Europe's biggest Christmas markets
As the nights get darker and the cold sets in, there’s only one way to deal with the depths of winter: book a trip abroad. Our neighbours in Europe, always so useful in summer for visits to their beaches, vineyards and bustling cities, offer another proposition in winter as traditional Christmas markets once again emerge. All over the continent, main squares and long promenades are given over to snow-capped awnings selling a breadth of gifts, artisan food and homemade wares.
Yet Christmas shopping is a mere excuse to visit a destination at its most magical. With excitement for the holidays setting in and no shortage of mulled wine to keep the chill at bay, towns come alive once the night sets in, making for a memorable way to mingle with the locals.
The Flexicover team list Europe’s biggest and best markets, all of which are ready to make your Christmas sparkle just that little bit more brightly.
Brussels, Belgium (25 Nov to 1 Jan 17)
Stretching over a mile from the gilded Grand Palace along Place Sainte Catherine, Brussels’ Pleasures of Winter festival is the highlight of the holiday season. Over 200 wooden stalls line the streets laden with local crafts and handmade souvenirs from artisans across Europe. Nightly festivities include a light show, an expansive ice rink and brightly-lit Ferris wheel. Of course, it wouldn’t be Belgium without a traditional treat or two and this includes two of Belgium’s most famous culinary exports: quality chocolate and seriously strong beers.
Copenhagen, Denmark (19 Nov to 31 Dec)
Copenhagen celebrates Yuletide or ‘Jul’ with a sprawling Christmas market in the city’s historic theme park, Tivoli Gardens. Oozing atmosphere alongside an authentic Nordic edge, four miles of lights line the park’s pathways, painstakingly devised by Tiffany’s head designer. Entertainment includes an ice rink, rollercoaster and of course a plethora of snow-capped Christmas stalls selling every trinket imaginable. Be sure to ward off the bitter Danish cold with a cinnamon-scented mulled wine or glogg, followed by a traditional æbleskiver a pancake puff sprinkled with icing sugar.
Munich, Germany (25 Nov to 24 Dec)
Dating back to the 14th century, Munich’s oldest and largest Christmas market, the Christkindlmarkt, is set against a breathtaking backdrop of Bavarian architecture, half-timbered houses and historic buildings draped in snowdrifts. Stalls surround the centrepiece of Marienplatz which features a towering 30m tree flanked by the Gothic town hall. It’s here on the balcony that every evening string groups, wind players and choirs ring out carols for the crowds below. Don't forget to try Lebkuchen, a spiced gingerbread and why not wash down with a glass or two of Germany’s famous (and warming) glühwein.
Strasbourg, France (27 Nov to 31 Dec)
With streets lined with chocolate-box buildings and a historic city brimming with old-world charm, it’s little wonder Strasbourg is known as the French capital of Christmas. First held here in 1570, it lays claim to being one of the oldest markets in France, and today, with over 300 wooden chalets spread across the city, it’s an annual tradition the Alsatians are keen to maintain. Wind your way through medieval streets, the air thick with vin chaud and roasted chestnuts, pausing to pick up traditional gifts or enjoy a spot of ice skating at the Place Dauphine.
Budapest, Hungary (11 Nov to 6 Jan 17)
The oldest Vörösmarty is home to rows of cottage-roofed stalls selling traditional Hungarian food like cinnamon-pastry chimney cakes and handmade honeycakes. You’ll also find an array of entertainment, from folk dances to live music and even puppet shows. Less expensive than other European cities, the market is a particularly good spot to pick up Christmas gifts, with traditional handmade goods ranging from crochet to fur hats and gloves, jewellery and homeware. After all that shopping, winter-lovers should be sure to save some energy for a skate on the city’s huge open air ice rink, Europe's largest.
If you fancy getting into the Christmas spirit there’s no better way than to visit a Christmas market. But before you book your trip please double check the operating dates of the market that takes your fancy just in case anything has changed from the information given above!
Wherever you head to this winter it’s good to know that Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.