Europe’s cities are rich in history and tradition, with many being popular holiday destinations the year round. For some European destinations, you couldn’t pick a better time to visit than winter, and that’s largely down to their magical Christmas markets.
Here are five of the most spectacular cities around the continent to visit if you’re searching for a little festive cheer this holiday season.
Innsbruck – a beautiful city located in the Alps – hosts around six Christmas markets every year. Perhaps one of the most picturesque is in the Altstadt. With handblown glass ornaments, toys carved from wood and plenty of gingerbread to go around, there are gift ideas for every friend and family member. The medieval houses that line the streets only add to the impressiveness of this Christmas market and its location.
The Family Christmas Market at Marktplatz is another of Innsbruck’s great Christmas markets; appealing to all ages, there’s mulled wine, glassblowing workshops for children, and even a Swarovski Christmas tree.
If you do visit Innsbruck’s festive markets, be sure to try the Kiachln, a traditional hot doughnut served with cranberry sauce which locals always enjoy at this time of year.
If you’re heading to Cologne this December, you’ll surely be spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas markets. With seven in total, each has its own distinctive charm and special items that it is most famous for.
The Cathedral Christmas Market, which is located next to the Roman-Germanic Museum and the Cologne Philharmonic Concert Hall, sells ceramics, soaps, accessories and more, any of which would make a perfect Christmas gift.
Angel’s Christmas Market is held on the Neumarkt and is the city’s oldest and most favoured by locals. Its fine selection of drinks, including mulled wine, egg punch and hot chocolate, attracts many a worker looking to unwind after a long day in the office. Traditionally, Dresden Stollen cake is also incredibly popular at the Angel Market.
Stockholm’s most famous and most traditional Christmas market is the Old Town’s Christmas Market. First held 500 years ago, the more modern version of the market has been taking place for a century, and can be found on Stortorget Square, in the heart of Old Stockholm.
The stalls are filled with gifts, including pottery, jewellery and glassware, all handcrafted in Sweden itself. There’s Glögg (mulled wine) and Pepparkakor, which are thin, Swedish ginger biscuits. Saffransbullar is another traditional treat, which is a type of saffron bun, and for those feeling a little more adventurous, there’s even reindeer sausages.
All Stockholm needs is a sprinkling of snow and it’s the perfect place to spend a Christmas break.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague puts on a fantastic display in Staroměstské náměstí, their Old Town Square, for the festive season, complete with a staged nativity scene, a gigantic Christmas tree and daily performances from choirs and folk bands. Wenceslas Square – just a short walk from Old Town – also holds its own market.
Both offer a wonderful array of trinkets displayed in tiny wooden huts decorated with fairy lights, from embroidered lace and jewellery, to Christmas tree decorations, and even puppets and dolls. For anyone after a drink and a bite to eat, there’s Klobása (barbequed sausages), Trdelník (a hot, sugar coated pastry), mulled wine and a wide variety of Czech beers.
If the cold weather gets too much, you can always take cover in one of the city’s churches and enjoy an evening concert.
Vörösmarty and St Stephen’s Square are taken over by 100 wooden pavilions, with vendors offering an array of wonderful gifts. From traditional fur hats and gloves and crocheted items, to handmade honey cakes and ‘good luck’ garden pixies, you’d be surprised by the sheer amount of choice.
As with the other European Christmas markets, there’s plenty to eat and drink, including Kurtoskalacs (cinnamon flavoured chimney cakes), Toki Pompos (a type of pizza topped with bacon, onion and cream) and, of course, mulled wine.
With the St Stephen’s Square Market set directly in front of the beautiful Basilica, you couldn’t want for a more majestic location, particularly after twilight when the fairy lights illuminate the night sky.
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