‘Tis the season to be jolly, lalalalala la la la la… and to indulge on roasted chestnuts and mulled wine, of course. Escape the rainy run-up to Christmas at home and take a trip to a far-away, festive haven. Indulge in onion-slathered bratwursts, slurp on craft beers or spiced cider, and finish your feasting with chocolate-smothered crepes or ginger bread lebkuchen cookies. With a content tummy, browse the Christmas gifts on offer, from handcrafted baubles to scented candles and wooden toys; you can bring home something special for every friend to unwrap on the big day.
Here are our 8 favourite Christmas market destinations to visit this year:
The birthplace of the Christmas market, Germany had to be the first country on our list! With their markets dating back to the Late Middle Ages, they’ve had more than enough time to perfect this advent tradition. Wherever you are in the country, you’ll be sure to find a market nearby so go on, share a pint with a jolly German! Berlin shouldn’t be missed - the capital alone boasts sixty Christmas markets!
Follow the festive aromas of fir tree and mulled wine to the Christmas Fair in the heart of Budapest, on Vörösmarty Square. Taste the famous local delicacy, goulash, served in a chunky bread roll, maybe with a side helping of traditional sauerkraut. Browse the cute craft stalls before ice-skating at the nearby St Stephen’s Basilica, or take a dip in the thermal baths to warm you up on a chilly winter’s afternoon. You’ll be feeling Christmassy in no time!
Tivoli Gardens is the place to be in Copenhagen at Christmas. One of the oldest amusement parks in the world, Tivoli is spectacularly decorated for the Christmas season; fairy lights embellish the trees and snow adorns the wooden stalls. Locals and tourists alike flock here to see the entertainment on offer: the impressive Lucia procession with a hundred-strong choir, daily light shows, and the fabulous fireworks festival. Head to the charming old harbour of the city for an alternative market, where quaintly decorated homes and market stalls lining the pier provide a beautiful backdrop for merrymakers.
The most impressive Christmas markets in the country are those in the capital city, Prague. Head to the main markets in the Old Town Square or Wenceslas Square, or split your time between the two, comparing their baked goods and traditional handicrafts. Try the tasty ham, roasted on a rotating spit right in front of you, followed by a large stein of famous Czech beer. Other, smaller markets are dotted around the city – you can’t escape the festive cheer here!
With both British and French influences, this Channel Island sure knows how to celebrate the Christmas period. Their La Fête dé Noué sees pretty market stalls pop up in the town square, festive parades fill the roads, and street theatre performances captivate onlookers, who sip on mulled wine or hot chocolate. As friendly locals emerge from their homes to enjoy the music and cheer, you are invited to join in!
This destination may not immediately spring to mind when thinking of Christmas markets, but the country’s snowy climate and magical Northern Lights make it the ideal setting for a winter wonderland. Don your woolly mittens and questionably fashionable bobble hat, and witness Reykjavik’s transformation into an enchanting Yule town. Attempt to skate gracefully on the ice rink in the town square (if you break your arm, at least you won’t have to wash up on Christmas day, but please buy travel insurance). Have a tipple of mulled wine (advisable after the skating), and feast at the street food market, where the city’s finest restaurants come together to feed the hungry revellers.
The home of Father Christmas himself, where better to celebrate the festive period?! Join the Finns as they embrace their winter weather; feel the Christmas cheer and hot glögi (Finnish mulled wine) warm you on a snowy evening. Yuletide celebrations begin as early as November here, with the promise of magical markets and wine-fuelled merriment. The capital, Helsinki, is home to a Christmas street, where candles glimmer in shop windows, and garlands of lights float above the bustling people below. Take your grandchildren to meet the real Santa Claus - if they behave, they might even get a present!
The Austrian Christmas market tradition dates back to 1298 when Albrecht I ruled the citizens could hold a celebratory December market in Vienna. The ritual is still going strong today! With the beautiful City Hall as a backdrop, locals and holidaymakers alike assemble in the square, browsing the market stalls and sipping on strong punch. The City Hall opens its doors for carol services too; the hymns and sweet voices spill into the surrounding square. Wander across the city to the baroque Belvedere Palace, which hosts its own festive market, encircled by stunning historical architecture. And there are many more markets to explore in this city – simply look out for the tall Christmas tree, the bustling crowds and the smell of spiced cookies!
Which country takes your fancy? Take your pick, and begin crossing off the days until Christmas comes round again!