To get you in the Christmas spirit, we’ve rounded up some of the most festive Christmas markets across Europe for steaming mulled wine and sugary treats.
Set in the city’s ethereal Old Town Square and the aptly named Wenceslas Square, the focal point of Prague’s Christmas Market is the enormous Christmas tree imported every year from the Krkonose Mountains. Try the traditional trdlo (cinnamon and sugared bread) and the local medovina (honey liquor).
Set in front of the magnificent Town Hall, the annual “Christkindlmarkt” in Vienna is over 700 years old, making it one of the oldest in Europe. Considering this is the home of the snow globe, it’s hardly surprising that this is also one of the most popular. Admire the Advent windows painted by local artists while you nibble gebrannte mandeln (toasted almonds) and Vanillekipferl (Christmas cookies).
Hundreds of Christmas trees and half a million lights illuminate Copenhagen’s Christmas Market in the Tivoli Gardens, Europe’s oldest amusement park. The lake is transformed into an ice rink, pony rides are available and there are plenty of food stalls. Hot apple dumplings and glögg – a Danish mulled wine – are firm favourites.
For more of a contemporary feel, head to Berlin’s Christmas Market at the base of the Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) where you’re as likely to find modern artworks and designer goods as you are antiques and traditional decorations. Take a stroll to the Posdamer Platz where you’ll find an open-air ice rink, a 20-metre high Christmas tree and some of the best sausages in Germany.
Apparently the site of the world’s first Christmas tree, Tallinn’s medieval Old Town Hall Square is undeniably the perfect spot for a Christmas market. Although only started in 1991, it is quickly becoming one of the most popular in Europe. Look out for the sauerkraut and blood sausages, hot soups and stir-fries sold from the little wooden huts.
Frequently likened to “stepping into A Christmas Carol”, Stockholm’s “Gamla Stan” is one of four Christmas markets spread out across the islands. Its cobblestone streets, chiming church bells and inevitably snow-dusted rooftops make it one of the most picturesque. If you can bear it at this time of year, look out for reindeer meat on the menu – it’s a Swedish speciality. Alternatively the local pepparkakor (gingersnaps) washed down with glögg (mulled wine) are a must.
The oldest in Germany, Dresden’s Christmas Market is seeped in tradition – the highlight of which is the annual Stollen Festival when one giant 3,000kg Striezelmarkt cake is paraded through the streets of the city. Such pride is taken in its formation that only approved bakers are allowed to sell this sweet fruitcake.
Over 400 years old and with around 200 market stalls, Nuremburg’s Christmas Market is one of the best-known in Europe, mostly for its food. Local Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and feuerzangenbowle (mulled wine laced with rum or brandy – a mouthful in more ways than one!) are very popular. By the evening the market is flooded with musicians, from bass bands to jazz players.
Known as the “granddaddy” of German Christmas Markets, the Kölner Dom stands in the shadow of the two spires of the famous Cologne cathedral. It’s also famous for its selection of food – the aromatic roasted apples and almonds simply must be sampled.
Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik has the oldest and most famous Christmas Market in France, the Marchés de Noël. Since 1570 it has been held around the town’s cathedral and as well as mulled wine, it also has a tradition of spicy hot orange juice. On the food front, the bredele (Alsatian butter cookies) and maennele (little brioche men) are particularly special.