So it may only be October and we have all had a little moan that the shops are decked out and are already selling mince pies (just admit it, you bought some last month and ate them in one sitting!), but the Christmas markets kick off next month. It is time to get thinking where you are going to head this year to stock up on gingerbread and beautiful decorations, get a little drunk on mulled wine and eat some local, festive delicacy. There are plenty to choose from so here is a little roundup:
Lille in France is the closest European market, just over an hour away on the Eurostar from London. Open from the 20th November – 30th December (closed Christmas Day). It is the largest in Northern France. Traditional wooden chalets, festive foods and a Ferris wheel in the main square. It is a winter wonderland in an 18 metre high Christmas tree.
Germany is probably the most famous for Christmas markets and is home to some of the most popular markets. It is easy to be overwhelmed, Berlin has 60 markets alone! One of the most popular is the market at Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche. With the smell of roasted almonds and mulled wine, this market offers fantastic gifts for everyone. Head here from the 25th November – 1st January 2014
If the amount of markets in Berlin is a bit much then head over to Dresden, home to one of the country’s oldest fairs. Hand-made goods and glühwein are on offer from 27th November to the 24th December.
There are several markets in Belgium every year but the main attraction is the temporary ice rink set up in the main square in Bruges. Surrounded by wooden shops this is open 22 November 2013 to 02 January.
Italy has some fantastic Christmas markets, but it is not as well-known for them as Germany. Trento, hidden in the alps, has a beautiful Christmas market within the city’s old walls and with some of the most fantastic food and drink. This is open from the 23rd November to the 30th December. Venice also plays host to a fabulous Christmas market which, unlike any other market, is stocked solely with local products, including Venetian glassware and carnival masks, as well as regional food specialities. One of the special features of the Venice market is the late night concerts.
Vienna becomes a giant Christmas market! If you are seeking out the more traditional gifts then avoid the markets outside Vienna City Hall and head down to the Spittelberg district market. Kicks off on the 16th November until Christmas Eve.
A little further a field is the winter wonderland in Prague. The markets here are famous for the beautiful music, provided by choirs that come from all over the world. Open from the 30th November to the 12th January at Wenceslas Square. This is because the market attracts many Russian visitors, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas on the 7th January 2014.
The Tallinn Christmas market opens on the 22nd November and finishes on the 8th January like the Prague market. It is worth bearing the very chilly conditions to see this beautiful Christmas Market. It feels like a fairy tale, with cabins, a Santa house, and real reindeer with a line of children ready to feed and pet them.
Where to stay?? Here are some of our top picks*:
* Prices based on 2 adults sharing for one night on the 30th November 2013. Prices correct as of the 7th October 2013