The main thoroughfares are draped in fairy lights, you’ve unearthed those wintery togs from the back of your wardrobe and your family keeps asking for your holiday ETA. Call us sentimental, but all we want for pre-Christmas is that cosy glow we get from a market stall mulled wine. So don your best festive jumpers and wooly hats and head the direction of that wafting, warming cinnamon-spice smell. These are our favourite Christmas markets in Europe…
WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt is one of Berlin’s most popular Christmas markets; this light-filled mini-city of festive tents is between the Französischer Dom and the Konzerthaus and is packed with exhibitors ranging from glassblowers to origami masters and Michelin-starred chefs who serve up haute cuisine in heated tents.
When 21 November to 31 December
Warm up with… gingerbread-like lebkuchen and feuerzangenbowle – a type of glühwein with rum-caramelised sugar.
Stay Das Stue is at the opposite end of the Großer Teirgarten.
Say Fröhliche Weihnachten!
The main market is in Albert Square, where you’ll find a tiny town of Christmas stalls out in front of the Victorian town hall. If you manage to meander your way through the market in record time, fear not – nine more festive Mancunian markets await beyond the square.
When 10 November to 20 December
Warm up with… mulled wine and traditional English pasties.
Stay King Street Townhouse – you can make it from the hotel to town hall faster than you can eat a mince pie.
Say Happy Christmas!
With all that talk of hygge, it’s probably no surprise that a December visit to the Danish capital means you’ll never be far from a festive holiday market. Follow tradition with a visit to Tivoli Gardens, which dolls itself up with wooden houses, twinkly lights, real-life-reindeer and plenty of Nordic Christmas cheer. Across the street, the market at Axeltorv Square plays homage to Hans Christian Andersen, with fairy-tale-themed stalls.
When 19 November to 31 December at Tivoli Gardens, 18 November to 22 December at Axeltorv
Warm up with… gløgg, a mulled wine, often served with raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks and cloves.
Stay Nimb Hotel is just steps away from the merriment.
Say Glædelig jul og et godt nytår!
Prague, Czech Republic
The main markets are at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square; singing at the latter, while not mandatory, is the best way to spread Christmas cheer. You’ll find massive light-draped firs and fragrant market stalls at both.
When 26 November to 6 January
Warm up with… trdelník, a hot cinnamon-and-sugar coated spiral of pastry dough on a stick (a Christmas-market staple). If you’re still in need of a warming sugar hit, get your mitts on a mug of medovina, a hot honey wine.
Stay The BoHo Hotel is near Prague’s Old Town and perfect for reenacting Christmas scenes of yesteryear.
Say Veselé Vánoce!
Make like the Dutch and strap on your skates for festive fun in the capital’s Christmas Village on Ice in city-central Museumplein. Here, the Rijksmuseum is the backdrop for market stalls, holiday concerts and an abundance of sweet and savoury treats.
When 17 to 30 December
Warm up with… freshly baked pepernoten cookies and mulled wine.
Stay Either Hotel Seven One Seven or Conservatorium – they’re both a short stroll from Museumplein.
Say Gelukkig Kerstfeest!
You’ll have your pick of Christmas markets in Austria’s carol-book-pretty capital. The Magic of Advent Market by City Hall is Vienna’s largest, and the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace is set up in the palace gardens – bonus points for its impressive Baroque background.
When 11 November to 23 December at City Hall, and 18 November to 23 December at Belvedere Palace
Warm up with… mulled glühwein and perfectly sweet Weihnachtsbaeckerei (Christmas cookies).
Stay Grand Ferdinand, which is a chestnut’s-throw from the Konzerthaus.
Say Frohe Weihnachten!
The city’s European Christmas market stretches from just below the Mound, down along East Princes Street Gardens Terrace and to the Scott Monument. This stretched-out spectacle is packed with traditional crafts, a Santa Land for the littles, and market stalls of merry-making food and drink.
When 20 November to 4 January
Warm up with… mulled wine or a hot whisky – you’re in Scotland, after all.
Stay G&V Royal Mile Hotel has the best views of all the twinkly lights in town.
Say Merry Christmas, or wish Scots a blithe yule with a greeting of nollaig Chridheil dhuibh!
Become one with the festive crowd in Hyde Park’s extravagant Winter Wonderland, where you’ll find wooden market stalls and amusement park rides. Get a view of the city from the 85m-tall droptower, or test your grace on the ice rink before heading into the warmth of the German-style beer halls.
When 18 November to 2 January
Warm up with… mulled wine and mince pies (post-rides, preferably).
Stay The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone is cosy and right on the corner of Hyde Park.
Say Happy Christmas or Merry Christmas!
Featured image is Berlin; photo by Wolfgang Scholvien