Nothing beats a Christmas market to get you in the festive spirit: we love browsing the boutique stalls for a spot of present inspiration, sampling the tasty festive food and sipping on a steaming mug, or two, of gluhwein. With so many happening all over Europe, we’ve rounded up seven of our all-time favourites to help you on your merry way.
24th November – 23rd December
‘Really? Christmas markets in Barcelona?’ you say. Well, prepare to be delighted. As well as glorious weather, stunning architecture and delicious tapas, the city is also home to several sprawling Christmas markets. Warning: be prepared for a Catalonian twist on the typical nativity scene… The largest festive market in Barcelona is the ‘Fira de Santa Llucia’ which hosts nearly 300 stalls and dates back to 1786. Visit to explore the traditional Christmas crafts and artisan produce of northern Spain. Whilst you’re wandering, be sure to keep an eye out for the hidden Catalonian Christmas character…
28th November – 17th December
Although slightly off the beaten Christmas market path, the festive scene in Florence does not disappoint. Already a mecca for boutique shoppers, expect a wealth of immaculately-decorated shop windows, a life-size nativity scene and beautiful piazzas hosting an array of both Germanic and traditional Italian Christmas markets.
Our motto for any visit to Italy is: ‘Don’t miss out on any of the food!’ and the Tuscan Christmas delicacies are no exception to this rule: stalls will groan under the array of Christmas goodies on offer. We especially love the traditional ricciarelli- soft marzipan biscuits- for a tasty festive treat.
BATH, UNITED KINGDOM
23rd November – 10th December
With over 200 twinkling ‘chalets’, picturesque Bath is the new Christmas market in town. 99% of the produce sold by the ‘chalets’ is handmade, making this award-winning market an exclusively artisanal affair. After a day of festive frolics, make sure you have a wander around the beautiful old spa town itself. There’s plenty of entertainment scheduled during the market time so don’t miss the opportunity to spend an evening being serenaded by carol singers, choirs or soloists. For some further festive indulgence, visit Thermae Bath Spa for a relaxing and refreshing treat.
18th November to 6th January
Another destination commonly overlooked by Christmas market goers, Venice is a spectacular option for those craving a festive fix. Browse beautiful stalls selling ornate Venetian masks, fine marbled paper, vintage balsamic vinegar and exquisite olive oil; as well as the more typical Christmas goods. Perfect for unique Christmas presents.
The Venetian Christmas Market even has an entire section dedicated to Italian foods. Savour rich panettone, stickily delicious toronne- Italian nougat and delicious chocolate-coated pizelles. Pizelles – the lovechild of a cookie and a waffle – are rumoured to be Santa’s absolute favourite treat! Combine all this with the fact the city is home to some of the world’s best hot chocolates and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable Christmas Market Break,
17th November – 1st January
From humble beginnings, London’s Winter Wonderland has now grown into a world-famous Christmas extravaganza. With countless stalls and over 100 rides and attractions, this is a stimulating seasonal stay. After a day of exploring the market, head to one of the fabulous festive shows taking place in the West End and you’ll have yourself a real Christmas cracker!
15th – 24th December
Perhaps another unconventional choice, but we definitely think the ‘City of Love’ deserves a mention on the Christmas Market shortlist. Spend the day exploring a festive fair of local craftspeople next to the majestic Notre Dame and, when night falls, why not head out for a spot of ice skating beneath the twinkling Eiffel Tower? We’re yet to find a more romantic Christmas break.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
2nd December to 6th January
Picturesque wooden huts; beautiful glassware; ham roasting on a spit; hot, sugar-coated pastries and oodles of seasonal cheer: the Christmas markets in Prague are a festive treat for all the senses. The towering Christmas tree in the Old Town Square is a particularly spectacular sight, especially when set against the Gothic cityscape and the dark, velvety sky. Also in Old Town Square is a nativity animal’s stable: you can sample a relaxing mug of mulled wine, or two, whilst the kids are entertained by the sheep, goats and donkeys.
To make it even more festive, the markets in Prague are decorated thematically. 2016’s theme – the ‘Traditional Spirit of Christmas and Nature’ – saw the squares decorated with natural materials such as wood, mistletoe, gingerbread and pinecones, using traditional Christmas colours of white, green, gold and red. The theme for this year will be announced in November so look out for it!
Looking for more Christmas destinations to tickle your fancy? Head on over to our ‘Christmas Market Inspiration': a curated collection of hotels perfect for Christmas Market Breaks. Merry browsing.