‘tis the season for Christmas markets and here’s a selection from home and abroad ‘yule’ go wild for!
It may be hard to accept that the most magical time of year is just around the corner; but it is, and if you need a helping hand to start embracing the Yuletide spirit – or kick-start your gift-buying – book yourself a long weekend from work and head to a traditional Christmas market. Get stress-free in Strasbourg, go crackers for Krakow, and savour the sweet smells of Cologne. It’s Christmas (nearly), you’re allowed..
According to the history books,Strasbourg is where the tradition of Christmas decorations started, so it’s to be expected their Christmas market is one of the oldest in Europe. It is also one of the best. Located in the Grande Ile, a UNESCO world heritage site, the city’s historic centre is dressed in lights and shrouded by tempting aromas from around 300 traders housed in wooden chalets.
Many travellers rate Cologne’s market higher than Dresden’s, and with the magnificent cathedral as a backdrop, Weihnachtsmarkt Am Kölner Dom stars the largest Christmas tree in the Rhine, is big on wood carvings, tree decorations and soaps. However, the big draw here is the regional organic food. Try the slow-grilled salmon at the Harbour Market, south Tyrolian ham, potato pancakes or freshly baked Flammkuchen (a flambéed tart). It runs from November 25 to December 23 but if you can’t get to Germany, try the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham from November 7 to December 23.
Recognised as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe and one which takes this atmospheric Polish city to another level. Located on the main Market Square and spilling into the centre of the Old Town, the market traditionally starts in the last week of November and can last until January 6. Foodie treats include the soft and aromatic piernik gingerbread – a combination of honey, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves – and beer. Lots of beer.
The capital of the Czech Republic slips into overdrive for Christmas with markets on all the major squares running up to and beyond the big day. Stand by for your senses to be bombarded by the tastes, sights and sounds of Christmas the Eastern European way. Peace Square sets the ball rolling on November 20, followed by Prague Castle (Nov 23), Republic Square (Nov 25), Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square (both Nov 30).
Winter in Vienna is special anyway but the build-up to the festive season attracts visitors from all over the world to the many markets. Starting from November 9 to December 23, the Old City and streets are decked with lights and the tall candlelit arched gateway to City Hall Square welcomes visitors to Christmas World on Rathausplatz. Expect stollen, steaming mugs of glühwein and lots of dainty, spicy biscuits. Ah, Vienna…
Grab some hot glögi – that’s mulled wine and a splash of vodka – and let the Finnish city that is most likely to be draped in snow warm your soul. The period of pikkujoulu (Little Christmas) in early December is when it all starts and there are several markets. The main one is in the Senate Square (December 6 to 22) where the cluster of food courts will bring a premature end to any diet and the surrounding gift alleys could seriously damage your bank balance.
As soon as the Thanksgiving Day parade is parked up, thoughts turn to Christmas and it’s full-on from December 4 when the lights on the Rockefeller Center tree are lit. In terms of markets, The Big Apple stages its first two-day Vegan Christmas Market on November 30, but for atmosphere try the Columbus Circle Holiday Market on the fringes of Central Park (from December 4) or the Grand Central Holiday Fair in the iconic Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Station (starts November 18).
Nothing says festive fun quite like Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park’s own Christmas cracker. From November 21 to January 5, the royal park hosts London’s biggest Christmas market and assorted festive treats. This year expect Paddington on Ice, ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Magical Ice Kingdom, the UK’s largest open-air ice rink, the traditional funfair and gastronomic treats to set your taste buds tingling.
Imagine West Country artisans selling their wares and showcasing their talents from around 150 twinkling chalets lining Georgian streets with the scent of mulled wine lingering in the frosty air. Opens November 22 to December 9.
If you’re looking for atmosphere as well as gifts, Lincoln could be for you. With the Gothic splendour of the cathedral as a backdrop, around 250 Victorian-themed traders will be out to tempt and delight you. Opens December 5 to December 8.
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