Christmas on the Continent: The Best Christmas Markets in Europe
In our second installment of ‘this Christmas is going to be a quiet one but next year’s going to be amazing’ we’re spreading the cheer on Christmas market cruises. They’re one of our favourite ways to get into the Christmas spirit and between frantic shopping, a whirlwind of parties, not to mention the feuding family members, a trip to the continent’s best markets can be a welcome break and a chance to appreciate all that is festive. Here are some of the best to put on your Christmas list for next year.
Some of the most beautiful cities in the UK host Christmas markets each year, but nothing compares to wrapping up warm and heading to Europe. With mulled wine in hand, let us take you on a trip around some of the most beautiful Christmas markets on the continent.
Tivoli Christmas Market – Copenhagen, Denmark
When the Design Director of Tiffany & Co. has a hand in setting the scene, you know it is going to be something special. Each year since 1997, John Laring has temporarily cast aside the blue and white of Tiffany & Co to concentrate on making Tivoli twinkle amidst more than 500,000 fairy lights.
Each year, Tivoli Christmas Market attracts over 1 million visitors; a number all the more impressive when one considers that the overall population of Denmark is just 5.5 million. Visiting the Christmas market is a tradition dear to Copenhageners and it isn’t difficult to see how the popularity of the market has spread its reputation as one of the best in Europe.
Tivoli Christmas Market is an all-encompassing extravaganza. Visit Santa’s reindeers, stroll between snow topped trees and wooden houses, and visit Father Christmas in the magical Christmas Room at the Pantomime Theatre. The Alp Village perfectly represents an authentic Christmas in the Alps, complete with rows of wooden cabins; sleighs leant against their doorways and a wisp of smoke meandering from their snow covered chimney tops. Hop aboard the Alps Express or feel the winter breeze through your hair as you ride the Tyrol merry-go-round. Around 50 festive stalls meander their way along the pathways, with ornate ornaments and traditional toys lining up beside delicious foods and casks of mulled wine.
Grote Merkt, Brussels
The toy-like town of Brussels is Christmas personified, its cobbled streets and maze of canals brought to life with a myriad of Christmas lights and festive spirit. A wander through Brussels’ medieval centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site no less) is littered with fairy lights, scented by chocolate and scattered with wooden chalets filled to the brim with ornate trinkets. The stalls of Grote Markt huddle around an outdoor ice rink set in the centre of the Market Square, giving visitors the opportunity to wrap up warm and enjoy the most festive of days spent surrounded by stunning medieval architecture.
No trip to Brussels is complete without sampling two of the destination’s finest exports: Belgian beer and chocolate. Since 1515, the roaring fire and dark wood beams of Café Vissinghe have housed festive cheer galore and the pub is one of the oldest in the world. Warm up with a glass of traditional Belgian beer or opt for a taste of their limited edition festively spiced Christmas brew.
Belgian chocolate is considered the finest in the world and a visit to the Het Museum van Cacao en Chocolade will delight chocolate lovers. Here, the deceptively small house accommodates a shop, demonstration room and two floors of museum exhibitions, while a chocolate maker offers all the samples one could ever desire throughout his demonstration.
Lubeck Christmas Market, Germany
Located just 25 minutes from the port of Travemünde, Lubeck is a hive of festive activity, with a total of nine Christmas markets dotted around the historic Old Town.
A trip to the European Christmas markets is often considered an adults-only treat fuelled by mulled wine and Belgian beer; however Lubeck brings its unique blend of Christmas magic to the whole family. Located on the banks of the River Obertrave, the picturesque setting of Winter Wonderland could have been taken straight from a Christmas card, and even the most sceptical of children will be entranced as they wander through the magical pixie forest, or ‘Wichtelwald’, a lovingly crafted world where they can create their very own Christmas adventure.
Elsewhere, at the Christmas Bakery, kids will join the expert baker and his elves to create delicious cakes and cookies for two whole hours. With pinafores on and festive cookie cutters in hand, little ones can enjoy themselves in a plume of flour and sprinkles; grown-ups are strictly not permitted however, so Mums and Dads will just have to busy themselves with a mulled wine in the ‘Wichtelstübe’ (or Pixie Inn) while the little ones get creative. Later on the whole family can grab a hot chocolate from the market and sample the day’s creations.
Lübeck’s main Christmas market is located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has brought festivities to the area since 1648. Along with the Markt, the main pedestrian area and side streets of Breite Straße are littered with quaint festive shops. Lübeck is famous for its marzipan and confectioner Niederegger is one of the best known marzipan producers in the area. Head to the Niederegger Christmas bazaar to sample their most delicious varieties and choose from an array of beautiful packaged marzipan; perfect for Christmas gifts or a naughty treat at home.
Less festive than the city’s other markets, the Marienkirche church provides the backdrop for distinctly medieval festivities of the Historic Christmas Market. Visitors are transported to a bygone era as copper, silversmiths and other traditional craft smiths vie for their custom, while jugglers and entertainers take to the stage. Come night time, medieval music fills the air and hands are warmed with a cup of mead.
Whether your trip to the Christmas markets is an adults-only treat amidst the Christmas madness, or an excuse to enjoy the festivities with the whole family, Europe remains the best destination in the world for immersing yourself in the festive spirit.