EUROPE TRAVEL

A Guide to Christmas Markets in Europe

European Christmas markets are full of traditional charm to get you in the mood for Christmas. You can’t escape the Christmas cheer when you have these incredible Christmas markets on their way throughout November and December. From the food inspired Christmas market in Padstow to the traditional French Christmas market in Strasbourg there is a multitude of choice when it comes to booking a long weekend away. Here are is my guide to Christmas markets in Europe:

CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN EUROPE

READ MORE: Europe in Winter Packing List: Backpacking Essentials

Vienna, Austria

When: 13th November till the 26th December
Where: Vienna, Austria
Best for: Baroque architecture
How to get there: Fly from Manchester to Vienna International or Gatwick to Vienna in just 2hrs 15mins

Vienna hosts several Christmas markets over the festive period, each twinkling with an irresistible Christmassy glow. One of the city’s most popular markets is the Viennese Christmas Market, which starts mid-November and takes place outside the City Hall. As the aroma of candied fruits, hot chestnuts and warm punch fills the air, browse the pretty market stalls and their festive, colourful wares. Inside the City Hall there is a space dedicated to children’s activities, where they can make Christmas candles and cookies. Another tourist favourite is the Christmas Village Belvedere Palace, sitting just in front of the stunning baroque palace. Traditional Austrian brass bands, gospel choirs and music groups line the streets, while a variety of stalls sell mulled wine, delicious food and handcrafted gifts.

Padstow, UK

When: 3rd – 6th December
Where: Around Padstow harbour
Best for: Fabulous food
How to Get There: From the M5 south, turn onto the A30 just after Exeter, then follow signs for Padstow

As one of the country’s leading Christmas Festivals, the event returns to 2015 for its eighth year. The picturesque town of Padstow on the north coast of Cornwall, will host 100 crafts folk and producers, 40 star chefs and 45,000 visitors all celebrating what the town does best: food and drink. It’s also the perfect place to spot special Christmas gifts with over 100 artisan stalls. Renowned chefs Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth will be welcoming a variety of the finest British chefs including Mark Hix, Nathan Outlaw and Michael Caines who will be participating in live cookery demonstrations at the festival this year. The Winter lantern parade takes place on December 4th, before Father Christmas makes a magical entrance arriving on a horse drawn Victorian. Music and carolling will be the soundtrack, before the spectacular firework finale takes to the skies, lighting up the harbour.

Budapest, Hungary

When: 28 November 2015 to 1 January 2016
Where: Vörösmarty Square
Best for: Unique Gifts
How to Get There: Fly from Gatwick to Budapest in just 2hrs 25mins

Not only does Budapest host one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, it also offers concerts, laser shows, thermal baths, an ice rink and ballet performances during the festive season. Budapest’s Christmas Market stalls offer an array of unique gifts and handmade crafts that you won’t find anywhere else. Budapest provides approximately 150 cottage-style wooden stalls, so you won’t be short of choice!

Cologne, Germany

When: 23th November 2015 to 23rd December 2015
Where: Cologne Cathedral, Rudolfplatz, and Neumarkt
Best for: Decorations
How to Get There… Fly from Gatwick to Cologne in just 1hr 20mins

Cologne offers a total of eight main Christmas markets to choose from, although the most impressive include the Cologne Cathedral, Alter Markt, Rudolfplatz, and Neumarkt. Visit any of these markets, and you’ll understand why it attracts over two million visitors from all over the world each year. Cologne offers something for everyone over the festive season!

Ludlow, UK

When: End of November
Where: Ludlow, Shropshire
Best for: Traditional UK market
How to get there: Jump on a train from London

Ludlow Christmas Market is set in a beautiful medieval town in the heart of the Marches countryside near the Wales/England border with a ruined castle at its heart. For a single weekend in November Ludlow plays host to the Medieval Fayre, a fun shopping and entertainment extravaganza for all the family. There are over 100 stallholders selling everything from handmade jewellery and ceramics to textiles, accessories, fine art and handmade toys and decorations. Food and drink stalls include delicious liqueurs, artisan cheeses, Christmas cakes, award-winning cider and so much more and there’s even a parcel crèche for when you need a break from the shopping bags! There is entertainment too with 10ft tall puppets, live music, fighting knights, theatre and carol singing for starters and on the Saturday night, the whole castle is lit up with flaming torches, it really is quite a sight!

Strasbourg, France

When: 27th November – 31st December
Where: Strasbourg, France
Best for: Ski chalet style atmosphere
How to get there: Fly from London Gatwick to Entzheim Strasbourg

Strasbourg proudly calls itself the ‘Capital of Christmas’ and deservedly so. The city itself becomes one giant Christmas market between the 27th November and 31st December, as 300 chalets spread out across 11 sites. These chalets sell decorations, gifts, local produce and delicious food, with the smell of gingerbread and Vin Chaud lingering in the air. At the heart of the celebration stands Strasbourg’s Great Christmas Tree, a 30m tall tree that truly symbolises the city’s passion for Christmas. Market sites include the Christkindelsmärik on Place Broglie, the Cathedral Christmas Market, the Christmas Market of the Three Magi on Place Benjamin-Zix and the Christmas Market of the Carré d’or on Place Du Temple Neuf.

Bruges, Belgium

When: 20 November 2015 to 3 January 2016
Where: Grote Markt and Simon Steinplein
Best for: Chocolate
How to Get There: Eurostar from St Pancras (3hrs 30mins) or flight from Gatwick (1hrs 5 mins)

Arguably one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe, Bruges’ Christmas Market has a fairy-tale setting within a UNESCO World Heritage site. The medieval and Gothic centre of cobbled streets and stunning buildings is decorated with lights and typically Belgian decorations. There are delicious food and beverage stalls, cosy cafés, ice sculptures, gift stalls, and an ice rink all within a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

Prague, Czech Republic

When: 28th November 2015 to 31st December 2015
Where: Wenceslas Square, Old Town, Namesti Republiky, and Hevelske Trziste
Best for: Traditional Crafts
How to Get There… Fly from Gatwick to Prague in just 1hr 55mins

Prague offers a range of fantastic markets over the Christmas period, with all of them featuring brightly decorated wooden huts and impressive fairy light displays. The markets are even open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The markets offer a variety of gifts and handicrafts including glassware, jewellery, wooden toys, metal ware, ceramics and ornaments. Your visit to the markets will also be complemented by the international choirs and school children singing carols.