If you’re feeling a bit of a Scrooge but want to regain that Christmas spirit, visiting one, or several, of the great Christmas markets in Europe will soon have you full of festive cheer.
Sip on Glühwein to keep out the winter chill, bathe in the warm glow of twinkling lights and magnificent Christmas trees and get involved in a centuries-old tradition from snowy Scandinavia to the heart of Bohemia.
For a last minute city break, with more than a bit of sparkle, get a little inspiration from our list below.
The musical city of Salzburg is a romantic choice for a Christmas market visit, with its connections to Mozart, The Sound of Music and even the writer of Silent Night. Located in the northern Alps, there’s no question of a white Christmas with snow starting to fall about now.
Christmas markets in Salzburg have been taking place since the 15th century, and the largest is held on Cathedral Square. Smaller markets can be found around the city such as one by Hellbrunn Palace, or smaller but equally charming locations such as in the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Runs 17th November – 26th December 2. Strasbourg
As the self-proclaimed ‘Capital of Christmas’, Strasbourg’s Christmas markets are popular and with good reason. Dotted around the picturesque Alsatian town, the markets each have an individual feel with a guest country invited every year to display their Christmas wares in one area; it’s Portugal this year.
The French city’s year-round appeal only steps up a notch around Christmas with a staggeringly large Christmas tree in Place Kleiber, and the main traditional market nestled under the terracotta hues of the Cathedral, once the world’s tallest building.
Make the most of your visit with the festive food on offer in the markets themselves, of course, but also take the opportunity to eat plenty of Tarte Flambée and Choucroute Garnie washed down with the local wines.
Runs 25th November – 31st December 3. Prague
It seems only fitting that the birthplace of the ‘Good King Wenceslaus’ would be teeming with yuletide cheer. In the square named after Wenceslaus himself, the Czech patron saint, you will find one of the two main markets in Prague, with the other being found in the Old Town Square. More petite markets can be found by the castle and on Kampa Island.
As well as mulled wine, there are still plenty of opportunities to drink reknowned Czech beers, possibly alongside klobása, a barbecued sausage you will find sold amongst the stalls or trdelník, a sweet cylindrical pastry. Bohemian crafts are sold beneath the gigantic gleaming Christmas tree next to St. Nicholas Church with a stable with real animals close-by too.
Runs 26th November – 6th January 4. Munich
The Bavarian Capital gets itself in to a party spirit yet again for Christmas with a mind-blowing 24 markets. As well as the usual, things get medieval in Wittlesbacherplatz which conjures up the smells and sights of some of Europe’s original markets with traders in costume and traditional mead or Feuerzangebowle served in wonderfully designed goblets. In fact, each of the markets serves up mulled wine in their own vessel so choose wisely before deciding on your cup.
Aside from the central market in Marienplatz, you can get into a festival spirit with the vast Tollwood Winterfestival at Theresienwiese, where Oktoberfest celebrations also take place. It offers a lot more beside the usual crafts you’ll find at the more traditional markets as well as performances and art.
Runs November 25th – 24th December 5. Copenhagen
Head further north to the Danish capital for a taste of a Scandi Christmas. The main market in the Tivoli Gardens, the famous amusement park, turns in to a winter wonderland with plenty of Christmas sparkle, the lake is also transformed in to an ice rink.
Back in the heart of the city, the Nyhavn market is set alongside the old harbour showcases traditional crafts or Freetown Christiania with its free-spirited bazaar atmosphere. The first two weekends of December, you’ll also find treats in the beautiful renaissance castle of Kronborg.
With the Danish concept of hygge being at the forefront of everyone’s minds this year, what better place to experience it than in Copenhagen itself in Christmas mode.
Runs 18th November – 31st December 6. Paris
Perhaps not necessarily fitting into the standard feel of the other markets, Paris still is a great draw for your festive shopping fix. The main market is found along the Champs Elysees, complete with ice rink and several different areas serving up a great selection of items and food, and even champagne.
There are other markets across the city: underneath the Montparnasse Tower, in the commercial La Defence district and near the Eiffel Tower. You’ll be able to rack up a little more spending in the main shops too – December is the only time of year the Parisian department stores are open on a Sunday allowing for a full weekend of present buying.
Runs 11th November – 8th January 7. Bologna
For a departure from the Germanic Christmas markets, pop to Italy to discover what the delectable city of Bologna can serve up. It’s a gastronomic draw, no surprise giving the city’s reputation, and picking up some torrone is essential – a Christmassy, Italian nougat.
Plenty of crib figurines and chocolate dipped citrus peel are to be found and, if you happen to be visiting for the new year, a separate street market runs in the Piazza Maggiore on New Year’s Eve where they set fire to an effigy of an old man to destroy any negativity left from the year – possibly needed after 2016.
Runs November 20th – January 6th 8. Nuremberg
The Nuremberg market is an old hand at Christmas markets and you’ll even find that some of the stalls themselves date back over a century. Buy Zwetschgenmannle, the cute figurines hailing from the city otherwise known as Prune men as they used to be made of plums. Although gingerbread is a mainstay of Christmas markets across the world, it’s a Nuremberg export so be sure to get some to take back.
As a city to explore, there’s plenty more than just shopping with a huge swath of museums illustrating Nuremberg’s fascinating past.
Runs 25th November – 24th December