European Christmas markets – Our top 5 picks
Tuesday, 9 December 2014
If you’re planning a weekend break to Europe for a spot of Christmas shopping this year then you’re in luck, as at this time of year European cities are full of festive markets, each with their own unique cultural take on Christmas. Whether you’re looking for gifts, souvenirs or just there to sample the local festive foods and tipples, there’s something for everyone, making markets a must visit on your Christmas city break.
Christmas markets are a long running tradition on the continent and trace their origins back to the 16th Century, when the first Christmas markets in Germany, Austria, South Tyrol and Alsace began. These markets typically open 4 weeks before Christmas and are a celebration of all things Christmas, allowing visitors to fully experience the local customs, traditions and most importantly, the culinary delights of the festive season.
1. Berlin, Germany
If you’re looking to get into the Christmas mood then Berlin is the place to go, as there are more annual Christmas markets here than anywhere else in Europe. Head over to WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt, located near to the Neue Kirche (also known as the Deutscher Dom), where you’ll be able to sample festive delicacies from right across Europe and stick around for a stage performance. The second must-see market is the Lucia Christmas market, a market that is set against the picturesque backgrounf of the historical Kulturbrauerei. The market, which takes its name from a Swedish saint, is much more of a Nordic affair than WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt, with strong Danish, Finish, Icelandic, Norweigian and Swedish themes in the food, drinks and gifts offered throughout the market.
WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt: 25-31 Dec
Lucia Christmas market: 25 Nov – 22. Dec
2. Vienna, Austria
Kultur- und Weihnachtsmarkt, one of Vienna's best-known Christmas markets, is the place to go for mulled wine, festive food and all things Christmas. It’s located in front of the Schönbrunn Palace, the imperial summer palace of Austria’s now defunct royal family. Unlike other cities on this list, Austrian Christmas markets turn into New Year’s Eve markets from the 27th of December onwards, remaining open until the 1st of January. It’s at these New Year’s Eve markets that you’ll find the lucky charms that Austrians exchange with each other as part of their traditional New Year celebrations. If you’re looking for a smaller, cosier Christmas market, then you’ll want to head over to the Spittelberg, located not far from Vienna’s centre, in the city’s charming 7th district. The market is spread across a number of alleyways interlinked with crossing passage ways, giving this market a distinct, unique feel when compared with the larger Kultur- und Weihnachtsmarkt.
Kultur- und Weihnachtsmarkt at Schönbrunn Palace: 23 Nov – 26 Dec (NYE market 27 Dec – 1 Jan 2014)
Spittelberg: 15 Nov – 23 Dec
3. Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich's Christkindlimarkt is one of the largest indoor Christmas markets found anywhere in Europe. It’s held in the city’s main train station, which is turned into a Christmas wonderland each year, complete with its very own 50-foot Christmas tree. There are two other markets to visit if you’re heading to Zurich this December, these are the market in old town, the oldest Christmas market in Switzerland, and next to the Europaalle, where 50 or so Christmas themes pop up around the train station.
Christkindlimarkt: 21 Nov – 24.Dec 2013
Europaallee: 23 Nov – 24 Dec
Old town: 5-23 Dec
4. Stockholm, Sweden
Christmas markets are typically smaller than those found in German, although as they share many of the same Christmas traditions, you’ll feel right at home here if you’ve enjoyed your time spent visiting German markets. The biggest market can be found in Stockholm’s old town, which is comprised of red huts offering Swedish specialities including Spekulatious, which are a local variety of almond biscuit, and Glögg, a traditional, Swedish mulled wine. Stockholm’s second Christmas market can be found at The Skansen, the world’s first open-air museum, which hosts a market on the four weekends leading up to Christmas. In addition to these two markets you’ll also find numerous other smaller markets that pop up all over the city.
Old town: 23 Nov – 23.Dec
The Skansen: 30 Nov & 1 Dec; 7-8 Dec; 13-14.Dec; 20-21 Dec
5. Paris, France
Although Christmas markets are a relatively young tradition in Paris, it’s home to one of Europe’s most famous – the market located along the Champs- Elyseés, perhaps the city’s most iconic landmark. There are also a number of other Paris Christmas markets, with our second pick being the market in Montmatre, which is home to over 60 huts and stalls selling a wide range of Christmas decorations, gifts and festive foods for you to sample and enjoy.
Champs Elyseés: 15 Nov – end date tbc
Montmartre: 6 Dec 2013 – 6 Jan 2014
If you plan on going away over the festive season and are a premium T24 Black prepaid card holder, be sure to book your flight using your Black Card to enable your complimentary travel insurance cover.