9 European Shops That Create Stunning Handmade Christmas Decorations

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Decorating the Christmas tree is one of the great joys of the season. Many ornaments are treasured and have belonged to the same family for generations. They have become heirlooms. When the tree is felled, they are wrapped in tissue paper and stored in the attic until the following year. But, even if you don’t have such precious pieces, there are many craft shops in several European countries that make fabulous ornaments, such as colored glass balls, carved wooden angels, dressed Santas velvet. and, of course, for the treetops, twinkling spikes and angels blowing their trumpets. Imagination and creativity know no bounds. The traditional red wax candles have been replaced by electric lamps for safety reasons. From Germany to Poland, from Italy to Bohemia, we show you a treasure trove of shops that create or sell these little handcrafted works of art. Note that some also offer the possibility of buying online.

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1. Toni Baur

Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany

Oberammergau is a small town near Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps. The town, in a valley and on the banks of the Ammer River, is famous for three things: the passion games, its expertly decorated houses with frescoes depicting rural and religious scenes, and the tradition of woodcarving. Around Christmas it often snows, turning the city into a winter wonderland, so it’s well worth making the trip from Munich (1.5 hours along the A95) to buy your fabulous homemade Christmas decorations .

About 60 artists work in their woodcarving workshops, so you’re spoiled for choice. One of the best known is Toni Baur. His business has been around for over 40 years and the focus at Christmas is on nativity scenes to place under your tree and a wide variety of angels to hang from the branches of your tree. At that time, a special room in his shop was devoted to nativity scenes and angels. If you buy something here, you are getting a work of art that will be treasured in your family for many years to come.

Kathe Wohlfahrt store in Germany
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2. Kathe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas shop

Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a town near Ansbach in Bavaria. It is world famous for its well-preserved medieval old town and considered one of the most romantic cities in Germany. In one of the old houses you will find Kathe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas shop, where you can browse the largest selection of Christmas decorations from around the world. You will be overwhelmed with the choice. Ornaments made in Germany come from Oberammergau (see above) and the Erzgebirge. You will also find baubles, mouth blown in Bohemia, of all colors as well as Santa Clauses, angels and whatever else you can imagine hanging on your Christmas tree. Best of all, the shop is open year-round, so you can plan to visit scenic Rothenburg in the summer and buy your Christmas decoration to take home.

Christmas market in Schwabach, Bavaria
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3. Elfi and Otto Ziegler

Schwabach, Bavaria, Germany

Schwabach is a town near Nuremberg in Bavaria. It has a long tradition of gold leaf craftsmanship. If you want to buy a very special and rare Christmas decoration, you will have to go here and visit the workshop of Elfi and Otto Ziegler at Sieben Morgen in Schwabach. They are two of only 12 artists who know the art of making the original Rauschgoldengel, which roughly translates to “tinsel angels,” but they are so much more than that. Traditional angels have long pleated gold leaf skirts, golden crowns, glittering bodices and, instead of arms, golden wings that reach to the hem of their skirts. If not in Schwabach, you can buy Rauschgoldengel at the Nuremberg Christmas market. In fact, the largest of the angels hangs at the entrance to the Christmas market.

Christmas in Jelenia Gora, Poland
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4. Julia Crystal Factory

Jelenia Gora, Poland

Jelenia Gora is a town in the Polish mountains of Lower Silesia, about a two-hour drive southwest of Wroclaw. The city has a long tradition of glassblowing, and the best known factory and store is Julia Crystal Works. By visiting Julia, you can see the entire production process, from blowing to cutting to polishing, and then admire and buy the finished glassware in their shop. Here you will find artistically decorated Christmas glasses, plates and balls in all colours. Nearby is also a fabulous glass museum not to be missed. My favorite exhibit is a curtain made of the finest glass threads that seems to flutter in the wind.

Christmas pyramid powered by candles
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5. Richard Glaesser Erzgebirge Volkskunst

Seiffen, Germany

Seiffen is a small town in the Ore Mountains, about 80 km southwest of Dresden. The Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge in German) is a mountain range forming the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. In the past, the mountains were deeply mined for silver and tin. When the ore ran out, the region and in particular the town of Seiffen developed an industry of a completely different kind. The city has become known as the place where it’s always Christmas or as Santa’s workshop all year round. The reason is that many workshops that make and sell wooden Christmas decorations of all kinds are located here. The workers may not be dressed as elves, but they are busily working to prepare for the festive season.

One of the biggest stores in Seiffen is Richard Glaesser GmbH Erzgebirge Volkskunst. Legend has it that the Ore Mountains are home to the Seven Dwarfs. Consequently, many handcrafted wooden figures are in the form of dwarfs painted and dressed in the traditional red. The same goes for a local wood spirit called Ruebezahl. Otherwise, there are angels, nativity scenes and a specialty of Seiffen: wooden pyramids topped with fans that make them turn. Some of them even contain music boxes that play Christmas carols.

Pro tip: Fuechnter Werkstatt is a small Seiffen workshop, now run by the eighth generation of Fuechnters. Their trademark, so to speak, are the nutcrackers. Walnuts are an integral German Christmas food that sometimes appear, golden, on the Christmas tree. They have to be cracked, and that’s where these wonderful handmade nutcrackers come in. Shapes vary from miners to soldiers and Santas, and each nutcracker takes five days to make.

6. Bohemian Christmas Ornaments

Zdobin, Czech Republic

Zdobin is a village in the Czech Republic, located about 60 miles east of Prague. It has only about 100 inhabitants and the biggest industry is a cooperative of glassblowers and glaziers called Bohemian Christmas Ornaments. The company brought together all the skilled glassmakers in the area who were working from home and brought them together under one roof. It was formed in 1931 and has won numerous awards for the high quality and craftsmanship of glassware. They currently manufacture some 8,000 products in 600 color shades, all painted and shaped by hand. You will find the most beautiful glitter balls but also a plethora of other ornaments like angels, animals and much more.

Christmas eggs in Salzburg, Austria
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7. Christmas at the Salzburg Egg House

Salzburg, Austria

We’ve talked about wooden, gold leaf, and glass Christmas ornaments, but this shop really does offer something out of the ordinary. The Salzburg Christmas Egg Shop is full of Christmas decorations made from eggshells. You have to see it to believe it, so head to Judengasse 11 in Salzburg’s Old Town. The eggs are painted in all colors plus gold and silver and decorated with sequins and even paper lace. When you enter. you see Christmas trees so full of spectacular and unique ornaments that you hardly see any green branches. To make your Christmas tree truly international, add a few eggs (but leave room for bohemian baubles and German angels and of course gold or silver tinsel chains!).

Christmas market in Vienna, Austria
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8. Viennese Christmas Fair

Vienna, Austria

If you’re in Vienna instead of Salzburg looking for quirky Christmas decorations, you can’t do better than the Wiener Christmas Salon. This shop, full of traditional handcrafted ornaments, from baubles to nativity scenes and angels, will make your eyes sparkle. Located in the center of Vienna, at 6 Franziskanerplatz, it is open all year round so you can buy your Christmas decorations any time of the year.

Murano glass Christmas tree on the neighboring island of Burano
Murano glass Christmas tree on the neighboring island of Burano (MariaTsyganova / Shutterstock.com)

9. Andrea Tagliapietra

Murano, Italy

We no longer present the fabulous works of art made by the master glassmakers of the island of Murano. But did you know that at Christmas there is actually a contest to see who makes the most eye-catching Christmas decorations? Andrea Tagliapietra’s workshop is one of them. Murano is located in the lagoon of Venice and easily accessible by vaporetto from Venice. The journey only takes about 15 minutes if you leave from the Fondamento Novo stop, but twice as long if you take a vaporetto or water taxi from the stop near Piazza San Marco. Once down in Murano, all you have to do is walk around from a workshop, or furnace in Italian, to another and let yourself be dazzled by the skill of the glassblowers and the colorful finished products.

Pro tip: If you are buying a Murano glass object, make sure you get the real object, as countless counterfeit Chinese objects exist. You can’t go wrong if you buy directly from a Murano kiln.

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