If you are yearning for all things festive why not head out to a beautiful European Christmas market? Steeped in tradition and history Europe does Christmas particularly well so whether you’re searching for the ultimate Christmas tree topper or if you’ve just developed a taste for mulled wine, you’ll find something here to your taste. Here is our choice for the best Christmas markets in Europe 2014…
Best for atmosphere – Cologne Christmas market
The Cologne Christmas market in Germany is actually six markets in one town with the four largest and the most impressive are located right outside the town’s beautiful Gothic cathedral. The markets are a huge event and every year they attract around two million visitors. The half-timber stalls, the temporary ice-rink, the floating market and the Medieval Christmas market (located outside the Chocolate Museum) are just a few of the reasons why Cologne has charmed so many visitors into returning year after year. In fact nobody does a Christmas market quite like Germany, and Nuremberg, Dresden and Munich are also considered some of the most beautiful and atmospheric Christmas markets to visit in Europe.
Cologne Christmas market: November – December
Best for children – Prague Christmas market
Head out to Prague these Christmas Holidays and find a seasonal market themed on fairy tales and folk-lore. Here the organisers really go that extra mile to create a realistic “Winter Wonderland” setting. You’ll find a nativity style petting zoo, a very large (and very well lit!) Christmas tree, singing concerts and horse carriage rides. Traditional seasonal foods, decorations and gifts are also on offer.
Prague Christmas Market: November – December
Best for budget – Bratislava Christmas market
Bratislava Christmas market is a traditional but much less commercial market in Slovakia. It might not be the most famous seasonal fair but it’s a great choice for the more budget-conscious traveller. Popular with tourists and locals alike this Eastern European market offers everything from locally crafted gifts, winter clothing to ceramics (as well as everything in between). Watch live entertainment as you fill up on bread with dripping and onion, potato pancakes stuffed with goose liver or for the less adventurous, fruit-filled pancakes and apple pies.
Bratislava Christmas Market: November – December
Most unique shopping experience – Valkenburg Christmas market
If you’re after something a little bit different then definitely consider the Christmas market in Valkenburg, Netherlands. The whole market is housed in a cave lying underneath the city and visitors travel for miles to enjoy the atmospheric grotto-esque shopping experience. Wander the candle-lit labyrinth of passageways and caverns for gifts and decorations and make sure you also see the impressive mural carvings and sculptures also located there.
Valkenburg Christmas Market: November until the end of December
Best for food lovers – Brussels Christmas market
Food and chocolate addicts would almost certainly enjoy the popular Christmas fair in Brussels in Belgium. The “Winter Wonderland” is located in Place Sainte Catherine and organisers also set up an illuminated Big Wheel, street activities and a skating rink here. As well as culinary delights such as steamed snails, oysters, gingerbread and forest mushrooms on toast, as expected you can also fill up on mouth watering Belgian chocolates.
Brussels Christmas Market: November to January
Coolest Christmas market – Barcelona
The Catalan capital is often considered one of the coolest European cities and Christmas in Barcelona is no exception. The weather is still warm enough to walk comfortably around at night and the lively street artists on Las Ramblas add to the great atmosphere. The fun Santa Lucia market is located near the cathedral in the Gothic quarter in Barcelona and here you can buy local crafts, unusual gifts (including Caganer, a Catalan “pooping” statue) and the traditional Spanish Christmas sweet turron. If you plan your stay around the 28th December, you’ll be treated to the Spanish version of April Fool’s Day when the streets will be filled with music, artists and even livelier entertainment.
Santa Lucia Christmas Market: November – December
Best all rounder – Vienna Christmas market
The “Christkindlmärkte” in Vienna, Austria is a very popular seven hundred year old Christmas market. Here you’ll find a traditional event with plenty of nostalgia, fun and romance. As well as the usual concerts and nativity displays there is also a crowd-pleasing live advent calendar display and a children’s Christmas workshop located in the City Hall. Wander through Vienna’s atmospheric streets and town square which are filled with the aromas of candied fruits, cotton candy, Christmas punch and roasted chestnuts – surely the perfect way to get you in the Christmas mood?
Vienna Christmas Market: November – December