Europe’s Christmas Markets
I know, I know, the pumpkins from Halloween have not yet rotted, nor the fake cobwebs been pulled off the walls and I’m talking about Christmas. But there’s only 45 days till Christmas, so it’s time to start getting into the Christmas spirit and there’s no better way than visiting a Christmas Market.
Neat wooden cabins stocked with handmade crafts, decorations and traditional toys are festively decorated with twinkling fairy lights and sprayed with fake snow. The smell of cinnamon, mulled wine, roasting chestnuts and cooking meat lingers in the crisp winter air. Carol singers pelt out tunes and jingle bells, while Santa sits in his grotto listening intently to the wish lists of little ones, eyes aglow at the man in red. This is what Christmas markets are all about and it is here you will capture the true magic of Christmas.
While these markets traditionally started in German speaking parts of Europe, they have spread throughout the world, from New York to Dublin, Bruges to Paris.
Stock up on goodies for Christmas stockings, enjoy a cup of hot mulled wine, devour some tasty local delicacies and allow yourself to be immersed in Christmas cheer! For now, you can read up on some other great Christmas Market destinations.
Dates: 15 November 2014 – 26 December 2014
The Vienna Christmas markets are one of the oldest and most famous in the world.
Christmas in Vienna is an elegant affair and the Christmas Markets here are one of the oldest in Europe. Sparkling glass baubles, handmade gifts, the smell of cinnamon and hot punch linger in the air.
The Viennese sip glühwein and nibble crescent-shaped Christmas cookies (Vanillekipferl) on the city’s many decorated market squares. while in Freyung, a market sells artisanal gifts and along the winding cobblestone alleyways of atmospheric Spittelberg market is a romantic market with stalls set up along the narrow alleyways. The spectacular Schönbrunn Palace also has a wonderful market with the palace as a stunning backdrop.
There are many markets in the city, the largest of which is in the park in front of City Hall. Advent windows are painted by local artist and the park is transformed into a festive fairy tale world with dozens of stands laden with beautiful gifts and mouthwatering delicacies.
Music is very important during this time and every market has some form of festive entertainment. City Hall has international carol singing, St. Stephen’s Cathedral chamber music and carol concerts while choirs and brass bands can be heard throughout the city.
Plenty else to do:
Boat trips continue uninterrupted in Vienna all winter, despite the cold weather (www.ddsg-blue-danube.at) or take a wintry walk through Prater and warm up afterwards in one of the the city’s many coffeehouses for a mug of hot chocolate or a Viennese melange coffee. Outside the city he Vienna Woods and the hills that hem in the city such as the Wilhelminenberg, Lemoniberg (near the Otto-Wagner-Spital) and Cobenzl are also worth a look in the winter. All three of them have their own Christmas markets.
Flights Direct to Vienna – From €40 one way
Clickandgo.com – From €269 per person – flights and 3 nights in 4 star hotel
Dates: 24 November – 31 December 2014
Berlin has become the capital of Christmas Markets in Germany, with 60 Christmas Markets scattered around the city. There is a whole range of markets, small and traditional, some have a more contemporary twist with local artists and craftspeople selling contemporary pieces. Some not to be missed are:
Charlottenburg Castle Christmas Market hosts one of the most famous Christmas Markets in Berlin, turning into a winter wonderland with festively decorated wooden cabins selling everything from ancient handcrafts, to traditional Christmas decorations, foodstalls selling chestnuts, sausages and mulled wine.
The Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market is a traditional market with everything from wood carvers to stonemasons selling their work. There’s also a great entertainment programme with jugglers, acrobats, fire artists, dance groups, choirs, lots more!
Potsdamer Platz Christmas Market – there is a Christmas Market on the Sony Centre’s 4,000 square metre event area covered with lots of lights and stalls selling handicrafts and other goodies . Alongside the handicrafts market is an ice rink and the largest mobile toboggan run in Europe, which is 12 metres high and 70 metres long.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Christmas Market, near the Kurfürstendamm. has more than 170 craft and Christmas market stands set up around the historical church in the centre of City West. Christmas fairy lights surround the elaborately decorated Breitscheidplatz. More than two million visitors enjoy the Christmas atmosphere around the 20 metre high Christmas tree every year.
Berlin’s largest Christmas market takes place in the Spandau Old Town, with 250 stands during the week and 400 at weekends and the stage programme includes a Christmas rock concert on Fridays from 6 pm. Highlights are a Christmas crib with living animals on Reformationsplatz, the St. Nikolai Christmas Garden and crafts and design at the historic crafts market on Reformationsplatz – where a medieval plague procession also takes place every Wednesday.
The Lucia Christmas Market at the Kulturbrauerei (Cultural Brewery) is named after Lucia, the Nordic goddess of light and this Christmas Market is very popular with anyone looking for a romantic atmosphere.
A nostalgic Christmas market takes place between the Staatsoper and Opernpalais. Craftspeople, confectioners, almond and chestnut roasters, and candle and lantern makers offer their wares in more than 200 wooden booths. There is also a crib with real animals and a wooden horse carousel.
15 November – 21 December 2014
This is the eight year of the markets and there will be 87 traders from 26 different countries – Morocco, China, Spain and helps attract up to 1 million visitors.
There are plenty of food stalls with some exotic food on offer including ostrich and kangaroo burgers. There’s hog on a spit, mulled wine, crepes etc.
There is also a santa’s grotto, carol singing and children’s carousel. Santa’s storytelling.
They offer free tours of the market during the week during the day, where they bring you around to meet the different stall sellers, explain recipes etc.
There is plenty else to do there, including fantastic shopping and pantomines in Grand Opera House which is a magical building.
Train to Belfast – From €20 return
Bus to Belfast – From €10 return