Christmas is fast approaching and what better way to get into the festive spirit than a short break to one of the many beautiful Christmas Markets, Europe has to offer. Originating around the time of the Middles Ages, Christmas markets give you the chance not only to experience the history of the city but to take in some of the magic of Christmas.
Strasbourg, France – 27 November to 31 December
Strasbourg has won the title of ‘Best Christmas Market in Europe’ two years running and is the largest and one of the oldest French Christmas markets. It has been around since 1570 and was called ‘Christkindelsmärik’ (market of the Infant Jesus). The market takes place in the cathedral square and the half timbered houses throughout the town are decorated with giant red and white hearts and stars, angels and snowflakes decorate the cobbled streets. With over 300 stalls the market has a lot to offer visitors from food and wine to arts and crafts plus some beautiful decorations for your Christmas tree.
Berlin, Germany – 23 November to 31 December
The Germans really know how to put on a Christmas market and one of the best destinations is Berlin. The city shines in a festive blaze of lights and for 35 days the castle and its park are immersed in a special romantic glow. With about 60 markets to wander round; from traditional, fairytale, trendy to urban there is something for everyone to enjoy. The Potsdamer Platz Christmas market includes an ice rink and the largest mobile toboggan run in Europe whilst the Gendarmenmarkt market will provide an insight into old handicrafts such as flax embroidery. Take in the culinary delights of the locally sourced sausages, mulled wine and punch or sample some of their Schmalzkuchen.
Vienna, Austria – 13 November to 26 December
Vienna is a wonderful city at any time of the year but even more magical at Christmas. Markets here have been around since 1294 when Emperor Albrecht I granted Vienna’s citizens the privilege of holding a December market or ‘Krippenmarkt”. The main market takes place in front of City Hall giving this market and its unique backdrop a charm of its own. Whilst listening to the international choirs singing carols you will find unique gifts and traditional treats like candied fruit, candy floss, Christmas punch and roasted chestnuts.
Prague, Czech Republic – 28 November to 06 January 2016
The Christmas market in Prague, lights up the city, its stunning castle and Charles Bridge, bringing locals and tourists together to share in the festive spirit, in a winter wonderland setting. Visitors can sample traditional foods being made; from large hams being roasted on spits, tasty barbequed sausages (klobása), cakes and pastries including their speciality hot sugar coated pastry Trdelník. The market’s most impressive feature is their Christmas tree which is shipped in from the Krkonose Mountains in the north of the Czech Republic. The tree is positioned at the Old Town Square and draped in a blaze of lights.
Brussels, Belgium – 27 November to 03 January 2016
One of Europe’s most popular markets and set in the beautiful Place Saint Catherine, the Brussels Christmas market called Winter Wonders is bursting with continental atmosphere and festive delights. Visitors can enjoy a two kilometre stretch of over 200 chalet stalls, a magnificent Sound and Light Show, a 60 metre ice rink or can view the city from the top of the illuminated Ferris wheel. Brass bands and ice sculptures are also on display or try sampling some of the delicious edible treats; the traditional Belgian waffle, gingerbread biscuits and of course the Belgian chocolate!
Nuremberg, Germany – 27 November to 24 December
Germany’s Nuremberg Christmas market is a very traditional one and is complete with an old fashioned steam train, Ferris wheel, carousel and nativity scene. With over 180 decorated throughout the Old Town you will find classic delights including Nuremberg’s spicy gingerbread, rum punch fruit loaves, sweets and many Christmas ornaments, gifts, candles and toys. The Christkindlesmarkt begins on the first Sunday in Advent, when the famous Nuremberg Christkind appears on the balcony of the Church of Our Lady, and another local angel, the Rauschgoldengl, glistens from every corner.
Budapest, Hungary – 13 November to 31 December
Lying on the River Danube, Budapest and its Vörösmarty Square provide the ideal location for this magical Christmas market. Wooden stalls scatter the square at the heart of the city and their glamorous 18th century Gerbeaud House building is transformed into a giant Advent calendar, with a new window opening to reveal a painting at 5pm every day. Soak up the festive atmosphere by trying out the traditional Hungarian food like langos (fried bread with a variety of toppings), kürtöskalács (a sweet hollow pastry), homemade strudels or mulled wine.
Gothenburg, Sweden – 13 November to 30 December
Central Gothenburg is transformed into the Christmas City from 13 November combining a warm sense of tradition with contemporary Swedish design with many Christmas markets. Decorated with five million twinkling lights and 700 Christmas tree the Liseburg market is reputed to be the largest in Sweden with over 80 stalls and an open ice rink. Walk the Lane of Light, a unique 3 km illuminated trail through the heart of Gothenburg connecting the port to the Christmas market is renowned throughout Scandinavia. And while you are there make sure you visit the Liseberg Ice Gallery and Bar made entirely out of beautiful shimmering blue ice.
If you are planning to visit any of the Christmas markets Europe has to offer, don’t struggle back on the airport parking bus with your heavy shopping bags and all the Christmas presents you bought. Take the stress out of your airport parking, by being met outside the terminal building by an I Love meet and greet driver who will even help you load those extra shopping bags into your boot.