Christmas may be 2 months away but now is the time to think about booking a trip to a European Christmas market.
There is little as magical or evoking of the true essence of Christmas than seeing the beauty of medieval European cities glitter with fairy lights and light snow while experiencing the warm comfort foods of gingerbread cookies, bratwurst sausage and glühwein. To experience visions of sugarplum fairies dancing around your head, look no further than these top five picks in Germany, Austria and Belgium:
Dates: November 20, 2023, to January 1, 2024
Cool and arty Berlin does a modern twist on the Christmas market. The city hosts no less than 80 markets, so it’s best to choose a few, instead of becoming overwhelmed with choice. There’s even a market especially for dogs! Gendarmenmarkt square, holds the largest of the markets and is full of arts and crafts. If you are looking for a thrill-seeking market, Winter World, on Potsdamer Platz holds tobogganing sessions for children and teenagers and features a large-scale ice rink.
Dates: November 23 to December 23, 2023
Cologne has long been celebrated as a festive destination, boasting a variety of Christmas markets, the largest of which can be found in the city centre beneath the iconic cathedral. Among these, Markt der Engel stands out as a place where Christmas spirit comes alive. Here, hundreds of twinkling lights are suspended overhead, while angels gracefully flit between elaborately decorated gables.
For the younger crowd, Nikolausdorf, or Saint Nicholas’s Village, offers a delightful experience that narrates the tale of the real St. Nick. The 13th-century Hahnen gate serves as a majestic backdrop to this engaging narrative, a more traditional and elegant alternative to Lapland.
If you’re in the mood for ice skating, make your way to the outdoor rink on Heumarkt.
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Dates: November 11, 2023 to January 4, 2024
Vienna’s Christmas markets transform the city into a magical wonderland, with an abundance of twinkling lights, festive decorations, and beautifully adorned Christmas trees. These markets, scattered throughout the city, offer traditional crafts and artisanal goods, from handcrafted wooden ornaments to delicate lacework. Culinary delights feature roasted chestnuts, gingerbread cookies, and local specialties like sausages and schnitzel, alongside mugs of mulled wine and spiced punch. Live performances, including carollers and traditional music, add to the festive charm, while some markets offer ice skating and children’s activities.
Dates: November 23, 2023 to January 1, 2024
Home of the classic film, The Sound of Music, Salzburg won’t disappoint musical fans as the main theme of its markets are musically related. Expect to hear renditions of all the most beautiful traditional carols, especially Silent Night as Salzburg is where is was originally written and performed. These free carol concerts take place daily outside the cathedrals at 5pm daily and sing-a-long carol concerts happen on Tuesdays at 6pm.
Dates: November 24, 2023 to January 7, 2024
Bruges exudes beauty all year round but is especially dreamy at Christmas. The heart of the city hosts two Christmas markets, one in the bustling Markt square and the other in Simon Stevinplein, both full of Christmas crafts, culinary delights, and warm drinks. An outdoor ice-skating rink shimmers under glistening lights, and if you don’t feel like skating yourself, you can enjoy watching the action from the cosy Vorst bar. The Light Experience Trail is a joy to wander along as it lights up the city’s squares in a vivid tapestry of colours.
There are several operators in Ireland who provide packages for trips to Christmas market destinations. Cassidy Travel have deals on trips to Bruges, Brussels, Hamburg while Sunway Holidays tailor packages to Austria, Germany and Switzerland.