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Europe’s five best Christmas markets

Discover Europe’s most magical Christmas markets. It’s something that’s worth doing with the family at least once in a lifetime! Just one tip – wrap up warm!

To give us a break from those cold and rainy winter days, the last month of the year there are lights that shine in the darkness. Stalls selling crafts and typical food are set up in major European cities, the streets are decorated, a large Christmas tree is put up, Christmas carols can be heard... It’s a great excuse for you to hop on a flight and get into the Christmas spirit.

Prague

Photo by Federica Angilletta

Prague is one of the most charming cities in Central Europe. Many films capture the beauty of this city. But it’s even better to discover it in real life, and especially at Christmas! In the Old Town Square you can find the city’s most popular Christmas market. On the way to this festive hotspot, you’ll be able to enjoy the atmosphere of the streets around it, which are all decked out for the occasion. Before or after you join the crowds in the square to enjoy the special atmosphere, you should go up the tower of the old Town Hall to get a panoramic view of this magical spot. Other places not to be missed are the Castle district and the Golden Lane. And while you’re there, don’t forget to try trdlelnik, a typical cake in Prague which can be filled either with jam or chocolate.

Nuremberg

Photo by Markus Spiske

Central European Christmas markets have been going for years and they ooze tradition! If you want to visit one with lots of history, we recommend Nuremberg, the most iconic Christmas market in Germany, as it dates back to (believe it or not) the 16th century! It pops up in the Main Market Square, so you can’t miss it! And it’s ideal if you’re travelling with the family, as it has a children’s Christmas fair full of rides and games. Another thing you should put in your diary is the Lantern Procession on 8 December, which will take your breath away (and if you want to catch it again, try typical sweet treats like gingerbread, toasted almonds, grilled sausages and rum and sugar punch).

Berlin

Photo by Omurden Cengiz

If you’ve chosen Berlin as your Christmas destination, be sure to pack warm clothes. Plan your visit well because there are quite a few Christmas markets there (around 50), and you’ll want to pick your favourite one! The stalls have mulled wine (glühwein) and punch (punsch), two typical drinks that will warm the cockles of your heart! You can also enjoy the tasty treats on offer, like fresh waffles, sausages and gingerbread. Here are some of the markets we recommend: Alexanderplatz, which is usually crowded as it is in the city centre; the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt, flanked by the German and French cathedrals and the Konzerthaus, home to the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, opposite Charlottenburg Palace, majestically lit up, with wooden stalls, a merry-go-round and children’s activities; Sophienstrasse, where you can buy organic, fair trade and local artisan items; the Town Hall, which is next to a Ferris wheel and an ice rink, and Santa usually makes an appearance; Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, where people use the 20-metre Christmas tree with over 8,000 decorations as a meeting point; and the very Nordic Kulturbrauerei, where Santa Lucia is also celebrated, Scandinavian style, with a procession of angels and a choir singing. Other attractions here include an old merry-go-round, a mobile sauna and Santa Claus, who pays the market a visit every day.

Vienna

Photo by Aneta Pawlik

Vienna is another great destination for Christmas markets. These are also very traditional as they date back to the Middle Ages. Be sure to taste waffles, sweet chestnuts, gingerbread, sausages and candied almonds, and sip on punch (punsch) and mulled wine (glühwein). These are some of the markets you can explore: Rathausplatz, opposite the Town Hall (one of the largest and most popular Christmas markets, with trees decorated with hearts and snowmen); the one opposite Schönbrunn Palace (with a huge Christmas tree and stalls selling high quality crafts); Freyung (which is small and not touristy); Karlskirche church (a craft market which also has a children’s area, and you can watch how they process leather and wrought iron); Am Hof (contemporary art, crafts and jewellery); and the Bohemian neighbourhood of Spittelberg (with delicious gastronomy, including cheese, cakes and wine).

Basel

Photo by Manu Schwendener

Basel is the place to go in Europe this year if you want to visit a Christmas market, according to tourism portal European Best Destinations. The city is known as the best and most beautiful city in Switzerland to visit at Christmas as the old town is well preserved. The shops and buildings are decorated with twinkling lights at Christmas and they sparkle more than ever. The markets that are held in Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz are a must. At the former you can find everything you need for Christmas (and also typical treats and attractions), and Barfüsserkirche church rises above the white roofs of the pretty market stalls. At the latter, one of Basel’s most beautiful squares, there is a Christmas tree decorated by decorator Johann Wanner.

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