It is the time of year when we begin thinking about a short break to one of the many Christmas markets across Britain and Europe. I have chosen seven Christmas market experiences to consider from the many that are available.
Choose one of these and you will not be disappointed
When we think of Christmas markets we usually think of other parts of Europe but we have some very atmospheric ones in the UK. One of my favourites is the one in the shadow of the magnificent Winchester Cathedral. Once the capital of England and home to Alfred the Great it is a very atmospheric city at Christmas time. The Market surrounds an ice rink in the Cathedral’s Inner Close. There are a great many arts and crafts mostly from the UK in the wooden chalets huddled in the courtyard beneath the Cathedral’s soaring walls.
Solos Holidays offer a 2 night break in a 4* hotel in Winchester which also includes a city walking tour and evening disco for £305 with dinner. Call Solos Holidays on 0844 371 8860. Just Go Holidays have 2 night break on a bed and breakfast basis for £99.99. For more information visit www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/christmas
Christmas markets are synonymous with German speaking Europe and there are plenty to choose from. Too many in fact for this post. Berlin is considered the “capital of traditional Christmas markets” not least because there are more than 50 festive markets across the city to choose from. One of the most popular is WeihnactsZauber on the Gendarmenmarkt. The most popular for food in Berlin is the Christmas Market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. However for sheer exuberant lighting and decoration the Christmas Market at the Charlottenburg Castle is the one to visit.
Easyjet Holidays have holidays available all during the run up to Christmas. A guide price for a half board 2 night stay in Berlin is £128.62 including return flights from London Gatwick. 0843 104 1000 or visit www.holidays.easyjet.com
The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg is over 400 years old and is considered to be the best known Christmas Market in Europe. Established in 1628 it is set in the cobbled square of Nuremberg’s Old Town. The location is enough to make it one of the top listed Christmas markets but the food and the decorations are worth seeing too. If it’s the traditional Christmas market fayre of gluhwein, bratwurst and lebkuchen is what you want then Nuremberg is the place to head for. In addition there is a Christmas Wonderland specially for children close to the main market.
Fred.\ Holidays offer a 2 night stay in a 3* Nuremberg hotel starting at £329 per person that includes flights from London Stansted to Nuremberg. 0808 163 7070 or visit www.fredholidays.com
The Austrian city of Salzburg is a magical place at Christmas even without the Christmas Market but is even better with it. The traditional horse and carriages clatter and rumble over the cobbles in the streets surrounding the Cathedral Square and Residence Square where the Christmas Market is located. There are live performances by children from the schools surrounding Salzburg, Choirs and live music in front of the Cathedral. The stalls are crammed with Austrian goodies that both taste and smell wonderful.
Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest
Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt, held outside the City Hall is one of Europe’s oldest Christmas Markets. It dates back to 1294 and is quintessentially ‘Austria at Christmas‘. However, why visit just Vienna when you can visit three capitals on one trip. The Christmas markets in Bratislava and Budapest offer their own brand of Christmas market. Take a mini cruise from Vienna down the Danube and enjoy all three capitals and their Christmas markets.
Voyages Jules Verne have a mini cruises that visit all three cities. Prices start from £995 for four nights on full board basis and includes flights from London Heathrow and transfers. Call 0845 166 7035 or visit the website www.vjv.com
The Rhine at Christmas
Following the Rhine on a Christmas Market Cruise is another way of taking in some of the best in both Germany and France. The great Christmas markets of Cologne in the shadow of its mighty cathedral will be the highlight of any Rhine cruise over the festive period. The Christmas market in the streets of the French city of Strasbourg is another highlight of any Rhine Christmas cruise. Add to the mix some of the smaller cities beside the Rhine and you have perfect pre-Christmas break.
AmaWaterways have a 7 night cruise from Amsterdam to Basel that visits six cities and their Christmas markets including Cologne and Strasbourg. Also included are two nights in the Swiss city of Lucerne and visits to the Christmas markets there and in Zurich. Prices start from £1696 AmaWaterways.com
The old town of Gamla Stan is delightful at any time of the year. It is even more so when the Christmas Market comes to Stortoget, the old town square. It began in 1915 so is a fairly young Christmas Market by European standards. The stalls sell the usual Christmas crafts and decorations but with a Swedish flavour. Glögg, the Swedish version of Gluhwein, and gingerbread are the traditional food and drink along with cheese and candy. Altogether there are four Christmas markets in Stockholm including the one in the open-air museum at Skansen which has a terrific ambience.
Kirker Holidays offer short breaks to Stockholm during the Christmas period. A 3 night stay in a deluxe hotel in Gamla Stan starts from £849. Call 020 7593 1899 or visit www.kirkerholidays.com
There are many more Christmas markets across Europe and I am not saying the selection above are the best. They are chosen to give you a taste of what’s available. I could just have easily included others and no doubt you will have your own favourites to recommend (please do so in the comments below). Others worth mentioning are Bath, Prague, Regensberg, Stuttgart, Nice, Copenhagen, Brussels and Krakow