Friday, 11 November 2011 9:45 AM
The festive season is fast approaching and thoughts have turned to Christmas shopping. Instead of hitting the high street, how about combining it with a city break in Europe where you can soak up the atmosphere of some of the best Christmas markets in the world? From towering Christmas trees to traditional treats and homemade crafts, you’ll find no lack of all things Christmassy at any of the wonderful Christmas markets below.
Here are our top 10 Christmas markets in Europe:
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s Christmas market runs from December 3rd to January 1st 2012, in the charming Old Town, as well as in the aptly-named Wenceslas Square. Stock up on gorgeous, homemade wooden gifts, sip mulled wine sweetened with honey and make sure to sample some starocesky tvrdik, a sugarbread cooked over the fire. Most impressive of all is the Christmas tree, shipped from the Krkonose Mountains in the north of the Czech Republic. The tree is erected in the Old Town Square and strewn with twinkling lights, which are turned on around 5pm every night. Set against a dark gothic skyline, this is a spectacular sight.
Ebookers.com are offering flights plus two nights at the three-star Hotel Globus from £200pp inc. taxes. Departs London Heathrow on December 14th 2011.
Turku, Finland's oldest city and current Capital of Culture 2011 is also fondly referred to as the 'Christmas City' and offers a traditional Christmas market that brightens up the Old Great Square during the Christmas period. Offering an outstanding array of handcrafts and baked goods, the Christmas Market will open on November 26th 2011 from 5pm. The ceremony sees the start of the Christmas festivities which include art exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances and special events just for the little ones. In Turku, Christmas is traditionally celebrated on St. Knut's Day (January 13th) so the Christmas City offers various festive events throughout a six week period. The Christmas market will be on in the Old Great Square on the November 26th and 27th, and December 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 17th and 18th this year.
Finnair offers flights to Turku (via Helsinki) from London Heathrow or Manchester. Alternatively Helsinki offers great bus and train links to Turku with a journey time of approximately two hours.
Nuremburg Christmas market (photo: Thinkstock)
Nuremberg is one of the world’s most famous Christmas markets, attracting over two million visitors a year. It also happens to be where the famous Christmas gingerbread, Lebkuchen, was invented! Around 200 wooden stalls, festooned with red and white cloth have caused the market to be named the ‘little town of wood and cloth’. Stall owners present traditional German wares and favourite souvenirs include ‘Nuremberg plum people’ – little figures made form prunes! The Christmas market opens on November 25th at 5.30pm.
Cheapflights have cheap flight offers for Nuremberg.
Tallinn Christmans market (photo: Thinkstock)
Tallinn in Estonia is actually home to one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe, and is also home of the world’s first Christmas tree (first recorded public display of a Christmas tree was in 1441!). It now offers a great Christmas markets experience set in a UNESCO world heritage site. This year’s market is ‘fairytale’ themed, with Santa Claus wandering the market greeting visitors.
A two-night Christmas Market package to Tallinn with Dertour.co.uk starts from £255pp including return flights from Gatwick and accommodation on bed and breakfast basis in the four star hotel Sokos Hotel Viru. Departures between November 25th and December 22nd.
Weimar may be famous for many things, but hardly anyone knows that the first public Christmas tree was erected here. And, not only that, one of the most famous German Christmas carols was composed in Weimar too. It's not only the town of Weimar republic, Bauhaus and German classics; it's a traditional place to celebrate the Christmas season. When the town centre of Weimar is lit up by fairy lights every evening, the aromas of roasted almonds and fresh Stollen cake waft through the streets, and the strains of carols can be heard, the Christmas Market has clearly opened again! Apart from lapping up the cosy atmosphere, visitors can look forward to Christmas wares offered for sale by craftsmen and traders. Traditional pyramids and nutcrackers from the Erzgebirge Mountains, glassware from Lauscha, wooden toys from Thuringia; all this and many other surprises are waiting to be discovered.
Lufthansa flies from Heathrow via Munich, Düsseldorf or Frankfurt. From Leipzig station (the world’s largest), it's an hour by train. You can also get to Weimar by train from Frankfurt (2hr 50min) or Berlin (3hr 16min).
Visit Scandinavia’s biggest Christmas market at Gothenburg’s Liseberg Amusement Park, decorated with five million glimmering lights and 700 Christmas trees. Open from November 18th, browse over 80 market stalls selling traditional arts and crafts, and sample divine festive food, including marinated herring, roasted reindeer meat served by Sami and mulled glögg wine. There’s even an ice bar and ice rink!
Three nights’ B&B at the Hotel Elite Park Avenuecost from £635pp (two sharing) including flights (Heathrow) and private transfers with Sunvil Discovery.
Bruges Christmas market and ice rink (photo: Bruges Tourism Board)
Bruges’ Christmas Market is situated in a beautiful part of the picturesque city, with its cobbled streets and historic buildings. The market is on the main square in the city and forms a ring around a specially constructed open-air ice rink. It has traditional Christmas market stalls, selling treats such as Gluhwein and other festive gifts and crafts. Starting this November and running through to January is also the city's annual Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, which really adds to the winter celebrations. This festival is a real must-see; talented sculptors use 300 tons of crystal-clear ice and 400 tons of fresh snow to make their creations, adding to the city’s winter charm.
Travel to Bruges for only £29 each way (for a car and up to four passengers) with DFDS Seaways. Bruges is one hour’s drive from Dunkirk port.
Frankfurt Christmas market (photo: Frankfurt tourism; Holger Ullmann)
One of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets is Frankfurt’s Christmas market, where 200 stalls offer traditional arts, crafts and festive food and drink. After perusing the stalls, warm yourself with a cup of the famous Applewine, served piping hot. Next, try a Bethmännchen, Frankfurt’s popular marzipan delight. On the Saturday before the 1st Advent, the bell towers of Frankfurt’s churches combine for a musical performance of special magnificence. At 4.30pm, some 50 bells from 10 downtown churches chime in a melodic medley that is heard all across the city.
A three-night break with Cities Direct costs from £249 inclusive of return flights from Birmingham or Aberdeen on November 25th and accommodation at the four-star Savoy Hotel.
Brussels, Belgium }
Brussels will hold its annual Christmas market – Winter Wonders – in the heart of Brussels, from November 25th through to January 1st 2012. Hailed as one of Europe’s most original Christmas markets, the Christmas market stretches over two kilometres. Almost 250 chalets, an ice rink, fairground rides and bauble-studded Christmas tree make it a real winter wonderland and then there are the mouth-watering delicacies, the local chocolates, pots of mussels, cones of French fries and Belgian waffles to enjoy. Get to Brussles easily by Eurostar.
Cologne Cathedral (photo: Cologne tourism)
Beneath the imposing Cathedral and the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland you can find well over 160 festively designed wooden pavilions – all part of The Christmas Market at the Cologne Cathedral. Here you can watch artisans at work, enjoy original Christmas mulled wine, out of festively decorated Christmas mugs or you can choose from an unlimited choice of sweets and local delicacies.
Several airlines fly to Cologne, including Germanwings, Easyjet and Lufthansa.
Vienna Christmas market (photo: Thinkstock)
From mid-November to Christmas, Vienna’s prettiest squares transform into magical Christmas markets. Most people head to the Rathausplatz, where you’ll find around 150 stalls offer Christmas gifts, Christmas tree decorations, sweets and warming drinks. Beautifully decorated, the trees of the surrounding City Hall park radiate in a sea of lights and a giant Advent wreath measuring 12 metres in diameter dominates the square. Another popular market – the Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung in the city centre is committed to tradition. A Christmas market was held here as early as 1772; today, it is a place to buy handicrafts, glass decorations, traditional cribs and ceramics. Festive Advent music can be heard on the square from 4.30 pm.
Cheapflights is one of the airlines that flies to Vienna.
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