5 European countries with the best Christmas markets
Wonderful winter wonderlands27th Jul 2022
You’d be forgiven for thinking that you want to get away from it all this Christmas. It has been a trying couple of years with the pandemic and most families have kept trips to a minimum as travel restrictions continued to apply even as Covid-19 numbers reduced.
But there’s some latent demand now and many are thinking of a getaway with a difference. If you want some change and are prepared to travel, why not head to some of the best Christmas markets that Europe has to offer?
A summery Christmas with poolside braais and trips out to the beach is appealing, but there’s just something special about the Yuletide Christmas spirit in Europe.
If you’re thinking of warming your hands with some flavoursome gluhwein, sampling roasted chestnuts, homemade toffee apples, eggnog, stollen and Lebkuchen there are plenty of Christmas markets offering this and more.
1. Belgium Christmas markets
Bruges is the obvious choice when it comes to attending a Belgian Christmas market. This year the markets in Belgian capital run from the 25 November till the 8 January. If you happen to be visiting family in the UK Belgium is hop and a skip on the Eurostar from St. Pancras international. If you choose to go by train early in the morning you could be eating tartiflette (a dish made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions) by lunch time as it takes just three hours and 30 minutes to get there, after a quick change in Brussels. But don’t just go to the capital, Christmas cheer can be celebrated in Brussels, Louvain-La-Neuve, Ostend and Leuven.
2. Austrian Christmas markets
If you’re after a romantic Christmas market experience, then Austria should be your go to. Their markets run from the middle of November till the end of the year. You can enjoy a gluhwein and Linzer Torte in Salzburg, Graz, Styria, Vienna, or Klagenfurt. If you want to couple your trip with a ski holiday, there’s Christmas markets and cheer in popular resorts like Innsbruck and Tyrol.
3. German Christmas markets
Germany is renowned for its fairy-tale Christmas markets. Enjoy your hot chestnuts, grilled sausages and gluhwein in cities like Nuremburg, Dresden, Munich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Cologne and the capital – Berlin.
As these markets are so popular, they can get crowded. If you’re after some quiet celebrations, consider smaller Christmas markets like Stadtgarten in Cologne or some of the more intimate ones in and around Frankfurt.
4. British Christmas markets
You don’t have to go to mainland Europe to enjoy a Christmas market. If you don’t want to learn a foreign language and are fluent in English, the United Kingdom (UK) has a few good Christmas markets of its own to boast about.
Some of the best Christmas markets in the UK include ones in Cardiff, York, Bath, Belfast, Norwich, Edinburgh, Manchester and of course the capital of London, which is famous for its Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. This year, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland runs from the 18 November till the 2 January 2023.
5. Turkish Christmas markets
If you’re not keen on snow but still want exposure to colder temperatures, then Turkey may be one country to consider. It may not be a top choice for Yuletide fun as Christmas is not traditionally celebrated in the country.
People, therefore, resort to a more ‘Do it yourself Christmas’, but this may be exactly what you need if you want a toned-down affair.
But if you find yourself on holiday in Turkey and in need of a Christmas market environment our online research has found references to Christmas markets in its capital, Istanbul.
Christmas market top tip
If you want to go on holiday where there’s a Christmas market that suits your budget and desires, it’s important to do your research. There are ones that are more designed for children, while others would suit couples. Some are also bigger than others. It really depends on what you want – do you want variety, intimacy, or family fun? You choose!
However, they haven’t standardised the dates and not all run up to and beyond Christmas, so make sure you are aware of how long these markets run for before you make your booking so that you’re not disappointed.
This may be an obvious thing to say but it’s important to dress for the cold. No doubt, you’ll be wandering around the markets for hours and the last thing you want to do is cut your experience short because your shivers are splashing up the hot drinks.
Finally, we may live in an increasingly ‘tap your card n go’ world, but it’s always a good idea to take some spare cash with you in case you fall in love with trinkets and foods from smaller operators who may not be as technically savvy.