Few destinations convey Yuletide cheer like the Baltic nations of Northern Europe. Their proximity to the Arctic, rich Christmas traditions, and old-world charms adorned with festive lights and bustling, gift-strewn markets converge to create an atmosphere that surprises and delights. PONANT is proud to unveil a brand-new 2024 holiday itinerary, Scandinavian Wonderland and Christmas Markets, aboard our luxurious Le Commandant Charcot. Here’s a round-up of the Christmas markets you’ll explore during this magical journey.

As a winter chill embraces the cities of the Baltic, the air is filled with the sweet scent of gingerbread, roasted almonds, and mulled wine, signaling the arrival of the most magical time of year. Across the region, the enchanting Christmas markets of Helsinki, Stockholm, Gdansk, Riga, and Tallinn light up with the joys of the season. We invite you to experience their unique blends of festive charm, cultural delights, and timeless traditions.

Helsinki, Finland: A Symphony of Lights and Lappish Flavors

Get yourself a warm cup of glögi, or hot Finnish mulled wine, and browse Helsinki's lovely Christmas market, situated in the heart of Senate Square. Illuminated by twinkling lights and overlooked by the spectacular neoclassical Helsinki Cathedral, the market feels torn from the pages of a fairy tale. Local artisans showcase their craftsmanship, a potpourri of traditional Finnish goods like hand-knit woolens, delicate ornaments, and glassware.

Don’t miss the traditional flavors on offer at Lappish food stalls, where the aroma of smoked salmon, reindeer stew, and Karelian pastries wafts through the air. Families gather for pikkujoulu (or “little Christmas”) parties, then come here to delight in the joyous sounds of Christmas carols and a visit from Santa Claus.

Stockholm, Sweden: Old Town Charm and Swedish Elegance

Stockholm's Christmas market, held in the historic Gamla Stan (Old Town), will transport you back in time. Cobblestone streets are lined with red stalls adorned with flickering candles, offering a selection of handcrafted Swedish ornaments, intricate wooden toys, and warming cups of glögg, the Swedish version of mulled wine. Be sure to also stop by the Marzipan Boat; this sweet ship docks in Stockholm every year to offer a buffet of handmade marzipan, chocolates, and other confections from a nearby family bakery.

Unique to Stockholm is the traditional Lucia procession, in which a young girl dressed in a white gown and bearing a crown of candles leads a choir through the market, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness. It’s a tradition that dates to the year 304, when Saint Lucy of Syracuse was executed after suggesting that riches be distributed among the poor.

Gdansk, Poland: Maritime Magic and Polish Warmth

Voted one of the Best Christmas Markets of 2023, Gdansk's holiday celebration winds its way through cobbled streets and scenic squares. Maritime charm meets Polish hospitality in this former Hanseatic city. Market stalls are adorned with intricate amber jewelry, hand-painted ceramics, decorative lace, and countless other traditional Polish handicrafts. The city's historic architecture, including the iconic gabled houses, provides a picturesque and historic backdrop.

Polish Christmas traditions come to life in Gdansk with the sharing of opłatek, a thin Christmas wafer symbolizing forgiveness and unity. As you stroll its magical streets, you can savor hearty Polish dishes like pierogi and oscypek (smoked sheep cheese) while enjoying the melodies of Polish carolers.

Riga, Latvia: Site of the First Christmas Tree

A festive tapestry of Latvian tradition, Riga's Christmas market unfolds in Dome Square, alongside Riga Cathedral in the stunning medieval Old Town. The UNESCO-listed architecture is draped in twinkling lights. The aroma of cinnamon and gingerbread cookies permeates the air. And local craftspeople showcase their skills, offering intricate handmade beeswax candles, wooden candlesticks, woolen wear, and silver and amber jewelry. You can also indulge in traditional Latvian cuisine, including gray peas with bacon and the delectable gingerbread cookies known as piparkūkas.

Meanwhile in Christmas Tree Square, a stone embedded in the cobblestone marks the location of Europe’s very first community Christmas tree. This legend traces its roots to 1510 when a guild of professional merchants erected a fir tree here, decorated it with paper flowers, and sang and danced around it.

Tallinn, Estonia: Medieval Romance and Estonian Delights

Like its counterparts throughout the Baltic, Tallinn's Christmas market exudes a fairy tale ambience pulled right from a storybook. The cobbled streets of the medieval Old Town are adorned with festive lights and Town Hall Square is filled with wooden stalls offering handmade Estonian crafts, woolen mittens, and fragrant gingerbread. Not to be outdone by Riga, Tallinn also claims to have hosted the first community Christmas tree; residents will tell you that it has been set up in Town Hall Square since 1441. It’s a tradition that is still followed today.

You’ll join the Estonians who gather here to enjoy the warmth of bonfires and taste traditional black pudding, sour cabbage, and gingerbread. Each year, families participate in the age-old custom of küünlapäev, the Day of Candles, by lighting candles to symbolize hope and light in the darkest time of the year.

Join PONANT for a Baltic Christmas in 2024

The Christmas markets of Helsinki, Stockholm, Gdansk, Riga, and Tallinn are much more than festive gatherings. As a whole, they offer intimate glimpses of Baltic cultures at their festive best. Each market weaves its own enchanting story, inviting you to immerse yourself in the magic of the season while embracing the timeless traditions that make the holidays truly special in this corner of the world.

It’s never too early to plan for the 2024 holiday season. Reserve our new Scandinavian Wonderland and Christmas Markets journey now.