Your inside guide to the best Christmas markets in Europe

  • 09th October 2013

Need to get into the real, traditional, good old-fashioned Christmas spirit? You know the one with proper trees, real decorations, great gifts and decent food and wine? Time to fly over to one of the great Christmas markets. Here are our pick of the bunch…

1 Brussels Christmas Market

29 November – 5 January 2014

Location: Place Sainte Catherine and e Marché aux Poissons

Not just stalls and festivities here, but also animations and illuminations. Set in wooden chalets, stalls offer food, crafts and slightly less obvious stocking-fillers. There’s also a great ice rink, big wheel and a sound and light show. The town hall and guild houses are decorated and illuminated and it’s all set against the charming backdrop of Brussels in winter.

Flights from East Midlands to Brussels

Flights from Edinburgh to Brussels

2 Bremen Christmas Market & Schlachte Magic

28 November – 23 December

Location: Main Market Square of the Old Town and River Weser Embankment

As well as its beautiful Christmas market with more than 170 food and craft stalls, Bremen hosts Schlachte Magic on the Weser river embankment. And it’s magical for good reason as the quayside turns back the clocks to become an almost medieval fair full of food, music, and shows which harks back to the jugglers and street entertainers of the Middle Ages. A real Christmas treat.

Flights from Toulouse to Bremen

3 Frankfurt Christmas Market

27 November – 22 December

Location: Roemerberg, Paulsplatz, Mainkai

From the huge tree on the Roemerberg, to the historical old town illuminated by thousands of tiny lights and the 200 decorated stalls, Frankfurt really knows how to do old world Christmas – and it’s as much about food, sustenance (and local alcoholic specialties) as it is crafts and gifts. That and an awful lot of Christmas music. One of the biggest in Germany, Frankfurt really is a yuletide attack on all your senses.

Flights from Bristol to Frankfurt

4 Munich Christmas Markets

29 November – 24 December

The Bavarian capital becomes a winter wonderland during the run-up to Christmas – and there are a plethora of markets to choose, from the traditional one at Marienplatz in front of the Town Hall to the less busy in the Haidhausen district or the one in the English Garden around the Chinese Tower. Add to these more than 20 others situated around the city and from the scent of the gingerbread and roasted almonds to the craftsmen and women and the decorations, Munich really knows how to throw a pre-Christmas party.

Flights from Bristol to Munich

5 Gothenburg

30 November 2013 – 22 December

Sweden’s largest Christmas market is at the Liseberg Amusement park, but there are plenty of other smaller markets around the city. As well as the traditional crafts, there are also vintage boutiques and great food on offer. Make sure you try the pepparkakor (ginger snaps) and lussebullar (buns spiced with saffron).

Flights from Birmingham to Gothenburg

6 Spikersuppa Oslo

28 November – 23 December

Find the true heart of Christmas spirit in the heart of the Norwegian capital, Spikersuppa celebrates yuletide with everything from food and drink to decorations, crafts and presents for children and adults. A great start to Christmas for all the family.

Flights from Aberdeen to Oslo

7 Antwerp Christmas Market

7 December – 5 January 2014

As well as the Christmas market at Grote Markt, there is a ferris wheel at the Cruise Terminal and an ice skating rink at Steenplein. The Grote Markt itself is overtaken by Christmas each year, with stalls packed with local foods, decorations and stocking-fillers.

Flights from Manchester to Antwerp

Seven Things To Buy At A Christmas Market

Crib figurines – get the whole set: donkeys, kings, shepherds, manger
Hand-blown ornaments – everything from traditional to animals, to, er… fruit
Glühwein mulled wine – keeps you warm. But know when to stop
Roast chestnuts – very traditional, very Christmas, very tasty
Lebkuchen – gingerbread biscuits. With a proper ginger kick
Bratwurst and Brezel – sounds so much tastier than hot dog, eh?
Schwibbogen – candle arches to lighten things up at home

Seven Things To Avoid

  1. Too much gluhwein – warming now, but think about the morning as well
  2. Novelty woolen hats – would you wear that again? At home? Sober? Seriously??
  3. Big wooden toys – We can put it on the plane, but remember you’ll have to carry it
  4. Really, really delicate decorations – the robust ones are more likely to make it back in one piece.
  5. Skating – all good, but remember number one (above) before you step on to the ice
  6. Trinkets/tat – buy genuine crafts and goods, not the mass-produced stuff
  7. Too much bratwurst/stolen/lebkuchen – taste, don’t devour.