If you are yearning for all things festive then take a look at our guide. Whether you are hankering after the ultimate Christmas tree topper or have just developed a strong liking for mulled wine and Christmas cake you are sure to find something here to your taste. Many markets offer many goods at discounted prices in December so shop around for the best price.
Best for atmosphere
Cologne’s market is actually six markets in one town, the four largest and the most impressive are located right outside the town’s beautiful Gothic cathedral. The markets are a huge event and every year they regularly attract 2 million visitors. The half-timber stalls, the temporary ice-rink, the floating market and the Medieval market outside the Chocolate museum are particularly attractive to visitors and are just a few of the reasons why this market has charmed so many to keep returning in huge numbers year after year. In fact nobody does a Christmas market quite like Germany and Nuremberg, Dresden and Munich are also considered some of the most beautiful and atmospheric.
* Cologne market – 27th November – 23rd December 2009
* Nuremberg market – 27th November – 24th December 2009
* Dresden market – 26th November-24th December 2009
* Munich market – 27th November – 24th December 2009
Best for Children
There is a strong emphasis on fairy tales and folk-lore at the The Prague market and the organisers really go that extra mile in creating a true “Winter Wonderland” setting. There is even a nativity style petting zoo, a very large (and extremely well lit!) Christmas tree, dance and singing concerts and horse carriage rides as well as traditional seasonal foods and decoration/gifts.
* Prague Market – 28th November 2009 – 01st January 2010
Best for Budget
It might not be the most famous market but this traditional but less commercial market in Bratislava, Slovakia might be the perfect choice for a more budget-conscious traveller. Popular with tourists and locals alike this market offers everything from locally crafted gifts, winter clothing and ceramics as well as everything in between. Watch live entertainment as you scoff bread with dripping and onion and potato pancakes filled with goose liver (or just fruit-filled pancakes and apple pies..)
* Bratislava Market-1st November 2009 – 1st January 2010
Most Unique Shopping Experience
If you’re after something a little bit different then perhaps the Christmas market in Valkenburg, Holland would appeal, the whole market takes place in a cave underneath the city. Trawl the candle-lit labyrinth of passageways and caverns for gifts and decorations and marvel at the impressive mural carvings and sculptures also located there.
* Valkenburg – 28th November – 14th December 2009
Best for Chocolate Lovers
If you or your family had a particular addiction to all things chocolate then the popular Christmas fair in Brussels, Belgium should be right up your street. The “Winter Wonderland” takes place on the Place Sainte Catherine and as well as culinary delights such as steamed snails, oysters, gingerbread and forest mushrooms on toast, as expected there is also a vast range of Belgian chocolate treats.
* Brussels Market – 27th November 2009 – 3rd January 2010
Coolest Christmas Market
Barcelona is often considered one of the coolest European cities and Christmas in Barcelona is no exception. The weather is still warm enough to walk comfortably around the city at night and the lively street artists in Las Ramblas make for a very good atmosphere. The Santa Lucia market is located near the cathedral in the Gothic quarter in Barcelona, here you can buy local crafts, unusual gifts (including the Catalan “pooing” statues!) and the traditional Spanish Christmas sweet turron. If you plan your stay around the 28th December, you’ll be treated to the Spanish version of April Fool’s Day when the streets will be filled with even more lively entertainment, artists and music.
* Santa Lucia Market runs from 1st – 24th December or 28th December 2009 for “Holy Innocents’ Day” (the Spanish version of April Fools Day).
Best all rounder
The “Christkindlmärkte”” in Vienna, Austria is another very popular (and seven hundred year old!) market. It’s a very traditional affair with an emphasis on nostalgia, fun and romance. As well as the usual concerts and nativity displays there is also a well-loved live advent calendar display and a Children’s Christmas Workshop in the City Hall. The atmospheric streets, town square and the surrounding park are all filled with the aromas of candied fruits, cotton candy, Christmas punch and roasted chestnuts, surely the perfect way to get you in the Christmas mood?
* Vienna Market runs from the 14th of November- 24th of December 2009