Last month we looked at our favourite European destinations to visit this autumn. Today, we’re highlighting the joys of visiting Europe during November and December, with its many beautiful and traditional Christmas markets. From Germany and Austria to Belgium and Sweden, it’s an opportunity to soak up the culture of each region with beautifully decorated log cabins, festive food, and a warming glass of mulled wine.
These markets are also the perfect places to pick up handmade gifts, ornate festive decorations, or some tasty treats for those Christmas hampers! With so many Christmas markets to visit; here are just some of the ones that are guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit!
Germany: You can’t mention Christmas markets without thinking of Germany. Not only does it offer some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, but one of the largest choices with seemingly one in every city. Its capital, Berlin, alone has around 60 Christmas markets across its city every year with the largest of these at Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (21st Nov – 1st Jan). For details of other German Christmas, markets click here.
Austria: From around mid-November to the end of December, you can enjoy the Austrian Christmas markets in its cities as well as in the more alpine towns and villages. Steeped in tradition, the ‘December Market’ in Vienna dates back to 1298 and is often regarded as the predecessor to the Christmas Market. For one of the most romantic markets, head to Innsbruck’s Altstadt (old town) where you’ll find medieval houses alongside stalls selling festive foods, wooden toys and glass ornaments. Make sure you try the “Kiachln” (advent doughnuts) served warm with cranberry sauce. Click here for more details of this market.
France: The French city of Lille, renowned for its Christmas shopping and delicious cuisine, is a great destination if you prefer to go by train. In less than an hour and a half on Eurostar, you can visit the picturesque Place Rihour which hosts Lille’s Christmas market (18th Nov – 30th Dec). Around 80 wooden chalets sell gifts galore, surrounded by the town covered in garlands and a centrepiece that cannot be missed – a giant Ferris wheel. For one of the oldest markets, Strasbourg is a must. Having held the first Christmas Market in Europe back in 1570, it’s no surprise that this capital of Alsace is well known for its traditional market (25th Nov – 31st Dec). Its decorated half-timbered houses make it the perfect setting for meandering through the market in the 11 different ‘villages’ or themed areas.
Belgium: Brussels Winter Wonders (25th Nov – 1st Jan) not only boasts gifts, ornaments and decorations but is also well-known for its ice-skating rink as well as its festive Christmas parade. A favourite for Eurostar passengers, it’s just two hours on the train. Alongside the long-standing markets in Brussels and Bruges, why not visit a relatively new market in Ypres (3rd Dec – 8th Jan). Held in the Grote Markt, it is fast becoming one of the most popular markets in Belgium. In beautiful Bruges, the main stalls of the Christmas market can be found in the Market Square, overlooked by the 13th-century belfry (25th Nov – 1st Jan). Be sure to complete your visit with a tipple of the local beer at one of the local taverns.
Sweden: The Scandinavian style markets are best known for savouring some traditional delicacies. At least four markets take place in the capital, Stockholm (mid-Nov – end Dec) where handicrafts and gifts can be browsed while enjoying some traditional festive fare. Sip some spicy mulled wine, glögg, or sample the saffron buns, saffransbullar, and be sure to take home some traditional Swedish Christmas sweets. To top it all off, this is one of the cities you’re most likely to be guaranteed a dusting of snow. What better way to complete your Christmas market trip?
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Top Tip: before you book your Christmas break, check the operating dates of your chosen Christmas market, just in case there are any changes from the information we’ve given.