4 of the Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Christmas brings to mind trees dotted with twinkling fairy lights, hot toddies on cold nights, baked treats with warm spices, familiar carols wafting through the air, and merry spirits all around. To find all of these things together, head to one of Europe’s famous Christmas markets. Originally a German tradition, Christmas markets have spread throughout Europe, and most major cities have their own version.
Despite the common origins, every Christmas market has its own specialties and unique atmosphere. There are hundreds to choose from, so we whittled it down to a selection of four of the very best.
Treat yourself to a festive winter break this year and book a flight from Birmingham Airport to one of these Christmas markets today!
Germany is the original home of Christmas markets (or Weinachtsmärkte), and Berlin is an ideal place to experience them as it has over 60 different markets. At this time of year, the city loses some of its famed edginess and embraces the sentimental spirit of the Yuletide season. Lanterns hang in the trees and the aroma of candied fruit, sizzling bratwursts and bubbling glühwein fills the air, turning the city into a Christmas paradise.
For glitz and glam, head to the luxurious Gendarmenmarkt that attracts over 60,000 visitors a year. Surrounded by cathedrals, it has sophisticated culinary delights, skilled artisans, and a variety of entertainment including acrobats, choirs and music ensembles.
For a nostalgia fix, try the aptly named Opernpalais Nostalgic Christmas Market that offers quaint horse carriage rides and a 100-year-old ferris wheel. If you want to be active, try Winter World on Potsdamer Platz, which features Europe's largest mobile toboggan run, a full skate rink and curling. For a more alternative experience, visit the Eco Advent Market at Kollwitzplatz for organic food, fair trade crafts and sustainably harvested Christmas trees. If you tire of all the traditional German attractions, head to the Scandinavian-themed Lucia Christmas Market for Nordic-themed fun, including Swedish carols and a whirligig ride for kids.
Known For: Gingerbread (lebkuchen), mulled wine, (glühwein), grilled sausages (bratwurst), paper star decorations (fröbelsterne)
Dates: Varies for each market, but there will be activity from November 25 to December 31, 2017.
Photo: Visit Berlin, Wolfgang Scholvien
The Christmas market in Vörösmarty Square is Budapest’s oldest and biggest Christmas market. Located in the city centre, this market has a reputation for being both lively and affordable. Unlike many other Christmas markets, Vörösmarty Square has strict rules requiring that all products have the official seal of approval from the Association of Hungarian Folk Artists, meaning that the level of quality is especially high. Handmade Christmas ornaments, fragrant pomander balls of orange and clove, woollen hats and gloves, sheepskin coats, and colourful leather bags are all sold here. Free concerts fill the square with music and folk storytelling, completing the festive atmosphere.
For a smaller, lesser known market, visit the Advent Fair in Óbuda where you will find lots of locals but few tourists. This neighbourhood has beautiful cobblestone streets and renovated baroque buildings, giving it a charming small-town feel. The whole community comes together for the Christmas market, with an illuminated outdoor ice rink, a children’s petting zoo and a whole range of handcrafted goods.
The typical Christmas market food is abundantly present – mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, grilled meats. But don’t limit yourself; try some of the delicious local fare, such as töki pompos, a savoury-topped bread. For a sweet treat, taste the chimney cake (kürtőskalács), a caramel-crusted pastry rolled in walnuts, cinnamon or coconut. Or get the special Christmas sweets – beigli, a poppy seed or walnut roll, and szaloncukor, a chocolate-covered fondant wrapped in foil that doubles as a Christmas tree decoration.
Known For: High quality and affordable crafts, stuffed cabbage, chimney cake (kürtőskalács), Christmas sweets (beigli, szaloncukor).
Dates: Vörösmarty Square Winter Festival runs from November 10, 2017 to December 31, 2017. The Advent Fair in Óbuda will run from November 23 to December 16, 2017.
Photo: Mark Mervai
Copenhagen’s famous Christmas market at Tivoli Gardens is a majestic affair. Having the second oldest amusement park in the world as its setting gives this Christmas market a distinct old-world feel. There are hundreds of thousands of tiny lights festooning every part of the park, a breath-taking water and lights show to a Tchaikovsky soundtrack, a village of tiny wood cottages decorated with garlands, a candlelit Japanese pagoda and a 100-year-old wooden rollercoaster stretching into the sky. Perhaps more than any other Christmas market, Copenhagen’s is a visual feast.
Skating on an outdoor ice rink, chatting with Santa, playing with real reindeer, finding the perfect Christmas gifts, watching fireworks burst into the sky – you can do all this and more at the Tivoli Gardens Christmas market. Of course, as one would expect with an amusement park, there are also many rides to enjoy with names like The Demon and The Flying Trunk. For food, the list of treats is endless: æbleskiver (iced doughnuts with black currant jam) gløgg (hot mulled red wine rich with fruit, almonds, cinnamon and cloves), pølsers (Danish hot dogs), roast pork sandwiches and wienerbrød or Vienna bread (what Danish pastries are called in Denmark).
For something a bit different, visit Royal Copenhagen’s flagship store to see the popular Christmas Tables exhibition. Started in 1963, it features six elaborately set tables created by various Danish artists and celebrities. You can also check out the Asian-bazaar themed Christmas market in Freetown Christiania or the waterside Christmas market in picturesque Nyhavn harbour.
Known For: Spectacular decorations, amusement park rides, mulled wine (gløgg), jam doughnuts (æbleskiver), gingerbread and nut cookies (brunkager), fried pastry (klejner), marzipan candy
Dates: Tivoli Garden dates are November 18 to December 31, 2017. Nyhavn harbour dates are November 10 to December 23, 2017. Freetown Christiania dates haven't been confirmed.
If you want to stay closer to home this Christmas, don’t fret – you can still have an amazing Christmas market experience. You don’t need to fly to get to Birmingham’s very own German Christmas market. It started in 1997, as part of an idea to spread German markets across Europe, and is named after Birmingham’s twin city of Frankfurt. The market has grown from a humble 10-stall project to a mile-long gathering of more than 180 stalls, making it the largest Christmas market in the UK.
Centred in Victoria Square, it offers a full range of German delights for visitors to munch on – pretzels, schnitzels and bratwursts on brötchen (bread rolls). If you’re thirsty, have some weissbier, mulled cider or mulled wine. Santa statues, sparkling lights, and nativity scenes decorate the streets, creating an elegant and cosy ambience. There’s an ornate carousel for children and a singing Christmas moose (Chris Moose), who has become something of a local celebrity.
A neighbouring Christmas Craft Market in Centenary Square sells goods by Birmingham’s local artisans. They offer their own selection of exquisitely crafted items, including jewellery, handbags, toys, ironwork, wooden carvings, organic soaps, and locally-brewed ales. Other stalls offer worldly handicraft imported from far-flung locales in South America, Asia and Africa.
Known For: Chris the singing moose, German foods such as bratwurst and pretzels, local crafts by Birmingham artists.
Dates: The 2017 Christmas Market will run from November 16 to December 24, 2017.
Photo: Visit Birmingham