Last week Gillian Crawshaw looked at the upcoming spooky festivities of Halloween, today we are jumping just a little ahead and getting ready for Christmas. Though it’s still October the shops are starting to stock mince pies and if you have been to a big department store you might already have seen a Christmas tree or two. If you are looking for somewhere to get unique and individual presents this Christmas, why not take a short break to one of Europe’s bustling Christmas markets? Read on as Penny Golightly guides us through the best the continent has to offer this November and December.
A visit to a Christmas market is a magical experience, and there’s no better way to get yourself into the festive mood. Most markets begin in mid-November and they tend to last until the week before Christmas, making them an ideal short break. A few even stay open until the New Year, if you’re looking for an interesting change to your usual festive activities.
Since they’re mainly based in urban areas, you have all the benefits of a city break plus some extra shopping and a visit from Santa. You’re sure to find something to keep everyone in the family happy, including parents, teens and the youngest of children. To bring your trip in on budget – and maybe leave you more spending money for those markets – try to combine a low-cost flight with a cheap apartment rental, or stay closer to home with a UK-based visit.
The coolest capital
If you mention Christmas markets, Germany is the first country that most people think of. It boasts hundreds of festive markets, but for something really special try Berlin. The capital city is home to 60 separate markets this year, each with an individual flavour, so you can pick a few to visit and combine them with some diverse sightseeing and cultural stops. Getting there’s easy with a cheap easyJet, Ryanair, germanwings or Jet2 flight and once there, why not stay in a Berlin holiday rental.
Try Charlottenberg Castle market for the beautiful backdrop, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church for crafts and Christmas decorations, and Potsdamer Platz for ice skating and tobogganing. Snacking is one of the best things about the festive markets, and adults can enjoy hot mulled wine and grilled sausages, while the kids can tuck into hot chocolate and iced gingerbread.
Twinkling and traditional
Vienna is home to several Christmas markets, and has been hosting them for over seven hundred years. The Christkindlmarkt and The Magic of Advent in front of the City Hall are the most popular and the largest, and while some of the goods on offer are a bit touristy, you can still find traditional craft stalls in the Spittelberg district.
Nibble on crescent-shaped Christmas biscuits (vanillekipferl), and remember to set aside some time to stroll around the city and enjoy the museums and the architecture. Book ahead for a bargain trip: germanwings, easyJet and Jet2 all fly directly to Vienna.
Scenic and special
Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square play host to the largest Christmas markets in Prague, and it’s all about soaking up the atmosphere. These events are famous for their musical entertainment, so be sure to wrap up warm and enjoy choirs from all around the country singing beautiful Christmas carols.
Walk around brightly-painted stalls selling glassware, scented beeswax candles, wooden toys and puppets, then nibble on some freshly baked pastries. Get there cheaply with a flight from Wizz Air, Flybe, Jet2 or easyJet and stay cheaply in one of our Prague holiday lets.
Copenhagen holds a beautiful Christmas market each year. The Tivoli Gardens amusement park is transformed into a winter wonderland, with miles and miles of twinkling fairy lights festooning the trees, walkways and shops.
Wooden stalls sell gifts and refreshments, and you can keep the family amused on the ice rink and rollercoasters once you’ve done your shopping. Grown-ups can warm up with glögg, the local mulled wine with a dash of spirits, and everyone can tuck into filling hot apple dumplings. Get there with one of the budget deals on offer at bmi regional, Norwegian, easyJet or British Airways.
Holiday in the UK
If you have very young children, or you’d just like to stay closer to home, you can find excellent Christmas markets all around the UK. Depending upon where you’re based, you could make a day trip of it, or have a longer city stay.
Bath, London’s South Bank, Birmingham and Manchester Christmas markets are some of the biggest and the best, and they all have a slightly Germanic flavour. Adults can enjoy mulled wine and hot cider, and everyone can try tasty continental foods ranging from crepes to currywurst. Pick up stocking fillers, ornaments and handmade gifts before making that traditional trip to Santa’s grotto.
Penny Golightly blogs about finding the nicer things in life for less at PennyGolightly.com. She lives in London and is a freelance journalist and author.
For more hints and tips on the best Christmas markets in Europe why not check out our great guide to finding your magical Christmas market experience.
Staying together has been the theme of our recent series, here on the HomeAway blog. We have been taking a look at a range of holidays and holiday homes where you can stay with your loved ones. There’s still time to check out Gillian Crawshaw’s guide to Halloween in London. Looking for last minute half-term holiday ideas? Sian Reynolds has you covered and whether your prefer city breaks or country retreats we have top travel expert tips for you.