The run up to Christmas is one of my favourite times of year. Streets all lit up in preparation, shop windows competing for the best display, and of course, the perfect excuse to spend hour-upon-hour traipsing around the shops while your other half lags behind, desperately searching for the spare ‘husband chair’ in the changing rooms.
If you fancy making your festive weeks slightly more relaxed and suited to both parties in the relationship, then a visit to one of the many European markets could be just the ticket. With loads of locations to choose from you may think it’s just easier to stay at home, but, we’re here to help with our run down of this year’s best European Christmas markets that you just have to consider….
Here in the UK we’re blessed with some wonderful markets dotted around some of our favourite cities. But, why go to a German Christmas market in Leeds or Birmingham when you can head to Cologne and Bonn for the real deal? With seven individual markets, each with a different atmosphere, Cologne is top of the tree when it comes to festive spirit. From traditional market stalls offering craftwork and a spectacular ice rink, to the Fairytale Christmas market in Rudolfplatz, where the theme of the sixty huts is based on the Brothers Grimm tales. If you fancy a good old German knees-up this Christmas, get yourself there between 24th November and 23rd December.
The magical city of Brussels comes alive during the Christmas period as hundreds of visitors descend on Winter Wonderland each year. The iconic Town Hall illuminates in a rainbow of colours whilst shoppers below get their hands on unique gifts and delicious foods from the 240 snow-capped chalets. There’s a giant Ferris wheel to enjoy and of course, an ice rink for you to test your skating skills on. The easiest way to get yourself to Brussels is by hopping on the Eurostar from St Pancras, where you can be strolling the Belgian streets in around 2 hours, anytime from 28th November to 4th January 2015.
For the food lovers amongst you, Prague’s Christmas markets may be the most appealing of the lot. From the 29th November to 11th January 2015, two large markets take over the Czech capital. Centrally based in the Old Town and Wenceslas Square, there are the usual shopping stalls and handmade presents, but the main thing to shout about here is the abundance of food and drink. You can watch as traditional foods are made and large hams are roasted on spits along with tasty barbequed sausages and unlimited pastries – try ‘Trdelník’, a hot sugar coated cake/pastry. To accompany the food, enjoy a cup of hot mulled wine (svařené víno or svařák).
The Dutch capital is perfect during winter time, offering up plenty of outdoor entertainment, endless pop-up eateries and a captivating display of lights once the sun sets on this intriguing city. Alongside the traditional market, you can pay a visit to the iconic floating flower market for a glimpse at their freshest Christmas trees or venture further to the Amstelpark for a taste of ‘green eating’ at the organic market. The Leidseplein is the main attraction though, littered with olliebollen food stands and the ever-popular ice rink. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and stroll the canals for one of the most beautiful winter city breaks in Europe. You can even make a more unique short break out of it by jumping on one of our Amsterdam mini cruises that sail every weekend during November and December!
Wherever you end up spending the lead-up to Christmas this year, make sure you enjoy the festive spirit and take advantage the opportunity for shopping too long and eating too much!