Advent is probably the most anticipated and best loved period of the year: the cities, as well as the houses, dress up for the party with lights, decorations, and sweet traditional melodies.
In the mountains, Christmas takes on an almost magical aura, with the blanket of snow that covers the roofs of the houses and the woods enveloping all in a placid stillness. The fairytale setting of the Christmas markets attracts tourists from far and wide: the wooden houses in the shadow of the frozen mountains seem to have popped straight out of a storybook and everyone should see them at least once in their lifetime.
The delightful Christmas market in Cortina d’Ampezzo, for example, at least temporarily replaces the worldly patina that usually characterises this charming town. The other markets in nearby Val Pusteria and Cadore are set amid splendid landscape scenes, giving visitors the chance to while away a few carefree hours among the sweets, toys and romantic decorations.
A number of dedicated transport companies mean you can reach these areas easily and in comfort without having to use your car.
Cortina d’Ampezzo Christmas market
Cortina d’Ampezzo, known as “the pearl of the Dolomites”, is located in the Alta Valle del Bove and the picturesque old town is set between peaks topping 3000 metres, from Tofane to Nuvolau, from Sorapìss to Monte Cristallo and to the Three Peaks of Lavaredo.
The Dolomiti Superski area makes it a popular winter destination for ski enthusiasts, while other attractions include the Minor Basilica with its towering Gothic bell tower, the Ethnological Museum with fossil remains from 230 million years ago, the Museum of Modern Art, and Corso Italia, where the Christmas market takes place every year.
The typical chalet-like wooden huts display toys, scented candles, wooden objects, Christmas decorations and gastronomic delicacies, including the unmissable mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.
The beginning of the Cortina Christmas market coincides with the opening of the Advent Calendar display on the facade of the historic former Town Hall building: each day, to the rhythm of music, a window is opened revealing an art installation with a strictly Christmas theme to young and old.
The feast of St. Nicholas takes place on 5 and 6 December, which sees the Saint parade among angels and the diabolical Krampus through the streets of Cortina d’Ampezzo on the way to the Averau Refuge, where a panoramic terrace offers the most beautiful view of Marmolada, Tofana di Rozes and Monte Civetta.
Cortina is located just 68 km from Belluno where characteristic wooden market stalls in the central Piazza dei Martiri are set out at Christmas to exhibit handicrafts in an atmosphere of song and folklore.
The same happens in Auronzo di Cadore, with the market in Piazza Santa Giustina located on the shore of Lake Santa Caterina.
Other Christmas markets in the area
The village of Pieve di Cadore, located 31 km from Cortina at the foot of Monte Antelao, is also reachable by the local transport network. The village is the birthplace of the painter Tiziano Vecellio, whose house and pinewood room are now open to visitors.
The Christmas market in Pieve di Cadore is held in Piazza Tiziano, right in front of Palazzo della Magnifica Comunità del Cadore, which dates back to the 16th century. The small number of wooden houses, which display handicrafts and typical products such as malga cheeses, create a cozy atmosphere in Pieve di Cadore during the Advent period. There is also a letter box, where the smaller visitors can send all their wishes directly to the North Pole.
Also not to be missed is the Brunico market, in Val Pusteria, only 58 km from Cortina: in the shadow of the Plan de Corones, the wooden chalets in Via Ragen di Sopra captivate visitors with fragrant delicacies such as mulled wine, hot chocolate, gingerbread and zelten. Christmas melodies, decorations and lights cover every street of Brunico, picturesque with houses with frescoed facades, delightfully embroidered roofs, and old wrought iron signs. The town is also known for the opening of the Advent Calendar, the ice-skating rink, and the nativity scenes both at the Tschurtschenthaler Park and the Ursuline Convent.
Braies, in the heart of the “Fanes Senes Braies National Park”, offers one of the most evocative Christmas markets: the lake, which in summer is emerald green like the surrounding vegetation it reflects, freezes in winter and can even be crossed with a romantic horse-drawn sleigh.
The small wooden market huts are placed around the lake, with a central fire to warm the atmosphere; there is also plenty of traditional live music concerts as well as animals such as donkeys, sheep, and goats, as docile as the spirit of Christmas.