Europe's 6 best Christmas markets

04 Sep 2018

Mulled wine, roasting chestnuts and spiced cookies - nothing quite heralds the Yuletide season like a Christmas market. Here’s our round-up of 2017's best places for a Christmas market break.

Berlin, Germany

Rather than a single market, Berlin has as many as 60 dotted throughout the city. One of the best takes place at Charlottenburg Castle, where you'll find fairground rides for kids, a vast sea of stalls selling traditional gifts and some spectacular illuminations on the castle itself. Gendarmenmarkt is the place to buy stocking fillers and hand-crafted Christmas decorations, or head to the market at Potsdamer Platz if you fancy ice skating or a go on the toboggan run.

Specialities: Travelzoo Deal Expert Laura Summers recommends eating "the messiest wurst possible (or anything with raclette cheese) and drinking anything remotely mulled. And don't forget to get involved in any singing, dancing and waving of steins in the beer tents".

When to go: Late November to December.

Kraków, Poland

Snowy Kraków's Christmas market is held in the Rynek Glowny, the Old Town's 13th-century main square, near the Renaissance Cloth Hall and St Mary's Basilica. If you're there on the first Thursday in December, look out for the szopki (colourful card nativities) by the statue of Adama Mickiewicz in the centre of the square. The best are chosen to be displayed in the Historical Museum of Kraków in Krzysztofory Palace.

Specialities: Indulge in grzaniec galicyjski (mulled wine), sausages and oscypek mountain cheese. Traditional hand-painted glass baubles and knitted slippers are a good bet for presents.

When to go: Late November to December.

London, United Kingdom

Christmas in Leicester Square is the whippersnapper of the Christmas markets. Visit Leicester Square in its festive guise for a Santa's grotto, a traditional Bavarian-style market and Christmas shows by the Underbelly troupe, known for the Olivier Award-winning La Soiree. Entry to the market is free, although there's a charge for ticketed events.

Specialities: Here in the UK, our Christmas-market stalls seem to be inspired by our continental counterparts, and mulled wine, ornaments for the Christmas tree and wooden handicrafts are the norm.

When to go: Early November to early January.

How to get there: If you're travelling from within the UK, we recommend catching the train to Charing Cross and walking from there. Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus are the nearest Tube stations.

Paris, France

Paris comes into its own in winter, when it "transforms from City of Lights to City of Fairylights", says The Daily Telegraph. Pay a visit to the Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées, where you can go ice skating and sip mulled wine while taking in views of the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. To escape the crowds, take a detour down glamorous Avenue Montaigne, which has some of the chicest Christmas lights in town. Other Christmas-market locations include Montmartre, Place Saint-Sulpice and Trocadero (opposite the Eiffel Tower).

Specialities: Try tartiflette, a warming winter dish made of potato, lardons, onion and cheese. It's served in huge dishes at the Champs-Elysées Christmas market.

When to go: Mid November to January.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna has one of the oldest Christmas-market traditions in Europe, dating back to 1294 when King Albrecht I granted traders the right to hold a Krippenmarkt (crib market) in the city. Nowadays you can choose between more than 20 different versions - we recommend the quaint Spittelberg Christmas Market, hidden in the cobbled streets near the Museumsquartier, for its friendly atmosphere and artisan craft stalls.

Specialities: Snack on chestnuts, flavoured punch and vanillekipferl (traditional crescent-shaped cookies dusted with vanilla sugar).

When to go: Mid November to late December

Budapest, Hungary

With its Art Nouveau buildings, cobbled streets and snowy climate, Budapest is a magical place to visit in the winter. The main Christmas market is on Vörösmarty Square (on the Pest side of the River Danube), which has around 100 wooden chalets selling handicrafts, forralt bor (mulled wine) and snacks. At 5pm, turn your attention to the Gerbeaud Café, which is transformed into a giant advent calendar every year, for the opening of the latest window.

Specialities: Sample Hungarian dishes, such as roast goose and stuffed cabbage, or pick up a traditional kürtoskalács (a sweet, chimney-shaped bread rolled in sugary cinnamon) to nibble while you wander.

When to go: Mid November to late December

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