For those of us who can’t get enough of all things festive, Christmas is the one shining beacon that guides us into the colder season every year, making those shorter days, bitter winds and frosty mornings that much easier to deal with. It’s also the ideal time of year to plan a visit to the continent, where the magical Christmas markets offer a variety of opportunities to truly immerse yourself in the holiday season whilst picking up a present or two.
Europe is renowned for its historical buildings, romantic streets and spectacular landscapes; a suitable backdrop for when the Christmas markets descend, turning these beautiful cities into sparkling winter wonderlands. Here are a few of our favourites to add to your shortlist:
1. Innsbruck, Austria
Head to the historic quarter of Innsbruck during the holiday season to explore the Old Town Christmas Market, a collection of stalls surrounded by romantic medieval buildings. Treat yourself to a mug of gluhwein as you browse festive fare from wooden toys to intricate tree ornaments, created from hand-blown glass. Savour the aroma of spiced gingerbread and traditional kiachlin – Advent doughnuts slathered with cranberry sauce – and ensure you are present as dusk falls when rooftop musicians play a succession of tunes on the trumpet. As well as the old town market, Innsbruck offers a few alternatives such as the Family Christmas Market at Marktplatz where children can enjoy the petting zoo and carousel, and the Panorama Christmas Market on Hungerford with enchanting views of the city below.
2. Vienna, Austria
The traditional roots of the Christmas market in Vienna stretch all the way back to the thirteenth century. So, it’s safe to say that this beautiful, culture city knows a thing or two about how to bring the festivities to life. Although there are now as many as 20 official markets scheduled to take place in the city, it is the Viennese Christmas Market at City Hall that is one of the unforgettable highlights. Enter the picturesque square through a tall, candlelit gateway to discover 150 stalls selling confectionary, handmade gifts and warming festive drinks. Take a festive stroll along the Ringstrasse boulevard where the trees are lit up with twinkling lights, or time your visit to a weekend and enjoy international choirs singing carols to get you in the Christmas spirit.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
With its skyline of twirling spires and olde worlde architecture, Prague offers the perfect fairytale setting for your Christmas market experience. The main markets are located at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, conveniently situated just a five minute stroll from each other. Iconic, brightly painted huts offer a wide range of quality gifts from glassware, jewellery and embroidered lace to wooden toys, traditional dolls and scented candles – it’s doubtful that you’ll leave empty-handed. However, Prague’s Christmas markets aren’t just about the shopping, they are the ideal place to sample delicious local treats such as the grilled sausage known as klobása, and the sugar-crusted pastry, trdelnik.
4. Trondheim, Norway
Wrap up in your warmest woollies for a trip to the Arctic city of Trondheim where the cold, dark days are turned on their head by the colourful Christmas market held in the main square. A collection of traditional wooden huts and teepees offer a range of interesting wares including hand-woven scarves, ceramic goblets and a sumptuous assortment of culinary delights that would fit right in on the Christmas table back home. Snack on moose burgers, hot waffles and lashings of spiced, mulled wine as you warm your cockles by the flickering open fires and braziers dotted throughout the square. You can even enjoy a sleigh-ride if you so desire - little ones will believe Santa is right round the corner.
5. Berlin, Germany
This stylish city pulls out all the stops at Christmas with a selection of around 60 festive markets that light the city up. As well as all the traditional stalls selling arts and crafts, thick hot chocolate and spiced mulled wine, the market at Winter World even comes along with its own 70-metre toboggan run and a 40 x 13 metre ice rink. One of the most popular Berlin Christmas markets is WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt, a cosy collection of tents with artisans such as glass-blowers, jewellers, candle-makers and embroiderers offering demonstrations and selling their wares. You will also find Michelin-starred chefs cooking up a storm in heated tents for when you run out of fuel.
Coach holidays are a very popular and hassel free way of experiancing the festive season, with accomodation included. Why not take a look at coachholidays.com who offer short holidays around europe to and from some of the best Christmas Markets around.
Make sure that nothing puts a dampener on your Christmas spirit by taking out the right travel insurance for you trip. Medical Travel Compared can help you find the best policy for your circumstances so that you can concentrate on more important things, like ticking off that Christmas list.
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