Best Christmas Markets In Europe 2019

By Anna Brech

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Fire up your festive spirit with a visit to the best Christmas markets in Europe

Maybe it’s the glögi talking, but there are few things on earth more magical than a Christmas market. And Europe is something of a master in the art. Whether you’re hunting down panettone in the medieval porticos of Bologna or knocking back punch by a Viennese palace, the continent’s finest cities know how to put on a show.

Partly this is about the setting – think castles, cathedrals and medieval squares festooned with garlands of lights. But it’s also to do with substance.

Forget the tat: in Europe’s best Christmas markets, you’ll find everything from freshly-baked lebkuchen to scented candles and exquisite hand-blown baubles. Throw carol singers, horse-drawn carriages and festive bonfires into the mix (looking at you, Sweden) and the recipe for happiness is complete.

Here are 10 of the best markets to put on your radar for Christmas 2019:

Salzburg, Austria

Flanked by Hohensalzburg fortress and the city’s mighty baroque cathedral, Salzburg Christmas market in the heart of the Old City delivers serious wow factor. Mosey around stalls selling candles, artisan jewellery, fine Austrian coffee and more in the shadow of a giant Christmas tree and hundreds of twinkling lights that stretch across Residenzplatz square. Visitors can also expect choral concerts and nativity scenes in this month-long spectacle dating back to the 15th Century.

From 21 November, more info here


 

Bologna, Italy

Festive cheer abounds in Fiera di Santa Lucia market, which plays out under the handsome terracotta arches of Bologna’s Strada Maggiore. Since the surrounding region of Emilia Romagna is a foodie’s paradise, this is a great place to stock up on edible treats. Fill your boots with giant wheels of parmesan, festively adorned salamis and panettoni, along with fine regional wine and golden jars of marron glacés. Handcrafted gifts and antiques are available at other markets across the city, too.

From 21 November, more info here


 

Cologne, Germany

Germany does a fine line in Christmas markets, and Cologne is home to some of the country’s best. Make a beeline for Weihnachtsmarkt in front of the city’s imposing cathedral, where rustic huts encircle a towering Nordmann fir decorated with 50,000 lights. Shop for delicate glass baubles, wooden carvings, bagfuls of sugared almonds and more, in an atmosphere that brims with festive magic. At least six other events, including a gay Christmas market and a harbour market by the Rhine, makes Cologne the gift that keeps on giving.

From 25 November, more info here


 

Budapest, Hungary

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Kürtőskalács, or chimney cake, is the undisputed hero of Budapest’s Christmas markets. A classic Hungarian treat, these caramelized sugar cones are grilled over a coal fire and coated in toppings such as coconut or cinnamon, with handmade gingerbread and chocolate bonbons adding a festive twist. For a taste of this happy past-time, head to St. Stephen’s Basilica, home to one of the city’s most beloved markets. As well as stalls, you’ll find an ice rink and an evening lights show that illuminates the front of the world-famous building.

From 22 November, more info here


 

Strasbourg, France

Home to the oldest festive market in France, it’s little wonder that Strasbourg considers itself “the capital of Christmas”. Every year, the city’s landmarks – including Place de la Cathédrale,  Place Kléber and the “promenade of stars” by the docks come aglow in a sea of light garlands for Christkindelsmärik, a market that began in the mid-1500s. This beguiling event overflows with all things Christmassy: from choirs on every street corner to mulled white wine and the irresistible smell of freshly baked bredele biscuits. It’s also known for a thriving crafts scene, including Alsace table linens and contemporary glassware.

From 22 November, more info here


 

Tallinn, Estonia

The medieval old town provides a spectacular backdrop for Tallinn’s Christmas market, which lies a little off-radar from Europe’s more established events. Grab a mug of glögi (spiced mulled wine) and wander the Town Hall Square packed with picturesque cabins and a resplendent Christmas tree. Estonian fabrics, pottery and wooden gifts are all popular here, but save your biggest splurge for street food such as sauerkraut and gingerbread cookies. Folk dancers and choirs perform on-stage, and – for a final flourish – there’s a good chance you’ll get snow, too.

From 15 November, more info here


 

Stockholm, Sweden

Scenic Stockholm is a veritable hotbed of Christmas markets (known as  julmarknader) come December, with odds on for winter snowfall to complete the effect. Head to the pastel facades of the Old Town to load up on smoked sausages and Christmas sweets from a series of cosy red cabins at Gamla Stan, or eat your body weight in waffles around the open fires of Wira Bruk, a historic mill just outside the city. The market at Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum, is where you’ll find traditional cheeses, marzipan and spices, along with decoration workshops, bonfires and dances around the Christmas tree.

From 14 November, more info here


 

Munich, Germany

Munich is a proud participant in Germany’s grand old tradition of Christmas markets, and visitors here will be spoilt for choice when it comes to conjuring up some goodwill cheer. The heart of the action lies in Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square), with hundreds of stalls and elaborate Christmas sculptures spilling out from the neo-gothic facades of Neues Rathaus. For a quieter and more evocative vibe, don’t miss the Chinese Tower Christkindlmarkt. This lovely market (above) comes with carriage rides through English Garden, Munich’s iconic urban park. Wherever you go, bear in mind that a glass or two of glühwein is practically mandatory.

From November 27, more info here


 

Kraków, Poland

Glorious architecture and festive goodies are served in roughly equal measure at Kraków’s Christmas market, with Rynek Główny square in the city’s Old Town providing a suitably majestic landscape for a maze of fairylit stalls. Handcrafted specialities are a real highlight here, and it’s easy to while away a hour or two rifling through colourful displays of glass paintings, embroidered tablecloths and pottery from nearby villages. On the foodie front, keep a lookout for elaborately decorated gingerbread men with frosted toppings. Snow may put in an appearance, too.

From 28 November, more info here


 

Vienna, Austria

Few Christmas markets rival the pomp and ceremony that come with Vienna’s cityscape. With its canvas of baroque palaces and imposing squares, the capital offers up a dream setting for fairytale wonderment. Start your ode to all things festive at the Viennese Dream Christmas Market in front of City Hall, where carol singers and ornate chocolate carvings await. Punch aplenty is promised at Belvedere Palace, and the beautifully decorated stalls around Vienna’s Former General Hospital are a show in themselves. In the creative neighbourhood of Spittelberg, you’ll find  objects d’art and design pieces, while  hearty helpings of Vanillekipferl (traditional crescent-shaped biscuits) set the scene at Schönbrunn Palace.

From 15 November, more info here

Top image: Günter Breitegger/ Tourismus Salzburg GmbH

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