Thinking of a quick getaway before the rush of Christmas really kicks in at home? Try one of these wonderful European Christmas markets – cities bursting with sleigh-loads of festive cheer
Salzburg’s main Christmas market is held in the city’s historic Cathedral Square and dates back to the 15th Century. Steeped in Austrian tradition and with some of the most beautifully crafted trinkets and gifts you could ask for, there is plenty of inspiration for all your loved ones. You’ll find food and drink, crafts, textiles, sweets, chocolates and toys. But the city has so much more to offer too. Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart so there is always plenty of music filling the festive streets, and as a Christian city, the Nativity exhibits in the Residenz Courtyard are well worth a visit too.
Must-see: 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the Silent Night Christmas Carol, probably one of the oldest and most popular festive tunes. To mark the event, there will be a special exhibition in the Salzburg Museum and a musical at the Felsenreitschule, as well as the traditional advent singing. Sightseers must make a visit up to the chapel of St Nicholas’ Church at Obendorf where the carol was first sung on Christmas Eve in 1818.
Slovenia has Christmas events just waiting to be discovered and it’s a great way to get your fill of festive culture in a place you wouldn’t normally think of at this time of year. Colourful, artsy Christmas lights illuminate the city centre of Ljubljana and you can easily explore the Christmas markets on foot. Pass by quaint wooden stalls adorned with ornaments, lights and vendors selling local, authentic crafts and specialities. Take a day trip to visit Slovenia’s iconic Lake Bled where the ‘Festive Promenade’ is a beautiful lakeside bazaar featuring festive gifts, Slovenian delicacies and samples from Slovenia’s thriving wine region of Gorenjska. During the winter months Lake Bled comes alive with Christmas lights and a permanent Nativity scene making it the perfect place for a winter getaway.
Must-see: There are also Christmas markets in Maribor and a Christmas Crib and Market at Postojna Cave where you can experience famous biblical scenes bought to life visiting the live Nativity scene in the underground cave.
Christmas starts early in Copenhagen. From November the cobbled streets are festooned with lights, the beer is in full flow and the inviting scent of ‘glogg’ (mulled wine) and toasted almonds fill the air. Stay in a picturesque waterfront hotel in the colourful Nyhavn harbour and you’ll be conveniently located to explore the Christmas market at Tivoli fairground and the shops along Storget, but luckily the city’s palaces, museums and restaurants are all within easy reach too. A series of Christmas concerts held at churches across the city can be enjoyed and several outdoor skating rinks too.
Must-see: Don’t miss the Kastellet, one of the best-preserved star fortresses in northern Europe and the Amalienborg, which is the main residence of the Dutch Royal Family, but also said to be one of the finest examples of Danish Rococo architecture. Be sure to climb to the top of the Round Tower for a bird’s-eye view of the city too.
Nuremberg is a fabulous medieval city in the heart of Bavarian Germany. The centre truly comes alive at Christmas with one of Germany’s most famous markets kicking off in early December. As well as the Christmas market, there is also a magical children’s Christmas market to explore. With fabulous nightlife, a vibrant café and alfresco dining culture and 14 Michelin-recommended restaurants to try, Nuremberg is becoming the latest trendy European hot spot for culture and gastronomy. It also has great shopping streets in the pedestrianised town centre.
Must-see: The history of Nuremberg’s medieval roots shape the town and its architecture and the many historical sites – including the Kaiserburg Castle and Nuremberg Trials Memorium – are a must-see.
One of the most famous of the German markets is that in Cologne on the western side of Germany close to the Belgian border. Each year the town comes alive with festivities in the run up to Christmas. Opening the gates on the first Monday before Advent and welcoming millions of visitors from around the world, the Cologne Christmas market is a must-see. From its quaintly decorated and designed huts to the music, arts, crafts and toys that fill the stalls. You can get everything from presents to traditional and authentic decorations.
Must-see: Taste the delightful pastries and cakes from the Christmas bakeries and enjoy festive entertainment from pewter pourers, wreath binders and glassblowers as they demonstrate their skills.