The mingled aromas of glühwein and gingerbread, thousands and thousands of starry lights and stalls heaving with handcrafted gifts (like these, photographed by CBeas). There’s nothing like a German Christmas market to put you in the holiday spirit.
So enchanting is the German vision of Christmas that a visit to one is a tradition for many families each year. With the sound of sleigh bells already tinkling in their ears, the travel experts at Cheapflights have selected their favourite Christmas markets around the world.
Strasbourg’s Christmas market takes pride of place in front of the sublime, towering Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. It’s the largest and oldest Christmas market in France. For more than 400 years the city has welcomed visitors to its Christkindelsmarik.
Beautifully made Christmas decorations, Nativity figurines and traditional delicacies (spiced bread, mulled wine and foie gras) fill the stalls.
Dates: November 28 to December 31 (www.noel.strasbourg.eu)
Just a few years old, Quebec City’s Christmas market has become a fixture on the festive calendar. Its setting is beyond compare. The cobble-stoned streets of Vieux Quebec are made for Christmas cards and the guaranteed cold weather cries out for the hearty German fare and drinks that are on sale from the cheery vendors.
Among the delicacies are traditional raisin-studded gingerbread, pretzels, roast chestnuts and delicious Santa-shaped chocolates.
Dates: November 25-December 24. (www.quebecregion.com)
Tivoli Gardens, the famous amusement park, hosts Copenhagen’s Christmas markets. The willow trees are festooned with lights, there are almost four miles of colourful stalls and the little ones will be able to see how the residents of Nissekøbing spend their time.
The market welcomes about one million visitors each year, most of whom will want to take a ride on the carousels, Chinese Lantern and Elves’ Train. 15 November – 4 January
Dates: November 15 to January 4. (www.tivoli.dk)
In past years, Dublin’s Christmas market was at Docklands, this year it’s going to the heart of the city – St. Stephen’s Green.
The exterior of the charming Victorian park, between Grafton Street and Merrion Row, will be lined with traders selling gifts and treats. It’s open until Christmas week between the hours of 12pm and 8pm.
Dates: November 13 to December 22. (www.dublinatchristmas.ie)
The Christkindlmarket in Chicago is inspired by Nuremberg’s ancient market. Daley Plaza on Washington Street is where you’ll find red-and-white tents groaning under the weight of festive delicacies and traditional handcrafted gifts that will satisfy the pickiest customer.
Warming German delicacies (sausages, sauerkraut and potato pancakes) keep out the cold and soak up the glühwein and German beers.
Dates: November 21 to December 24 (www.christkindlmarket.com)
The Christkindlmarkt on Rathausplatz starts earlier than most, in mid-November, and is one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe. Almost 200 stalls dominate the square, selling traditional decorations and hand-crafted gifts as well as scrumptious, melt-in-the-mouth Viennese pastries and Weihnachtspunsch (a spiced punch).
Dates: November 15 to December 24. (www.christkindlmarkt.at).
Those in favour of a smaller (some say, more cultured) market could head to the courtyard of the baroque Schðnbrunn Palace between November 22 and December 26.
Prague, Czech Republic
A giant Christmas tree in the Old Town Square is the focal point for Prague’s festive fun. The main markets are to be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square and there are smaller ones at Namesti Republiky and Havelske Trziste. All feature beautifully decorated stalls that sell everything from Bohemian crystal and Czech marionettes to braided pastries and gingerbread.
While shopping from stall to stall it’s customary to grab a mug of svaree vino (sweet mulled wine) to sip along the way.
Dates: November 20 to January 1 (www.praguewelcome.cz)
The Brussels Christmas market – Plaisirs d’Hiver (Winter Pret) – is a fairly new arrival to the scene. It has only been around since 2004, but its location at the Grand-Place of Brussels and around the Bourse (on the Place Sainte-Catherine and on the Marché aux Poissons) gives it a centuries’ old vibe. Almost 250 chalets, ice rink, fairground rides and bauble-studded Christmas tree make it a wonderland.
Then there are the mouthwatering delicacies to enjoy – the local chocolates, pots of mussels and mountains of Belgian waffles.
Dates: November 28 until January 4.
Nuremberg’s Christmas market was first held in 1628 and is one of the best known in Germany with more than two million visitors annually. Candy-cane striped stalls serving glühwein and bratwurst fill the Old Town while live music is performed late into the night.
The must-buy souvenirs are the Nuremberg Plum People, tiny figures made from prunes.
Dates: Follow the Christmas Angel between (November 28 to December 24). (www.christkindlesmarkt.de)
Striezelmarkt is one of the oldest markets in the world; the first mention of it cropped up in the 15th century. Artisans from all over the country gather to sell some of the best crafts Germany has to offer. Regional specialties include the famous blue-and-white ceramics, crafts from the Ore Mountains, blown glass from Lauscha and much more.
The highlight of the Dresden market is the arrival of the three-tonne stollen after it has been paraded through the streets.
Dates: November 27 to December 24 (www.striezel-markt.de)