Okay, we’ll admit that we’ve started to feel a little festive in this last week or so. Whilst we absolutely do not advocate putting your Christmas tree up before December has even begun, we don’t see a little harm in encouraging the Christmas spirit with mulled wine, gingerbread and a little fake snow (unless we get the real thing this weekend, we shall have to wait and see!). With that in mind, we’re inviting you to slip on your woolly hat, zip your coat right up to your chin and join us for a countdown of five of the world’s best Christmas markets.
27 November to 31 December
Strasbourg calls itself ‘the capital of Christmas’ and its festive markets certainly support such a bold claim. The city holds almost a dozen Christmas markets throughout the festive season, though the Christkindelsmärik is undoubtedly the largest of them all. The market has been held since 1570, making it one of the oldest markets in the world, and the area around Strasbourg Cathedral sits at the heart of around 300 stalls each year. Sample authentic Alsatian cuisine including Coq au Riesling or ‘Choucroute’, a traditional dish of sauerkraut, potato and meats. Hundreds of live music events take place beneath the city’s illuminations, all of them best enjoyed with a glass of the region’s best pinot noir.
Winter Village at Bryant Park (New York)
30 October to 3 January
Few places compare to New York at Christmas time and little beats ice skating with the Manhattan skyline surrounding the ice rink. Bryant Park hosts the Winter Village from October to early January each year and a visit is a must if you’re spending time in the city. The 125 glass cabins tend to offer fewer festive wares and more in the way of artisanal foods, artworks, vintage clothing and handcrafted jewellery, and you’ll find plenty of food cabins offering warm bakes, pretzels and what is reportedly the best hot chocolate in New York. Don your skates on the free ice rink or shun the cold and head inside, enjoying dinner with a view of the skaters at The Rink restaurant.
Photo Credit: Yi Choe
Tivoli Gardens (Copenhagen)
14 November to 3 January
The world’s second oldest amusement park comes to life in November, when it Christmas comes to Tivoli Gardens. This year’s festivities see 30,000 more baubles than last year hung on the spectacular Tivoli Gardens Christmas tree, with over 16,000 lights illuminating the streets. Carols are provided by the Tivoli Youth Guard, resplendent in full regalia of red jackets and bearskins, whilst the Tivoli Lucia Parade sees 100 choir girls fill the gardens with song and candlelight. Carousels and the Alpine Express will entertain visitors young and old alike, whilst the Alpine Village is so festive, it could probably even ignite the Christmas spirit in Ebenezer Scrooge.
Photo Credit: David Huang
Photo credit: Stig Nygaard
Tallinn Christmas Market (Tallinn)
27 November to 3 January
Tallinn’s medieval Old Town is deserving of a visit at any time of year, but the UNESCO World Heritage site comes into its own when its rooftops are sprinkled with snow and its market squares filled with tiny illuminated huts. Tallinn’s Christmas tree is one of the earliest ever recorded, having been erected in Town Hall Square since 1441, and it provides a centrepiece for the festivities that surround it. Small huts sell traditional crafts, authentic Estonian cuisine and of course, plenty of mulled wine, and there are attractions for younger visitors too including a mini zoo that is home to reindeer, goats, ponies and lambs. Tallinn is the self-proclaimed birthplace of marzipan and you’ll find enough to satisfy even the sweetest tooth here, along with some pretty special gingerbread too.
Paderborn Christmas Market
24 November to 23 December
The picturesque German city of Paderborn is home to one of the world’s most authentic Christmas markets, made even more appealing by the pretty scenery that surrounds it. If you’re keen to feel a million miles away from the commercial side of Christmas, Paderborn is your place; there are only 60 stalls in the market, along with a nativity with live animals, plus the 100 year old ‘Paderborn Pony Roundabout’. Enjoy plenty of bratwurst and knoblauchbrot (that’s garlic bread to you and I), but be sure to leave space for a glass or two of Heißer Wilhelm – the traditional winter beverage drunk from Paderborn’s special Christmas cups.
Photo credit: F_A
Which Christmas markets have you visited and which are your favourites around the world? Let us know!