There’s nothing more Christmassy than a Christmas market; the smell of chestnuts and mulled wine, the sea of illuminations, the unique gifts that will have everyone asking ‘where did you get this?’… And for true festivity like this, you really can’t beat European Christmas markets.
No one does it like these guys – Germany
The German Christmas market has to be one of the most popular with dozens of British Christmas markets trying to reproduce the theme; but much like a great British pub, a replica is easy to spot. There are several contenders for the best German Christmas market but the Christkindlesmarkt in the medieval city of Nuremberg wins our vote. Here, the holiday season is opened by the Nuremberg Christkind herself; with her white and golden dress, long blonde curls and golden crown, the ‘Christ Child’ has been the symbol of this Christmas market for many decades and makes the whole experience feel truly magical. The Christkindlesmarkt sets the standard; dating back to 1628 and still bustling today, this market gives its visitors traditional handcrafted goods (mass-produced trinkets are forbidden), a playful children’s Christmas market, spicy grilled sausages and gingerbread, and not forgetting their iconic speciality of little men made from dried prunes – it really is cultural tradition at its best.
December 1st to December 24th 2017
Award winning – Croatia
Never thought of Croatia for a Christmas city break? Winning the title of Best European Christmas Market twice in a row, you definitely should. During the festive calendar, the city’s capital, Zagreb, becomes more of a Christmas wonderland than a market; the streets and squares around the city ooze a very special atmosphere with a huge variety of activities to partake. One of the most magical experiences has to be the telling of A Christmas Carol in the Grič Tunnel; a pedestrian tunnel transformed by outstanding lighting effects and projected images of snow-topped forests and icy lakes. A six-piece brass ensemble fill the air with festive music as you browse the traditional Christmas fair stalls; enjoying delicious local delicacies and warm mulled wine while the streets are alive with people singing and dancing. Festivity like this would even challenge the Grinch!
December 2nd to January 7th 2018
Where it all began – France
The oldest Christmas Market in Europe is in the Christmas capital of France, Strabourg. First held in 1530, it still maintains its original traditions today. Although offering over 300 stalls, this Christmas market definitely focuses more on the spiritual side of Christmas than the commercial. With a wonderful setting in front of Strasbourg Cathedral, you’ll enjoy outstanding advent concerts, a living nativity, and authentic live music. Want to be more involved? Why not take a walking tour by night, strolling through the city admiring the superb architecture brought to life by the festive lights; or join in the trail to find Father Christmas with the young ones, and be rewarded with a slice of delicious local gingerbread. The Strabourg Christmas market is a fantastic culture experience for adults and children alike.
November 24th to December 24th 2017
Pretty as a picture – Vienna
Against the picturesque back-drop of the City Hall, the Viennese Christmas Dream market really lives up to its name; visitors are welcomed by an absolute sea of festive lights leading to a statement archway framed by advent candles. Across the 151 stalls, the Christmas fair offers the sweetest treats, most flavoursome punches and most creative gift ideas for those eager to get into the Christmas spirit. Inside the City Hall, Children are invited to express their own creativity in the shape of delicious, freshly-made gingerbread; they can decorate, garnish or design their own gingerbread whilst the adults enjoy the aroma and indulge is freshly ground coffee. Watch your little-one’s face light up as they are guided through the winter wonderland, to festive merry-go-rounds and reindeer rides, by their very own elf via the fascinating app available to download (we don’t doubt yours will light a little too!)
November 18th to December 30th 2017
Shop ‘till you drop – Budapest
For a light-show-spectacular and shopper’s paradise, it has to be Budapest’s Christmas market at the Basilica. One of the ‘new-comers’ to the advent scene, the first time this Christmas market was held was fairly recently (by comparison!) in 2011. Organised by the National Association of Folk Artists, this Christmas fair is packed with stalls selling their unique traditional crafts; we’re talking everything from woodwork, textiles, and pottery to jewellery, designer clothing, photography and art. With so much on offer you’re bound to find the gifts you need and probably a few for yourself! Every night, St Stephen’s Square is adorned with colourful lights and a 3D ‘light painting’ is projected on to the Basilica façade, turning it into a stunning visual Christmas narrative.
November 27th to January 2nd 2018