Christmas isn’t Christmas without a visit to a festive market. Every December we wrap up warm and venture out to transformed towns and cities across the country and stuff our faces with bratwurst, mulled wine and macaroons (well I do anyway!). All before meandering around the little wooden stalls covered in twinkling lights to buy trinkets and souvenirs for friends and family.
But if you want to immerse yourself in the real thing it’s worth heading across the continent where you can indulge in the culture and traditions of each European city. To help narrow down your search we’ve unwrapped our top 10 favourite Christmas markets in Europe.
1. Brussels, Belgium (27th Nov – 3rd Jan)
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Immerse yourself in a winter wonderland full of magical activities like tobogganing, merry-go-rounds and a huge Ferris wheel covered in lights that dominates the skyline.
The Christmas parade takes place on the 14th December and consists of several decorated floats that hand out thousands of gifts to the audience.
2. Machester, England (14th Nov – 21st Dec)
OK, so you may not have to cross the channel, but it made the top 10 in a poll by European Best Destinations so I think it deserves a spot on our list too. Expect mouth-watering international food, drinks and yuletide gifts.
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The singing reindeer head and German beer tent beneath it, where you’ll find Gluhwein, English ales and spiced cider.
3. Vienna, Austria (13th Nov – 26th Dec)
Vienna has around 10 markets dotted around the city where you can buy hand-blown glass silverware, miniature wooden houses or you could take a stroll in Rathauspark, where you’ll find carousel rides surrounded by twinkling trees and pavilions.
The town hall becomes a fairytale land in the Vienna Magic of Advent Festival – hot drinks, sweets and Christmas craft workshops for kids are just some of the highlights.
4. Berlin, Germany (26th nov – 31st Dec)
With over 60 markets scattered around the city, Berlin’s Christmas market has something for everyone, ranging from the Spandau Market with a nativity scene featuring live animals, to the Potsdamer Platz Market, which features Europe’s largest toboggan run.
Lucia market offers a more romantic and intimate atmosphere – why not pick up a horse-drawn carriage and enjoy a ride through the city?
5. Dresden, Germany (24th Nov – 24th Dec)
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Also known as Striezelmarkt and notably the oldest Christmas market in Germany, Dresden is annually turned into a Winter Wonderland that attracts 3 million visitors a year and houses 250 stands, taking up a large part of the city on the banks of the River Elbe.
The sweet scent of stollen that wafts through Dresden on the 5th December as a giant stollen cake gets presented to the visitors of the festival. The cake will be cut and distributed amongst the crowd for a small fee (proceeds go to charity).
6. Innsbruck, Austria (15th Nov – 16th Jan)
Indulge in the aroma of freshly made Kiahln (Doughnuts laced with Sauerkaut) and hop on the train to the Hungerburg Christmas Market. Once at the top, you will be greeted with breath-taking views of Innsbruck. Here you can also by a wide range of souvenirs to take home.
Take the kids to the Christmas Market at Marktplatz where they can enjoy a ride on the carousel and pet some animals at the zoo.
7. Prague, Czech Republic (28th Nov – 6th Jan)
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Open air concerts, street performers, carol singers and orchestras; all this can be enjoyed with a delicious snack of local breads, cheeses and sausages from the various food vendors within the market.
The beautifully decorated Christmas tree, bought down from the mountains in the north of the country, which acts as the perfect indicator of the festive season – it’s a must see!
8. Krakow, Poland (27th Nov – 26th Dec)
Krakow is usually covered in snow during the festive season which makes for the perfect setting for a Christmas market. Find traditional items like locally-crafted jewellery and embroidered table clothes as well as hand-painted Christmas decorations.
The nativity scenes (Szopki), made from paper, wood and coloured leaves that are miniature models of the nativity and of the historical buildings of Krakow.
9. Stockholm, Sweden (21st Nov – 23rd Dec)
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The little red stalls in the heart of the Old Town at Stortorget square sell Swedish Christmas sweets, reindeer and elk (moose) meat as well as other Christmas delicacies.
Some of the boats on the quays are opened as shops where you can grab yourself some marzipan and other little trinkets.
10. Belfast, Ireland (14th Nov – 20th Dec)
Voted as the Best Large Specialist Market 2015 by NABMA, it has to be on our list of markets to visit. Ensure you tantalise those taste buds with the delicious food on offer from crepes, waffles, ostrich and crocodile burgers – you’ll be in for a gastronomic treat!
If you post a letter to Santa in his post box situated in the grounds of Market by 18th December, you’ll receive a letter back from him.
Dresden – Jan S./Shutterstock.com
Brussels – CRM/Shutterstock.com