The ultimate guide for where to buy your christmas presents and get in the festive mood
We can’t think of anything more festive than taking those last couple of holiday days you have left and spending them on a weekend trip to a European Christmas market.
Though it has been said that the Germans do the Christmas market best (and we have included a Deutsch location for you delectation), Austria, Estonia and even ol’ Blighty have made it onto our list of enchanting locations.
These markets are the ideal spot to grab some prezzies and get yourself in the crimbo mood, whether you’re a Scrooge or a full-on Christmas elf.
So, grab your favourite duvet coat and prep your Instagram, these delightfully chilly destinations are where you need to head this December.
Best For: Guaranteed Snow
Tallinn Christmas Market, Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn’’s unspoilt medieval town centre plays host to possibly the prettiest Christmas Market on the map,– not least because snow has blanketed the square for it annually since it started in 2001. There’’s a cosy feel with just over 60 small wooden huts selling handcrafted wreaths, lamps and sheepskin rugs, plus plenty of gingerbread, local honeys and mulled wine to ward off the cold. Musicians and dancers weave through the crowds, while at the heart of it all, – apart from the illuminated snow sculptures, – lies Estonia’s most famous and largest Christmas tree. (christmasmarket.ee)
When: 17th November – 6th January
Go to visittallinn.ee for a full list of recommended hotels. British Airways, EasyJet and RyanAir all fly directly to Tallin for £200 and under.
Best For: Staying Put
Manchester Christmas Markets, Manchester, UK
It started with a cluster of wooden stalls but now, 15 years later, Manchester’’s Christmas market has snowballed into an award-winning festive fantasia attracting seven million visitors yearly. Follow the 300 chalet-lined market trail across the city centre for all kinds of bespoke gifts, from fine jewellery to bonsai trees, while stopping for cocktails at the new pop-up-style Christmas Vintage Lounge on Exchange Square. The real highlight is the street food on Albert Square. With every European delicacy, from Spanish paella to Hungarian goulash, we defy you to leave on an empty stomach. (visitmanchester.com)
When:10th November – 21st December
Go to visitmanchester.com for a full list of recommended hotels. Manchester is one of the most accessible British cities, complete with coach and train station as well as airport.
Best For: A Fairytale Setting
Prague Christmas Markets, Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’’s distinctively medieval backdrop of church domes, towers and magnificent ninth-century castle, provides the ultimate festive skyline. Stroll through cobbled streets, past hidden courtyards and over pretty bridges to Staromestské Námestie (the Old Town Square), or Wenceslas Square, for the largest – and most magical– markets. They are filled with atmospheric choirs, giant Christmas trees and fairy light-festooned stalls selling locally made gifts including luxe ceramics and scented candles. (vanocevpraze.cz)
When: 2nd December – 6th January
Go to prague.eu for a full list of recommended hotels. Edinburgh, Manchester, London and more have direct flights through EasyJet and Ryanair for around £50.
Best For: First-Timers
Plaisirs D’’Hiver, Brussels, Belgium
Stretching over a mile from Grand Place to Place Sainte-Catherine, Belgium’s Plaisirs d’’Hiver (Winter Wonders) is perfect for first-time Christmas market pizazz. Thanks to Eurostar, you can be there in two hours – and it’s worth going for the sugar highs alone. Tuck into fluffy Belgian waffles, caramelised apples and seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts) while listening to the brass band. Beyond sweet treats, there’s an ice-skating rink, Ferris wheel, nightly ‘sounds-and-light’ show and the stalls offer all the usual stocking-fillers including nutcrackers and hand-blown glass decorations. (visitbrussels.be)
When: 24th November – 31st December
Best For: Designer Decorations
Tivoli Christmas Market, Copenhagen, Denmark
When you’’ve got the chief designer from Tiffany & Co. planning the design concept, you can bank on an exquisite spectacle. In 1997, John Loring set the cobbled streets sparkling and transformed the city’s famous Tivoli Gardens into a twinkling winter wonderland with more than 500,000 fairy lights. Now, this Scandi-chic market, along with welcoming scents of gløgg (mulled wine), exhilarating rides and brightly coloured stalls, selling the type of sweaters made famous by Sofie Gråbøl in The Killing, attracts more than a million visitors a year. (tivoli.dk)
When: 18th November -– 31st December
Go to tivoli.dk for a full list of recommended hotels. Fly to Copenhagen with EasyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and more from £35.
Best For: Something Different
Christmas Markets, Valkenburg, Holland
If you fancy a change from the well-trodden markets (and don’t mind the trek) head to the labyrinth of tunnels and caves at this quirky underground grotto, which sits beneath a pretty hilltop in Valkenburg. Packed with Instagram-worthy features, including mural carvings, an 18th century chapel and stalls selling everything from hand-blown glass to local artwork, visitors can even have a nose around Santa’’s house. Don’t leave without trying some poffertjes (mini pancakes) at the Enchanted Garden café. (kerststadvalkenburg.nl)
When: 17th November – – 7th January
Go to visit maastricht.com for a full lift of recommended hotels. KLM flies from to Amsterdam from £94 (klm.com). At the airport take the two and a half hour train ride to the close city of Maastricht.
Best For: Getting Your Skates On
Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market & Ice-rink, Winchester, UK
Claiming title of England’’s Christmas Capital, Winchester’’s Christmas Market is set in the shadow of the town’s cathedral and welcomes over 100 German-style wooden chalet stalls, all handpicked for their quality products, most of which can’’t be bought on the high street. Fuel up at the food court with tasty German sausages, before enjoying the ultimate highlight: a romantic skate under the stars on the dazzling open-air ice rink. (christmasinwinchester.co.uk)
When: 20th November – –22nd December
Go to visitwinchester.co.uk for a full list of recommended hotels. Winchester is an hour long journey direct from London Waterloo.
Best For: Stepping Back In Time
Christkindlmarkt, Vienna, Austria
With a market practically on every corner, where better to don your finest faux-fur than Vienna? Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market is best for stylish shopping, while the largest and gaudiest – Christkindlmarkt (christmas market) – dates back to 1294 and is bursting with atmosphere. Set in the Rathausplatz in front of the neo-Gothic City Hall, locals come to check out the festive window scenes painted by local artists, and stay for the glühwein (mulled wine). Take a stroll through Rathauspark for old-fashion carousel rides and a ‘Post Office in the Clouds’, where you can post your Christmas cards. Remember those? (christkindlmarkt.at)
When: 17th November -– 26th December
Got tofor a full list of recommended hotels. Direct flights from major UK cities are around £150.
Best For: A German Show-Stopper
Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg, Germany
The Germans know a thing or two about Christmas markets. Over 2,500 are dotted around the country but Nuremberg’s 400-year-old Christkindlmarkt is arguably the most famous. Shining in the Bavarian city’s old town, this festive gem has it all: twinkling lights, super-strong glühwein and delicious Bratwurst. Each of the 180 stalls sell genuine tat-free treasures, from handmade candles to enameled music boxes, and special wardens ensure all products are locally made. It all adds to the authentic flavour and the buzzing Bierkeller next to the ice-rink is a guaranteed Christmas spirit booster. (http://www.christkindlesmarkt.de/en/
When: 1st December – 24th December
London and Manchester enjoy direct flights to Nuremburg from £25.
Best For: Seeing In The New Year
Edinburgh Christmas Markets, Edinburgh, UK
Bringing traditional German flavour to the Scottish capital, stallholders at The European Market are from Frankfurt, while The Scottish Market serves up local delights. Treat your pooch to canine cookies from The Grassmarket on Saturdays, lose yourself in the fir tree maze and ride the Edinburgh wheel for fantastic city views. Once Christmas is wrapped up, it all kicks off again for Hogmanay: a legendary New Year’s party where 80,000 revelers come for music, fireworks and lashings of whisky. (edinburghchristmas.com)
When: 8th Nov – 6th Jan
Go to edinburgh.org for a full list of recommended hotels. Direct flights to Edinburgh from many British cities are around £50-£85, whilst trains from Kings Cross are around £100.