3 years, 3 months ago
It might only be the middle of November but apparently it’s never too early to wander around like a stunned ox staring at shiny stuff. Yes, Christmas is coming. Are you feeling it? Assorted sachets of mulled wine mix, Tom Odell and purple tinsel just aren’t hitting the right notes for us this year. Authenticity is where we’re headed, and the only place to find that is the land of snow and ice. Or at least lands where traditional Christmas Markets come with a faint chance of apple cheeked stallholders, strong, spicy drinks and skating while wearing stripy caps and felted wool dirndl skirts. Okay that last part might be a bit out there. But here are a few markets definitely ticking more than one box on our festive fantasy list this Christmas.
Austria’s oldest Christmas Market takes enchanting to a whole new level. It’s in Salzburg so comes with a backdrop of Alps, plenty of cobbled streets, gorgeous old buildings and more snow than you can shake a whole bunch of candy canes at. Go for the wonderfully moving gospel choir, charming traditional nativity, fantastic gingerbread and the type of gifts you wish people would give you. 20th November to 26th December. www.christkindlmarkt.co.at
Wenceslas Square Market, Prague
Even just wandering around Wenceslas Square in December feels Christmassy, so the traditional market is an added bonus. This is not a tourist spectacle, so low on grottos, elves and lavish craft stalls. But for authentic Czech food (look out for tubs of live carp), delicious wintery drinks and an atmosphere of excited anticipation, this is the one. 1st December to 1st January.
Fira de Santa Llúcia, Barcelona
Plenty of odd Catalan humour (the huge Caga Tió, a log that ‘poos’ out presents when you hit it with a stick is a real draw for kids), dozens of stalls selling Christmas plants, a fiercely competitive ‘nativity’ contest and insanely loud and raucous music are what to expect from Barcelona’s ancient Christmas Market. It’s been around since 1786 and what it lacks in traditional snowy weather it more than makes up for in relentless entertainment. 30th November to 23rd December. www.en.firadesantallucia.cat
Kaiser Willhelm Market, Berlin
Berlin is the capital of Christmas Markets with over 50 across the city selling everything from slow food to craft beer, traditional nativities to original art and outrageous decorations. The biggest and best of all is at Kaiser Willhelm Gedächtniskirche. Over 2.5 million people visit this amazing market every year for the brilliantly Berlin combination of authenticity and cool design. 24th November to 1st January.
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Less of a Christmas Market and more of an extravaganza, this is Copenhagen’s homage to all things snowy, icy, magical, Christmassy and fabulous in the city’s most enchanting park. There are lovely stalls selling all those things the Danes do so well. But it’s the theatre, pantomime, drama, funfair and sheer glamour that makes Tivoli such an event – and there’s a huge ice-rink too. 16th November to 30th December.
Voted ‘Europe’s Best Christmas Market 2014’, Strasbourg’s annual festive fair is the centrepiece of the city that now calls itself ‘The Capital of Christmas’. Cobbled streets and half-timbered houses are the backdrop for dozens of little stalls selling everything from traditional ‘bredele’ biscuits for hanging on your Christmas tree to tiny, hand carved nativities and the spiciest of spiced wines. The lights and decorations are amazing, there are 11 different ‘villages’ and the look of mesmerised wonder on peoples’ faces is worth a visit in itself. 28th November to 31st December. www.noel.strasbourg.eu/en/marches-de-noel
For seriously artisan and exclusive gifts, cultured concerts and gorgeously glamorous decorations, Stuttgart is the ancient and wonderful master of all. The pedestrianised streets between Schlossplatz and Marktplaz host over 300 delightfully authentic and charming stalls where you can pick up oddities like wool slippers and fruit liqueurs, handmade brushes, wooden toys and vintage tree decorations. There are regular classical concerts on the city’s Renaissance Courtyard. And you’re in the heart of the Black Forest so expect delicious local food and wine, lots of cake and an almost overpowering scent of pine everywhere. 26th November to 23rd December
Finally, honourable festive mention has to go to Amsterdam. Another wonderful city for HouseTrip apartments and the only one we can think of with a Christmas Market that actually floats on water.