If you dream of real Christmas trees, mulled wine and the strains of carol singers, why not take a walk around some of Europe’s enchanting Christmas markets?
With Christmas across Europe being as diverse as the countries themselves, you might be a little stuck for ideas on where exactly to go. To help you decide, here are just a few ideas on some of Europe’s most magical Christmas markets:
Barcelona, Fira de Santa Llúcia
This traditional Christmas market dates back to 1786. Today it hosts over 300 stalls so it won’t be difficult to find the gifts you like. There’s all manner of handmade Christmas gifts and decorations, mistletoe, poinsettias and Christmas trees.
A most intriguing feature is the Catalan tradition of the caganer (the defecator), a popular figure which appears in their nativity scenes. This small, crude figure crouches over a small brown deposit with his trousers around his ankles! You can buy yours at the market and take it home in memory of one of Catalonia’s most bizarre traditions. But the weirdness doesn’t stop here: Children line up for a go on a giant caga tió, a huge, smiley-faced log that poops out presents when beaten viciously with a stick.
Additionally, there are several exhibitions, musical parades and a nativity scene contest to enjoy, as well as an impressive, life-size nativity scene in Plaça Sant Jaume.
When: 24 November to 6 January
Nuremberg, Main Square
Nuremberg Christmas market, dating back to the 1600s is another very popular event in Germany. Attracting over two million visitors each year, the market fills the Main Square under the Church of our Lady.
Sip traditional mulled wine, savour Bavarian bratwurst, festive cakes and pastries while browsing at the colourful stalls brimming with handicrafts and carved wooden toys. The streets of this magnificent medieval city are then well worth exploring, perhaps in a horse-drawn carriage as you witness all the lights of the festive season.
When: 1 December to 24 December
Brussels, Plaisirs d’hiver (Winter Wonders)
It seems Christmas in Brussels gets bigger each year with the market now extending almost two kilometres. The 200 plus market stalls are little wooden-roofed huts selling mainly arts and crafts as well as food and drink from all over Europe. By the time you reach Place Ste-Catherine you will be at the heart of all the festivities. The pretty stalls keep on going, but you can stop off at the 35 metre long toboggan slope, an illuminated big-wheel and, to keep things even more seasonal, the skating rink.
When: 24 November to 31 December
Bruges Christmas Market, Grote Markt
Medieval Bruges, with its beautiful cobbled streets, is an enchanting place to go at any time of year. The magic is magnified at Christmas thanks to the vibrant market stalls packed with gifts, warming gluhwein and sweet snacks.
Pretty wooden stalls surround the glittering ice rink of the main square where skaters swish by in the shadow of the church tower. If you fancy the 366-step climb to the top of the tower, you’ll be rewarded with awesome views of the illuminated city below.
The atmospheric market on the smaller, tree-lined Simon Stevinplein is also a magical experience with its cosy cafes and chocolatiers lining the streets amid all the glittering stalls.
When: 24 November to 1 January
Budapest Christmas Fair, Vörösmarty tér (Vörösmarty Sqaure)
Based at the centre of the Pest district near the start of ‘Fashion Street’, this lovely cottage market boasts up to 150 stalls, along with local art and cultural displays, including puppet theatres, folk dancing and live music.
There’s something special about an authentic celebration at Christmas and this market doesn’t fail to deliver: all its products are guaranteed as traditionally hand-made by a number of national craft organisations. Don’t miss the daily advent calendar displays at the windows of the 19th Century Gerbeaud Cafe.
When: 10 November to 1 January
Copenhagen, Tivoli at Christmas, Tivoli Park
From mid-November, Tivoli transforms itself into a vast Christmas grotto along with a festive market, Yuletide delicacies, in addition to an invasion of nisser, the Danes version of Christmas pixies. Copenhagen is beautifully decked out in festive decorations at Christmas. You will be struck by the ‘Christmassy’ vibe and the city’s sub-zero temperatures will remind you of the fact that it is definitely winter.
Don’t miss the replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the traditional Father Christmas who sits in the nineteenth-century pantomime theatre. Once you’ve ambled through the market, other festive attractions include an ice rink, a rollercoaster and theme park rides.
When: 18 November to 31 December