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Head to one of these markets in the run-up to Christmas and experience all the delights the season has to offer
A good Christmas market should have an atmosphere that gets you into the Christmas spirit right away, and these are our recommendations for 2022.
1. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
We choose the lesser-known Rothenburg ob der Tauber over the popular markets in Cologne or Dresden because Rothenburg’s medieval architecture and cobblestone lanes, lit by vintage street lamps and shimmering fairy lights, are the epitome of festive magic. And it fits with our preference to keep things nice and cosy on this adventure.
Spend a morning at the German National Christmas Museum, which charts the history and variety of rare Christmas decorations. Then pop next door to Käthe Wohlfahrt, the “mother of all Christmas stores”. In the evening, visit the cute stalls on the main square and try crispy fried Bratwürste, savoury Flammkuchen (German pizza) and well-seasoned gingerbread Lebkuchen, all washed down by warm mulled Glühwein.
From 25 November to 23 December 2022
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
If your Christmas market fantasies must include light projections swaying to the soundtrack of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, head to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen to experience that perfect Nordic Christmas atmosphere.
Apart from lovely Christmas stalls selling a great number of items, there is also Santa and his reindeer, along with illuminations and fireworks to keep everyone in your family occupied.
From 19 November to 31 December 2022
3. Vienna, Austria
Austrians can trace the history of their Christmas markets back to 1298 when King Albert I of Germany permitted the people of Vienna to hold a Krippenmarkt (December market). The event progressed over time and Vienna now has around 20 Christmas markets.
While you could try visiting them all, you definitely cannot miss the centrepiece – the Viennese Dream Christmas Market on Rathausplatz, set against the magnificent backdrop of the City Hall. With an emphasis on sustainability, you won’t find many stalls selling cheap plastic toys. Instead, you can expect about 100 booths offering high-quality handicrafts and culinary treats.
From 19 November to 26 December 2022
4. Helsinki, Finland
As you might expect, Father Christmas’ home country celebrates the season with great enthusiasm, and there is a very high chance it will be done under a layer of snow. Over 100 wooden huts on Senate Square, in the city centre, sell handcrafted goods at surprisingly reasonable prices. Fortify yourself with the Finnish version of mulled wine, Glögi, which often comes with a sprinkle of almonds and raisins, plus a dash of vodka. Apart from the Christmas market, the Christmas illuminations along Aleksanterinkatu – the official Christmas street – are so Instagram-worthy that your pictures may rank up many likes.
From 1 December to 22 December 2022
5. Valkenburg, Netherlands
This is our favourite off-beat choice.
Valkenburg, a small town in southern Netherlands, has two Christmas caves where visitors can wander below the surface and check out beautifully-decorated stalls, safely sheltered from the elements. The first cave is Fluweelengrot (the velvet cave); it’s underneath the ruined castle of Valkenburg and has about 50 stands. The second one is Gemeentegrot (the municipal cave), where its seemingly endless maze is lined with Christmas stalls and decorations.
From 18 November to 30 December 2022 (but closed on Christmas Day)
6. Tallinn, Estonia
Estonians would gladly tell visitors that they erected the first public Christmas tree on Tallinn’s Town Hall Square in 1441. We don’t know if the story is true, but we do know that the people of Tallinn now put up a magnificent Christmas tree in the middle of the square every year, and surrounding the tree are many huts selling festive goods. For adventurous foodies, seize the chance to try verivorst (blood sausage), sült (savoury jelly), and hapukapsas (sauerkraut).
Before you go, check out our Tallinn travel guide.
From 25 November 2022 to 8 January 2023
7. Bolzano, Italy
From 1813 to 1918, Bolzano, a small city in the South Tyrol province of north Italy, belonged to the Austrian Empire. After being acquired by Italy, the size of its German-speaking community has shrunk but their love for Christmas remains so strong that Bolzano is now home to one of the largest Christmas markets in Italy.
The setting is magical. In the weeks leading to Christmas, the picturesque Piazza Walther and its surrounding areas are transformed into a winter wonderland complete with cute illuminated wooden huts selling the best of South Tyrolean handicrafts and fantastic local wines. Yes, if you’re into wine, don’t leave Bolzano without trying its Lagrein and St Magdalener wines.
From 24 November 2022 to 5 January 2023
8. Bath, England
Join an impressive throng of visitors on pretty Georgian streets surrounding Bath Abbey in Bath’s city centre this festive season. The Bath Christmas Market champions traditional British products, including handblown baubles, local gins, and organic cheeses.
After an evening of great food and drink, continue the festive fun at Bath on Ice, an ice skating rink, and Glow Golf, a miniature golf course decorated with fairy lights.
From 24 November to 11 December 2022
9. Bratislava, Slovakia
Immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit in Bratislava, the lively capital of Slovakia. The city’s Main Square is the epicentre of pre-Christmas celebrations, with hundreds of stalls selling beautifully-crafted Slovak gifts and ornaments, as well as local delicacies.
In addition, you will also find Christmas-themed programs at Franciscan Square, Primate’s Square, and Klarisky Concert Hall; all are within walking distance from the Main Square.
From 24 November to 22 December 2022
10. Seville, Spain
If you like to do your Christmas shopping in what many Europeans would call warm and pleasant weather, then Saville, with an average daytime high of 17°C (63°F) in December, should be at the top of your list.
Like many European cities, Seville has a few Christmas markets for you to shop around. Mercado Navideño de Artesanía de Sevilla (Seville Christmas Craft Fair), on Plaza Nueva, is arguably the best market for handcrafted goods, while Feria del Belén (Nativity Scene Fair), on La Avenida de la Constitución, is the place to buy figurines and background materials for nativity scenes.
Navideño de Artesanía is from 15 December 2022 to 5 January 2023
Feria del Belén is from 5 November to 23 December 2022
This post was updated on 18 November 2022
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