As Andy Williams once said, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year – and if you think otherwise, well, firstly you’re a Scrooge, and secondly, I’m hoping this blog post will change your mind! For me, there’s nothing better than the run up to Christmas. I love when the twinkly lights make their (perhaps too soon) appearance at the beginning of November, I love wrapping up warm in my favourite hats and scarves, I love coming back in the evening to an open fire and toasting gooey yummy marshmallows, or reading a good book and toasting my not-so-gooey-and-yummy-feet, and late night Christmas shopping for loved ones. (Yes, family. You’re getting socks AGAIN!)
But the best part about Christmas is when the rustic log cabins fill up the Squares, the giant Bavarian characters take their places, the carollers warm up their voices and Father Christmas dusts off his shoes for his first public appearance of the year. Yes, I’m talking about the yearly Christmas Market! These markets can be found all across the globe. Whether you want to stay in the UK or go further afield, there’s always one close by. So grab your hats and scarves (and some deep pockets for all of the gifts you’ll want to buy) and take a look at the best Christmas Markets to visit in the world.
- Plaisirs d’Hiver (Winter Wonders) – Brussels, Belgium.
Nestled in the heart of Brussels, the Plaisirs d’Hiver is the most important event in the Christmas calendar. Looking like a picture-postcard, Winter Wonders takes place within the breath-taking Grand-Place of Brussels. With over 250 stands over a two-kilometre long stretch, finding gifts for friends and family should be a doddle! After your retail therapy, make sure you take in the atmosphere with their winter parades, concerts, light animations and street performers. But with so much to do you’re bound to get hungry, so why not try out the local food and a nice hot cup of mulled wine… (environmentally friendly of course. This year this organisers are using 100% reusable cups).Visit Plaisirs d’Hiver from 25th November 2016 until 1st January 2017.
2. Bath Cristmas Market – Bath, United Kingdom.
Each year, the centre of Bath is transformed into a magical Christmas wonderland. Settled underneath Bath Abbey and not far from the historic Roman Baths, 170 log cabins line the street and offer their customers the best handmade gifts local to the area – 87% of the stallholders are local to Bath. Like any Christmas Market experience, having a little taste (or a big one, I won’t judge) of Mulled Wine and a nibble on a Mince Pie is a must. Top the day off and have a good ol’ sing song with the Christmas carollers and watch the iconic light show underneath the Abbey. Visit the Bath Christmas Market from 24th November to 11th December.
3. Christkindlesmarkt – Nuremberg, Germany.
Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas Markets and prides itself on its authenticity. As you walk around this market and its 180 stalls, you won’t be able to miss the true Germanic aspects, and you may even bump into the Nuremberg Christkind herself! This gold-haired figure is the symbol of Christkindlesmarkt, and is said to give gifts and grant wishes…so be nice! If this isn’t authentic enough for you, why don’t you pick up a few ‘Prune Men’ (handmade Nuremberg figures made out of dried prunes and figs) for all of your friends and family and top off the day with a ‘3 im Weggla’ (3 in a roll) – a delicious Nuremberg sausage delight! Visit Nuremberg market from November 25th to December 24th 2016.
4. WinterFest – Hong Kong
Finding a good Christmas Market outside of Europe can often be difficult, and although Christmas is not a traditional Chinese holiday, they put on one hell of a show! Famous for the Statue Square’s amazing Christmas tree (DO NOT STARE DIRECTLY AT THE TREE…it’s bloomin’ bright) and the Pulse 3D Light Show, WinterFest still includes a multitude of stalls and entertainment synonymous with the traditional European Christmas Market – with a distinct oriental feel. A bit far to travel for the odd Christmas present, but if you find yourself in Asia between 25th November 2016 and 1st January 2017, it is well worth a visit.
5. Tivoli Christmas Market – Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Tivoli Christmas Market is both Christmas Market and fair ground, and fun for all of the family. Located in the picturesque Tivoli Gardens, you will definitely need to get your cameras out for this one! With around 60 stalls, this market is one of the smallest in terms of shopping, but what it lacks in gifts is made up with the plethora of rides, games, entertainment and light shows (located in the Chinese area, underneath the Demon Rollercoaster. Of course, where else?) As if this wasn’t enough, as you walk through the gardens, you might just pass the 100-strong choir within the Lucia procession. This is not one to be missed. Visit Tivoli from 19th November to 31st December 2016.
6. Prague Christmas Market – Prague, Czech Republic.
If you want variety, then Prague is your guy. It is the perfect destination for your pre-Christmas shopping trip, with five different markets to choose from, all in the centre itself! The two most popular are the Christmas Markets in Wencesles Square and the Old Town Square itself, and they’re only five minutes apart! The Prague Christmas Markets pride themselves on their homemade gifts including glassware, jewellery, embroidered lace, scented candles, wooden toys and more, so I promise you won’t come out empty handed. Alongside this, you can have a try of traditional Czech food and even better – sample the famous beers. (Perhaps do this after the shopping, these beers are STRONG.) Prague Christmas Market starts 26th November to 6th January 2017.
7. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – London, United Kingdom.
Winter Wonderland is THE Christmas Market of all Christmas Markets if you’re looking for a fun-filled day. With over 200 Bavarian-style chalets full of gifts and food, you can definitely get your Christmas shopping done here. After you’ve shopped ’til you’ve dropped, make sure you leave time to go ice skating, go to the Circus (there’s 2 to choose from!), have a pint of German beer in the Bavarian village, or just have a go on the 200-strong rides and games – all in a day’s work ey? Although the park is free get in, the attractions can be pricey, so if you want to enjoy all of the best attractions, do ensure you take enough money and always book before as it does get busy! Enjoy Winter Wonderland from 18th November 2016 to 2nd January 2017.
8. Lille Christmas Market – Lille, France.
Lille Christmas Market is a great contender for British visitors, with an easy Eurostar link straight to the centre. If you’re looking for a lovely French getaway to do your Christmas shopping, Lille offers over 80 stall chalets for all of your gift needs. Underneath the huge Ferris wheel and 18-metre Christmas tree, you’ll find the shop windows competing to be the most original and bright with their lights and displays. May be best to take some sunglasses then… Visit Lille Christmas Market from 18th November to 30th December 2016.
9. Christkindelsmarik – Strasbourg, France.
Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmarik is the longest running Christmas Market in Europe, opening its (metaphorical) doors each year since 1570. Known as the capital of Christmas, Strasbourg is famous for its traditional and authentic feel, the sheer size of it, and its prominent place within the centre of Strasbourg. Top Tip: the locals point out that the best time to visit the market is when the sun begins to set – the lights begin to twinkle and the ‘magic’ of the market comes to life. After browsing the hundreds of stalls, it’ll be hard to resist the sweet smells of the traditional French pastries and desserts. When in Strasbourg, right? Visit Strasbourg from 25th November to 31st December 2016.
10. Munich Christmas Market – Munich, Germany.
Munich’s Christmas Market is the true Bavarian Christmas Market. You might not find EXACTLY what you’re looking for in terms of gifts, as Munich prides itself on its ‘Manger Market’ (Yes, quite literally what it says on the tin. A market dedicated to the Nativity), but Munich makes up for it with its pure charm. You can learn all about their famous bread – ‘Kletznbrot’, or even their pastry shaped like baby Jesus himself – ‘Fatschnkindl’. Although not for everyone, a definite must-see for the traditionalists amongst you. See a true taste of Bavaria from 25th November to 25th December 2016.