The twinkling lights, the jolly music, the warming tipples, the spiced snacks … is Christmas even Christmas before you visit a festive market?
All over the globe, Christmas markets put families, friends, and acquaintances firmly in the holiday spirit. We might even say that it’s impossible to find a place more festive than a Christmas market, this side of Santa’s home in the North Pole.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of our top recommendations for festive markets in 2018. Merry Christmas!
Prague Christmas Markets, Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s Christmas markets are all about shopping for beautiful crafts and sampling the sensational Christmas snacks and drinks. Take a crisp walk through the Old Town and Wenceslas Square to experience the city’s two main markets, where you’ll find handicrafts and jewellery, carved wooden toys, costumes, dolls, and decorations. While the crafts are great for picking up traditional gifts for the family, it’s hard to beat the pleasure of eating the freshly-baked Hungarian flatbreads, barbecued sausages, pancakes, and pastries that you’ll smell as you pace the cobbled streets.
In Prague, you can also: Bathe in the atmosphere of the Guinness World Record-winning Prague Castle, which is officially the largest castle complex in the world, drink beer in the beer capital of the world, and simply relish one of the most budget-friendly capital cities in Europe.
Copenhagen Christmas markets, Denmark
Over Christmas, the city of Copenhagen brims with fantastic festive markets. You’ll discover the most picturesque in Nyhavn, where decorated harbour-front stalls offer mulled wine and traditional Danish Christmas treats, and in Kronborg Castle, where you will find cosy festive stands throughout the courtyard and the stunning ballrooms. The Hans Christian Andersen market at Nytorv Square brings the magic of Andersen’s fairy tales to life, you can enjoy warm mulled beer at the Carlsberg Christmas Market, and if you are feeling creative you can enjoy designs and crafts at Skagerak Christmas Market.
In Copenhagen, you can also: Sample the mouth-watering flavours of the food market at Torvehallerne, relish thrills and spills in the wonderful amusement park of Tivoli, experience an underground art installation at Cisternerne, and party in Kødbyen, a vibrant centre for nightlife.
Berlin Christmas markets, Germany
Berlin’s Charlottenburg Palace is a dazzling spot to enjoy a snow-sprinkled Christmas market, where you can sample traditional German sweets such as spritz biscuits and marzipan loafs, as well as seasonal fairground rides for the children. Alternatively, at the Bröhan Museum you’ll find a festive market that offers handmade crafts and artwork from talented locals. You can also relish the atmospheric Schlossplatz market, the designer chic of the Weihnachtsrodeo design market, and the highly creative Kreuzboerg festive market.
In Berlin, you can also: See the Reichstag where you’ll learn about German Parliament, visit Checkpoint Charlie where people used to cross the Iron Curtain to East Berlin, and immerse yourself in the city’s art galleries, museums, and monuments to the city’s painful 20th Century history.
Winter Wonderland, London, UK
London’s Winter Wonderland event in Hyde Park invites you to find some of the jolliest Christmas cheer in the UK. This isn’t just any festive market: visit Winter Wonderland and see Christmas shows for young and old, festive comedy, ice sculpting workshops, ice skating, Bavarian-style bars and stalls, and even a temporary rollercoaster! And if you have children, you can be sure that they’ll want to meet Santa in his Christmas grotto.
In London, you can also: Combine a visit to Winter Wonderland with a choice of theatre shows, Madame Tussauds, Buckingham Palace, and a whole host of other attractions.
Lille Christmas market, Northern France
Lille’s festive market has been a local custom for centuries, and it’s the largest and oldest in Northern France. You’ll feel the history and tradition when you see how much of Lille city becomes draped with twinkling lights, decorations, and garlands – perfect for spreading festive cheer to you and your loved ones.
Throughout the town centre, you can enjoy 90 wooden chalets filled with decorations, food, gifts, and warming holiday drinks. There’s also an 18-metre-high Christmas tree, plus a funfair, live music, exhibitions, and, of course, Santa Claus himself.
In Lille, you can also: Soak up views of the entire city from the impressive Art Deco Belfry, explore the gorgeous Cathedral of Notre-Dame de la Treille, sample delicious French cuisine on Rue du Gand, and window shopping in the picturesque Vieux Lille.
Vienna Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria
Every Christmas, beautiful Vienna transforms its most popular squares into magnificent festive markets, where you’ll be surrounded by tempting culinary aromas, glittering decorations, and handicrafts that make perfect gifts. You’ll also hear carols sung by international choirs, witness the beauty of 40 stalls standing before Belvedere Palace, and sample the handmade crafts of Spittelberg.
Viennese festive markets are cosy, inviting places, where you can sip on a steaming mug of Weihnachtspunsch (Christmas punch) and savour hot chestnuts and roast potato snacks to warm the cockles.
In Vienna, you can also: Relish culture in all its forms. Vienna is known for being jam-packed with classical music, jazz, and art galleries, so it’s the perfect holiday spot for culture vultures and people who love the finer things in life.
Basel Christmas Markets, Barflüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, Switzerland
Each year, the Basel Christmas Market holds a competition for the prettiest Christmas market stands, encouraging stallholders to pull out all the stops to make their displays as eye-catchingly festive as possible. The market is thought to be the largest in Switzerland, and during the run-up to Christmas this year, there are few places in the world as festively atmospheric as when you’re listening to carols being sung by a choir stood beside the beautiful Rhine River.
In Switzerland, you can also: Munster Cathedral, the Rathaus (city hall), and an endless range of museums such as Kunstmuseum Basel, the oldest art museum in the country.
You’ll continue to find Christmas markets and celebrations across the whole of Europe, including Krakow, Budapest, and Cologne. They’re each ready to whip you into a festive frenzy with their choice of regional dishes, seasonal fun, and picturesque stalls.
Where is your favourite place in Europe to enjoy Christmas? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!