Looking for a cosy Christmas market to soak up the festive spirit this winter? We take a look at ten of the best across the UK and Europe.
The Christmas trees are up, festive songs are playing in the shops and the alluring aroma of mulled wine is drifting through town centres.
To ease you into the fact that Christmas is well and truly on its way, we’ve written an indispensable guide to the best festive markets. After all, nothing gets us in the mood more than ice-skating, carol singing, mince pies and plenty of food and drink. So if you fancy some gorgeous settings, great gifts and goblets of Glühwein (mulled wine) in a snow globe perfect location, read on!
Top UK Christmas markets
If you’re staying in Blighty there’s a good chance a top Christmas market will be setting up shop in a town or city near you. But if not, why not try one of the following, which are in no particular order…
The largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany, Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market & Craft Fair boasts over 180 chalets. Held in Victoria Square and New Street, it offers Christmas fans traditional German fare such as bratwurst sausages, pretzels and German beers served in vast stein glasses.
(picture courtesy of The Dean and Chapter of Winchester)
Sitting in the shadow of the city’s impressive cathedral, this market attracts around 350,000 winter revellers each year. Cosy wooden chalets offer festive foods, decorations and unique gifts around the historic Inner Close of the city. Add the open air ice rink, carol singing and a bustling atmosphere, and you can see why this is one of the most enchanting Christmas markets in the UK.
Nothing quite says ‘It’s Christmas’ like costumed contestants running around an obstacle course in Covent Garden balancing fruitcakes on spoons. But you’ll also find a dazzling array of markets in the capital including a Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park with ice-skating, big top shows and a huge Christmas market. Keep an eye out for the switching on of Regent Street’s Christmas lights, the Norwegian Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square and smaller markets in Greenwich and the Natural History Museum.
Not to be outdone by London, Edinburgh is also in the running for the Capital of Christmas, and provides a magical backdrop for all things Christmassy. The festive fun begins at Light Night on 23rd November before continuing with traditional German and Scottish markets, with the latter showcasing the best local food and drink in the heart of St Andrew Square. The children’s market also has some inspiring festive treats for youngsters. And don’t forget Hogmanay on 31st December!
Alternatively, why not step into Christmas at Bath Christmas Market? Snuggled between the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey, it has some 120 wooden chalets peppered along the medieval, cobbled streets of this breath-taking Roman city. As well as the usual gifts, decorations, open air ice rink, carol singing and delicious nibbles on offer, you can also pamper yourself at the Thermae Bath Spa after a hard day’s Christmas shopping.
Top Europeans Christmas markets
6. Prague, Czech Republic
Arguably one of the most beautiful European cities at any time of the year, Prague has got it all – actual snow, a gothic centre and an olde-worlde Christmas setting. Two large markets are held in Wenceslas Square (as in Old King Wenceslas) and the Old Town Square. While an enormous Christmas tree is flanked by a nativity scene and choirs that come from all over the country to sing carols. Decorated stalls sell everything from honeyed gingerbread and sausages to cookies and sweet mulled wine. Keep a look out for the barrels filled with carp – what the Czech’s eat for their Christmas dinner.
7. Dresden, Germany
Germany is home to some of the best Christmas markets in the world, such as Cologne, Nuremberg, Munich and Frankfurt. However, Dresden boasts the country’s oldest Christmas market, dating back to 1434. Lighting up the historic city centre, highlights of the market include watching an 8,000 pound fruit cake meander through the medieval streets, 200 wooden craft stalls, a 46-foot Christmas pyramid and the world’s biggest nutcracker! Christmas markets don’t come much better than this.
8. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen oozes Christmas charm, helped no doubt by its sub-zero temperatures at this time of year. Each year over one million people pack out the Christmas fair in Tivoli Gardens –
Europe’s oldest amusement park. The park itself is a vast Christmas grotto with wooden huts selling food and gifts, an ice-rink, rollercoaster, hundreds of trees decorated with fairy lights, Yuletide grub and plenty of glögg, a Nordic variety of mulled wine. Watch out for Pixie Village too, where there’s around 130 mechanical pixies – important characters in Danish folklore.
9. Vienna, Austria
From mid-November Christmas comes to town in Vienna, transforming the city’s prettiest squares into a quintessential Austrian winter wonderland. Dating from 1294, it’s one of Europe’s oldest festive markets and is set against the stunning backdrop of the City Hall. International choirs flock here to sing carols and there are some 150 wooden stalls selling gifts, candy floss, roasted chestnuts, spicy Christmas cookies and mulled wine. Snow often blankets the market at this time of year giving it an extra special appeal.
10. Strasbourg, France
At 444 years old and counting, the Christkindelsmärik (market of the infant Jesus) is France’s oldest Christmas market and claims to be the ‘Capital of Christmas’. Located over several streets and squares in the city, the focal point is a 31-metre tall Christmas tree that watches carefully over carol singers, nativity plays and an ice-rink. Cameras are compulsory for this winter setting, especially the wooden stalls that surround the Notre-Dame Cathedral and line Place Broglie. You can also treat your taste buds to pretzels, roasted chestnuts, bredele cookies, and Flammekeuche – a thin pizza slice of bacon, onions and sour cream.