Begin your festivities a little earlier this year and discover spectacular Christmas markets all over Europe. Search for hand-made gifts and trinkets, weave through illuminated stalls and sip hot chocolate or mulled wine as you get into the Christmassy spirit.
Start the annual festive fun with a city break to one of Europe's most picturesque destinations. Enjoy a wintry taste of tradition as you visit time-honoured Christmas markets and shop for local wares – all against a wonderful setting. You could even treat yourself to a Club Europe break and fly in our business class cabin.
The German capital’s 60-plus Christmas markets will have something for everyone. From the spectacular WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt, one of the most popular markets in Berlin, to the wonderful Winter World at Potsdamer Platz. Head to Alexanderplatz Christmas market to see Europe’s largest Christmas pyramid – all under the gaze of the famous TV Tower.
Christmas markets in Prague are some of the most beautiful in Europe, and the well-known markets are held in the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) and the Havelska market (Havelské tržiště). You’ll find the national Christmas tree in the former, amid beautiful baroque architecture. While Havelska market is the oldest in Prague, dating back to the 13th century.
Venture outside of the Czech capital to find even more beautiful Christmas markets and enjoy Bohemian trdelník (sweet pastry) with Christmas punch. Head to Český Krumlov, just two hours south of Prague for a traditional Czech Advent, including their astonishing live Nativity scene. The picturesque streets come alive with merrymakers drinking mulled wine, singing carols by the giant Christmas tree. Or visit the beautiful town of Plzeň, home of the famous Pilsen beer. Only an hour and half by car, you can be enjoying the city’s lively folk music and carols by the Tree, warming yourself with freshly baked Christmas treats – don’t miss the traditional gingerbread.
Vienna’s Christmas markets are an age-old part of the city, with the earliest dating back to 1298 when Albrecht I granted his citizens a December market. Now, they are held all over the city, and are well worth a visit – in particular the Viennese Christmas Market in front of the City Hall. Find handcrafted gifts, delectable culinary treats and all the glühwein you can drink.
Christmas markets in Budapest are spellbinding, with the oldest and most captivating being on Vörösmarty Square – but don’t miss a trip to the market outside St Stephen’s Basilica too. Gifts like the handmade wooden toys are made in Hungary, ensuring their quality. As autumn becomes winter, you’ll be very glad of the warming mulled wine and cinnamon chimney cakes.
The stunning Cathedral Square is the location for Salzburg’s Christmas market – and with its traditional stalls under the twinkling stars, you’ll find a charming atmosphere like no other. Search out festive cookies, crafts and the unmissable Salzburg school choirs singing popular hymns and carols. Head to Residence Square on a Saturday for the local Turmblasen brass bands.
Almost guaranteed to be a ‘white’ Christmas, Krakow is Poland’s charming tourist capital. The Main Square (Rynek Główny) in the Old Town comes alive with all things festive. Find handcrafted ornaments, decorations, furs and slippers, and beautiful Baltic amber jewellery, as you stroll through the many stalls. Try the cherry vodka to shake off the winter chill.
Christmas in Innsbruck is wonderful, with carollers singing, huge Christmas trees twinkling and the scent of freshly made cakes and doughnuts hanging in the air. Head to Innsbruck’s Old Town for traditional gifts, beautiful ornaments and of course, a delicious mug of Tyrolean glühwein to warm the soul, all surrounded by stunning medieval architecture.
Christmas markets in Zurich are enchanting, from the 50 foot Christmas tree to the city’s oldest market in the picturesque Niederdorf Quarter. There are several to choose from, like the huge market at Sechseläutenplatz next to the Opera House or the singing tree (tiers of a children’s choir) at the Werdmühleplatz. Grab a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy the festivities for yourself.
Munich’s Christmas markets are very traditional, and the market on Marienplatz (St Mary’s Square) is the biggest and the oldest, going back to the 14th century. Revellers can enjoy classical Christmas music and hymns from the balcony of Munich’s Rathaus (town hall) each evening, alongside traditional gingerbread and Bavarian cakes.
Copenhagen’s streets come alive with merrymakers over the Christmas season, especially at the magical Tivoli Gardens. This charming theme park in the centre of the city is an ideal setting for a Christmas market, with around 60 stalls setting up alongside the more permanent residents. Don’t forget to get some Gløgg and Æbleskiver, a delicious mulled wine and doughnut combo.
Held at the famous Senate Square, Helsinki’s Christmas market is a sight to behold. With over 100 stands selling everything from hand-made crafts and sweets to Finnish canned goods like pickled herring. Get yourself a warming Glögi, Finland’s answer to mulled wine, with festive spices, almonds and a dash of vodka to keep the freezing temperatures at bay.
Venture to Frankfurt’s Old Town to find the traditional Christmas markets, illuminated by thousands of fairy lights. The scents and smells – gingerbread, mulled wine and roasting chestnuts – of the festive season fill the air. Explore the market, especially the 300-year old timber-framed Honey House, assembled every year offering honey-based goods and even delicious honey wine.
The most northerly capital city in our list, Reykjavík offers arctic festivities at Yule Town on Ingólfstorg Square throughout the Christmas period. With a wide selection of gifts, including handmade knick-knacks and delicious Icelandic treats. Or at the market at Heidmork, you will find designers and craftsmen selling their wares, but only on a few select days, guaranteeing a bespoke item.
There are some great Christmas markets in Stockholm, the oldest is the Skansen on the park island of Djurgården. Founded in 1903, you will find traditional toys and handmade ornaments as well as a large selection of Swedish delicacies to eat and drink. The Stortorget market in Gamla Stan offers superb food under the shadow of the grandiose Stockholm Stock Exchange Building.
Christmas at Disneyland Paris is a spectacular journey, enjoy the festivities with a Christmas parade as all of your favourite Disney characters take to Main Street. Revel in the magic of Sleeping Beauty's castle, which is transformed into an ice palace, and meet Santa Claus in his chalet for a photo opportunity like no other.
Two Cities and even more Christmas markets
Prague’s Christmas celebrations start early; the historic Old Town Square comes alive with a huge illuminated market selling everything from handmade wooden toys to mouth-watering Praska Sunka smoked ham, washed down with Svařák. Visit Prague’s fantastic cafés, like the famous Café Imperial, for Christmassy cakes amid stylish art deco surroundings. Then onto Berlin, where you will find more than 60 markets to occupy your time. Shop for ornaments and decorations at the impressive Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt, grab a hot chocolate – laced with rum, perhaps? Check out places of interest, such as the Brandenburg Gate, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the capital’s yuletide festivities.
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