European Christmas Markets: Our Top PicksTuesday 03 November 2015 by Jasmine Trickey The nights are drawing in, party season is in full swing and beautiful twinkling lights are beginning to adorn city centre streets; who can help but feel a tinge of excitement for the festive winter months?
Whether your Christmas spirit is tickled by the alluring scent of warm mulled wine, sweet iced gingerbread or unique gift buying opportunities, a trip to one of mainland Europe’s magical Christmas markets is the perfect way to bring out your over-excited inner child. These are our top picks:
Where? Viennese Christmas Market - Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna
When? November 13th to December 26th, 10am - 10pm
Christmas markets in Vienna are truly an age-old tradition, with the first Rathausplatz market dating back to the 13th century. In a beautiful setting in front of the City Hall, you’ll find more than 150 traditional wooden stalls selling anything from puppets, woollen hats and leather clothes, to aromatic hot punch and candied fruits. At the weekends, shoppers will also be greeted with festive music and carol singing from international choirs. The market is ideal if you’re after a festive family getaway, as the City Hall is packed with arts, crafts and other fun activities for kids.
Where? Cologne Old Market - Alter Markt, 50444 Cologne
When? 23rd November to 23rd December, 11am – 10pm
On the Monday before advent, Cologne’s city centre transforms into a festive wonderland with seven magical Christmas markets filling the city. Neighbour to the larger Cathedral City Market, Cologne’s Old Market (otherwise known as the “Home of the Gnomes”) is arguably the most charming and attractive in the city. Under a sea of enchanting lights and decoration, rows of cosy wooden booths stretch from Alter Markt to Heumarkt. Here you’ll also find a spectacular ice-rink, which only adds to the fairytale atmosphere of the Old Town.
When? November 13th to January 6th, 10am – 11pm
In the heart of this beautiful city, you’ll be able to feast on delicious homemade strudels, lepény flat bread and fried sausages, or enjoy the season’s sweet scented treats, Kürtőskalács and mulled wine. Amongst the piles of traditional Hungarian delicacies, you’ll also find an array of unique hand-crafted gifts such as fur hats, pressed-flower jewellery, crocheted clothing and wooden toys. You can also enter into the Christmas spirit by skating on the gorgeous ice-rink in front of St Stephen’s Basilica, admiring the spectacular advent-themed light painting or taking your kids to see one of the market’s delightful weekend puppet shows.
Where? Champs-Elysées Christmas Market, 75008 Paris
When? November 15th to January 4th, 10:30am - midnight
Paris is a wonderful city break destination no matter the season, and if you’re looking for an excuse to visit, the spectacular Christmas market shopping opportunities are definitely a worthy draw. Champs-Elysées is the city’s largest festive market, with over 160 authentic timber chalets lining the iconic street between the Rond-point and Place de la Concorde. You’ll find everything from Christmas decorations, arts and crafts to gourmet food and mulled wine. Every evening from 6pm, enchanting illuminations will light up the beautiful venue; a sight that is bound to delight visitors of all ages.
If you’re keen to explore more festive destinations in France, Strasbourg is unofficially the “Capital of Christmas”, and hosts a stunning market in a breathtaking setting surrounding Notre Dame Cathedral. You’ll also find a charming but more modest Christmas marketplace in Lille.
When? 30th November to 6th January, 12pm – 9/10pm
For five weeks, magical winter cheer touches the heart of Brussles as 240 wooden-roofed huts line the city streets, from Grand’Place to Place Ste-Catherine. In addition to multitudes of enthusiastic vendors selling arts, crafts and delicious artisan foods, you’ll also be able to enjoy a ride on the dazzling ferris wheel adorned with 18,000 festive lights, or skate on the extensive ice-rink at Marche aus Poissons. Be sure to visit in the evening to catch the fascinating light and sound show that will illuminate St Catherine church.
There are so many spectacular Christmas markets throughout Europe, it was difficult to pick our favourites! Let us know if there are any you would recommend, or if there’s any you think we've missed from the list.
Many of our properties across Europe now have a 3-night minimum stay, so you can enjoy a short break away over the festive season in the luxury of a serviced apartment.