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Europe’s 5 Best Christmas Markets

by Peterson Newman
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Decorated with fairy lit fir trees and filled with the spicy scent of mulled wine, Europe’s best Christmas markets are a fast track to festive cheer. Expect stalls offering handmade local gifts and seasonal delicacies, as well as uplifting live entertainment, and prepare to find your Christmas spirit at the five best Christmas markets in Europe.

Berlin

Berlin may be one of Europe’s most fashion forward capitals but it still knows how to put on a seriously festive Christmas market. Come December, the city is filled with Christmas Markets which cater to all tastes, including a trendy seasonal eco market. For a generous helping of festive spirit, we recommend visiting the Alexanderplatz Christmas Market which is spectacularly illuminated by a Christmas pyramid made of 5,000 lights. Sip on a steaming cup of glühwein as you browse the stalls showcasing locally made crafts. Located just across the Spree is the equally impressive Gendarmenmarkt, where the market’s wooden huts and twinkling lights are positioned in front of the stately Duetscher Dom and Französischer Dom.

USP: Young visitors will be delighted by the stable which houses real animals such as sheep, donkeys or goats which children can pet.

Budapest

Budapest’s oldest Christmas market, the Christmas Fair in Vorosmarty Square is a festive feast for the senses. Part of the Pest side of the city, the market has over 100 stalls as well as entertainment in the form of folk dancing and live music. Take a break from shopping for presents to try some authentic Hungarian cuisine, whether it’s a plate of warming dödölle, fried potato dumplings with onion, or the sweetly spiced Hungarian delicacy of kürtőskalács , otherwise known as chimney cake. Look out for the Gerbeaud Coffee House, located on the square, which is transformed into giant advent calendar with a new ‘window’ opening every day throughout December.

USP: The market has its own team who are responsible for ensuring that every product sold at the market is made by hand using traditional techniques.


Prague

As the city that produced Good King Wenceslas himself, Prague knows a thing or two about Christmas spirit. The Czech capital has two excellent Christmas markets, one located in the aptly named Wenceslas Square and the other in the nearby Old Town Square. Alongside the handmade crafts, the big draw here is the festive delicacies which include klobása , a speciality Czech sausage and trdelník , a sweet pastry that’s baked on a spit. Forgo the mulled wine for a foaming pint of Czech beer and don’t miss the enormous Christmas tree positioned in front of St. Nicholas Church.

USP: Young visitors will be delighted by the stable which houses real animals such as sheep, donkeys or goats which children can pet.

Cologne

Germany excels at Christmas Markets and Cologne is regarded as one of the best in the country. Benefitting from the spectacular backdrop of Cologne cathedral, Cologne’s Christmas market is a feel good yuletide experience. Filled with the smell of gluhwein and gingerbread and an array charming stalls offering handmade Christmas gifts, the packed calendar of live entertainment is a highlight. With a varied line up, from swing bands to gospel choirs, there’s something to get everyone feeling festive.

USP: The spectacular 25 metre high Christmas fir tree, which is decorated with over 50,000 lights.

Salzburg

Surrounded by the snowy Alps, there are few more magical Christmas settings than the Austrian town of Salzburg. Salzburg has held Christmas markets since the 1600s and the city’s historic UNESCO World Heritage listed centre is home to the picture perfect Christkindlmarkt. The market, which is one of Europe’s oldest, is made extra special by the choirs that perform outside the cathedral in the square. For those in fine voice, there’s also a festive singalong evening organised every Tuesday evening.

USP: Keep the winter chill at bay by tucking into some wickedly good bauernkrapfen , deep fried doughnut-like pastries which are dusted with powdered sugar and sometimes filled with jam.

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