If the idea of stepping out amongst the swarms of Christmas shoppers on your local high street fills you with festive fear, then why not save yourself the headache and get all your stocking-fillers at one of Europe’s traditional Christmas markets?
It’s the perfect plan: leave the stress at home and enjoy a magical weekend away in a romantic European city, before returning home laden with beautiful decorations and original presents that your family and friends will love.
You can wander through historic city centre squares decked out with twinkling lights and overflowing with stalls selling artisanal crafts and delicious local fare, before stopping for a glass of mulled wine or a hot chocolate while taking in the magical atmosphere that seems a world away from home.
What follows are the BusinessClass.com 10 favourite Christmas markets in Europe.
1. Bruges, Belgium
Known as the ‘Venice of the North’, Bruges is stunning destination any time of the year. With its network of canals, cobbled streets and medieval houses this historic city is home to one of Europe’s most popular Christmas markets. Here you can ice skate around the dazzling Christmas tree before exploring the colourful stalls and fairground rides.
2. Paris, France
Throughout the whole of December, Europe’s most romantic city hosts a series of fantastic seasonal markets offering shoppers a huge variety of arts, crafts, local food and toys. Although the big Champs Elysee market will not be taking place this year, the Alsatian market in front of Gare l’Est is well worth a visit, as is the 50-or-so enchanting stalls that set up near Notre-Dame.
3. Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg is home to one of Europe’s oldest – and most alluring – Christmas markets, Advent Market. It consists of nearly 100 stalls selling hand-blown glass and wooden decorations, while the smell of mulled wine and strudel fills the crisp air. A couple more charming markets are located throughout the city.
4. Berlin, Germany
This whole month the German capital will boast some 60 separate Christmas markets. The biggest crowd-puller will be the WeihnachtsZauber in the impressive Gendarmenmarkt square, where every year a magical atmosphere is joined by performers, artisanal craft stalls, and traditional German treats.
5. Stockholm, Sweden
In Stortorget Square, near to the Royal Palace in Stockholm’s old town, you’ll find a spectacular Scandinavian festive scene. Sample Swedish delicacies like elk meat, peruse a diverse range of Christmas handicrafts and gifts, or simply breathe in the wonderful vibes as you hop from each red-painted, wooden stall to the next. Oh, and this far north, snow’s almost a given.
6. Bath, UK
The British city of Bath puts on one of the country’s most popular Christmas markets each December. Close to the famous Roman baths you’ll more than 200 fun and festive chalets selling all manner of locally made wares. A special entertainment program including storytelling and food tastings makes this market particularly enjoyable for the whole family.
7. Cologne, Germany
With the smell of gingerbread, cinnamon and mulled wine igniting your senses as you stroll through Cologne’s annual Christmas markets, you may well think you’ve landed in your very own festive film. There’s a couple of really good markets in Cologne – head to Stadgarten for some quirky gift ideas or to the Heimat der Heinzel for the ice rink.
8. Vienna, Austria
Dating back to the 13th century, Vienna’s Christmas markets a marvel to behold. The main market, in front of the city hall on Rathausplatz, boasts around 150 stalls selling traditional lebkuchen, chocolates and other local delicacies for you to enjoy while browsing the charming handmade wooden decorations. This family-friendly market even has a reindeer train that is great fun the little ones – OK, and the big ones.
9. Montreux, Switzerland
With over 150 sparkling chalets set up along Lake Geneva, Christmas in Montreux is a special affair. Ideal for a magical family holiday, the Christmas market in Montreux features a magic garden, elves, jugglers, storytellers and dancers. The fun doesn’t end at the market, however, as you can also take a cog-rail trip to visit Santa’s spectacular grotto high above the city on mountain Rochers de Naye.
10. Dubrovnik, Croatia
It may come as a surprise, but Dubrovnik in Croatia is home to a wonderful traditional Christmas market that’s perfect if you want the special festive atmosphere without the crowds. This month, the famous Old Town is adorned with Christmas lights and decorations while the city’s fortified walls glow with glittering fairy lights. You’ll find traditional ornaments, toys, candles along with some unique local treats such as candied almonds and Kontonjata.