sorts of Christmas spices that meet you when you step inside, simply because in this old shop you can still purchase spices by the weight. You can also buy good old-fashioned sweets, Parmo’s home-made and famous fruits in port wine, and local produced Danish butter cookies in cake tins.
Norse Vikings and Christian Danes in Ribe
Ribe town centre is built around the town square where Ribe Cathedral towers above the town. At the same place the first Christian church in Denmark was built around 855 and the norse Vikings in Ribe were the first in Denmark to be Christianized. Ribe Cathedral is one of Denmark’s biggest attractions and like Ribe town it has been awarded 2 stars in the Michelin Guide for Attractions.
Ribe Cathedral seen from one of the parks
Ribe Cathedral can be seen from everywhere in the town. This photo is from one of the many parks in town and was used as Ribe’s Christmas card of the year a few years ago.
Ribe Cathedral seen from the hostel
Stay in one of Danhostel Ribe’s top-floor rooms and you will see Ribe at its most dazzling when the town switches on its Christmas lights.
See the hostel’s Christmas short break offers.
Hostel room with a sea view
With a dusting of snow, Ribe looks like a Christmas card, but sometimes you will get “sea view” from the hostel instead. In the background you see Danhostel Ribe last December with a view of a flooded meadow. This meadow is now part of the Wadden Sea National Park as the only part of Ribe Town, but during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance decapitated pirates, had their heads put on stake here.
(“Sea view” is often the hostel’s winter view, see: Storm surges)
Ribe citizens are very dedicated and active
Ribe has a long tradition of citizens with a strong sense of community. Tourism, trade, cultural, and natural institutions have been working together in an exemplary manner for many years, and dedicated and active citizens full of ideas think up many different ways to give the town a year-round bustling energy to the great delight of residents as well as tourists.
Street theatre on Advent Sundays
On the four Sundays of Advent children and adults from the local amateur theatre group DRAKOMIR will romp about in town making fun and performing Peter’s Christmas street theatre.
Christmas music and Christmas carols
E.g. this year the second Saturday in December Denmark’s biggest choir sings Christmas carols at Ribe town square, Ribe Chamber Choir sings in Ribe Cathedral and Esbjerg Railway Orchestra plays Christmas music in the streets.
Moped gang in Santa disguise
Maybe you will also meet a moped gang in Santa disguise in town. Usually mopeds and teenage boys go hand-in-hand, but the gang in Ribe consists of adult moped enthusiasts, who all drive old mopeds from when electric starters and cheap plastic parts were unknown to true moped owners.
Christmas markets and Christmas shopping
Tune into the Christmas Spirit the four weekends before Christmas. The town is full of life and the Christmas shopping is done in shops, at Christmas markets in town, and at small Christmas booths around town where citizens will sell handicraft, home-made Christmas cakes, Christmas gnomes, etc.
Enjoy Christmastime with all your senses
But even though you are not a big spender there is so much to watch and enjoy if you have an interest for adventure, culture, and good food
Christmas market in the old grocery store
An event that has proved very popular at Christmastime is the Christmas market at the old grocery store Quedens Gaard the 1st weekend of December every year. This is a market that all ages enjoy, here you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
High spirits at the Christmas market
and you will often be met with smiles like these.
Share a honey heart (honninghjerte)
Honey hearts or gingerbread hearts (Danish: Honninghjerter) are very popular in Denmark at Christmastime. Why not share a heart with the one you love? The words “Glædelig Jul” mean “Merry Christmas” – this honey heart was bought at the Christmas Market at Quedens Gaard, but you can also buy honey hearts from the bakers and supermarkets in town. They are usually covered with chocolate and has a Santa sticker.
Christmas food and drink
Gode Råd (Good Advice) is a thin and crunchy Christmas biscuit – more like a waffle. It was typically served at Christmas in South Jutland, but now is not very common anymore. Even though it is biscuit it has the size of a dessert plate and is made in a special waffle iron.
An obvious choice when you are out and about on a cold day would be warm and sweet æbleskiver (Christmas Dumplings) and a warming glass of Gløgg (mulled wine) containing raisins and almonds. It is served in many of the cafes and restaurants in Ribe. Another warm drink is the German Glühwein.
The best Christmas beer
Christmas beer is brewed and you can taste it at the Christmas Market in Quedens Gaard the first weekend of December. The second weekend you can taste and vote for the best Christmas beer of the year “Årets Emil” at the Old Town Hall in Ribe (Det gamle Rådhus).
And beer lovers don’t forget that every Saturday year round you can visit the micro-brewery Ribe Brewery. It is open from 10am to 2pm.
In Ribe Santa Claus sleeps in a hotel
Santa Claus is everywhere in town and everybody knows him. Johannes was Santa Claus in Ribe the last 29 years. He has a chat with all of us, and hands out candy to all ages in Ribe in December – but off course mostly to the children.
Friday 4 weeks before Christmas children in Ribe wake up Santa Claus. In Ribe we don’t believe that Santa arrives from the North Pole, we know that he sleeps in Denmark’s oldest hotel, the Dagmar, next to the tourist office. The children shouts as loud as they can to wake him up – and when he comes out the door, he hands out candy generously and takes care that the lights of the huge Christmas tree on the town square are switched on (photo at the top). At the same time you can enjoy Christmas music, a cup of warm cocoa and a biscuit.
Christmas events within walking distance
Maybe a child gets a little tired and need to be carried on her father’s shoulders, but actually all the places, streets and Christmas events mentioned in this blog post can be reached within a (slow) 5 minutes walk from the hostel.
The importance of Ribe’s historical heritage
Ribe is Denmark’s oldest town, and the recognition of the value of Ribe’s historical heritage, and the way it has been implemented in a far-sighted urban planning and sustainable strategy, has probably also made it the most beautiful.
Ribe’s awards the last 2 years
No wonder Ribe was awarded with a lot of prizes:
- 2014. Europe’s Best Big-Time Small Destination 2014. Global Grasshopper and hotel.info
- 2014. Mentioned as “The jewel in Jutland’s Viking crown” in Lonely Planet’s Best in Europe Top Ten – Viking Denmark
- 2014. Denmark’s best coastal destination (10.000 tourists in 31 coastal cities and towns were asked)
- 2015. Denmark Local Favorite 2015 by The Culture Trip:
— The Culture Trip (@CultureTrip) 27. oktober 2015
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
from Ribe’s Santa Claus, Johannes and the hostel host, Jens Philipsen
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
(Yoko Ono and John Lennon)
Glædelig jul – Frohe Weihnachten – Feliz Navidad
Go social with Danhostel Ribe
– and don’t forget to book your room in Ribe
at Danhostel Ribe, the hostel in Ribe. Read more about the hostel on our homepage (this is our blog): Danhostel Ribe
All rooms have bath/toilets and half of them have a view of Ribe old town and the Wadden Sea National Park
© Hope you have enjoyed our photos.
All photos were taken by Gudrun Rishede, Danhostel Ribe