It’s the most wonderful time of the year… to pack your bags, wrap up warm, and jet off to a beautiful European Christmas market.
More than 1.7m passengers are expected to fly from Manchester Airport to continental Europe in November and December, and many of these will be indulging in the delights of aromatic mulled wine, spiced hot chocolate, bratwurst and roast chestnuts, in one of the continent’s enchanting winter market destinations.
Each nation, and indeed each city, has its own unique way of marking the festive season, and an eclectic mix of Christmas markets can be reached on a direct flight from Manchester. Here we run through a dozen of the best to get you in the festive mood – and explain how you can get there.
Prague is at its most charming in winter. Weave through its picturesque lanes, find a warm refuge in one of its welcoming bars and if you’re lucky you may even see snow sparkling on the Old Town Square. The most enticing market stalls can be found filling the squares of Wenceslas and the Old Town.
Copenhagen’s city centre theme park, Tivoli, holds its own Christmas market. Shop for traditional gifts and decorations, take a ride on one of the park’s rollercoasters and enjoy hearty Danish cuisine while taking in the festive atmosphere.
Elsewhere in the city there are several other Christmas markets, while the Swedish city of Malmö is just a short bus or train ride away, meaning you can experience two Christmas traditions in one trip.
Wrap up warm and head for Vienna if you love exceptional coffee, Christmas carols in concert and, of course, amazing winter markets. The largest market is near the Rathaus where, amid the aroma of roasting chestnuts, stalls sell gifts, choirs sing, and families ice skate together.
With its castle providing a backdrop and its picturesque cobbled streets, Krakow’s Old Town becomes a living Christmas card over the festive season – especially when it starts to snow. The Christmas market is in Rynek Glowny, the city’s main market square – lined with timber huts and illuminated with fairy lights, with an enormous Christmas tree in the centre, it looks especially magical at night.
The market sells all sorts of Christmas gifts, such as handmade decorations and beautiful carved wooden toys, and there’s a big focus on food so you can tuck into lots of traditional Polish delicacies, like pierogi, gingerbread biscuits and mulled wine. You can even travel back in time with a coach-and-horse ride around the old square.
Berlin ticks every box for a great Christmas getaway. Domäne Dahlem’s rural Advent Market hosts handmade nougat, gourmet cheeses, and warm spiced punch.
Turn back the clock and take a trip to Berliner Weihnachtszei’s nostalgic Christmas market. It has an ice rink and a Christmas Carnival, as well as a medieval market selling old-fashioned baked goods and hot mead served in clay jugs.
Beautiful Budapest shines at any time of the year, but it really comes into its own at Christmas when two Christmas markets set up and it is festooned with fairy lights.
Budapest takes pride in the quality of the crafts, food and drink available at its Christmas markets. Wander through the stalls, nibbling on traditional Hungarian chimney cakes as you pick out the perfect gift, then afterwards warm up in one of Budapest’s thermal baths.
Be captivated by the charm of Basel Christmas Market. This city on the Rhine is regarded as one of the prettiest in Switzerland.
The main market is in Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, right in the heart of the historic Old Town, where the magnificent Christmas tree takes centre stage. It’s the perfect place to buy your Christmas gifts, or tuck into waffles, mulled wine, Basel Läckerli (gingerbread), and delicious Swiss raclette.
While Christmas markets might be more associated with southern Germany, the North Sea city of Hamburg has thoroughly embraced the tradition. You’ll find Christmas markets all over the city, each with a different theme. The main Christmas market at the City Hall takes place under a huge Christmas tree, and has a distinctly traditional feel, while the Winterwald market in the shopping district is themed as a magical festive forest.
With tens of thousands of lights decorating the city’s pretty squares, streets and avenues, there are many magical Christmas markets to enjoy in Seville, but the main one is held at Plaza Nueva, with over 60 Christmas stalls selling traditional Spanish festive food, drink and gifts. The Feria de la Artesanía Creativa (Creative Crafts Fair) is known for its beautifully decorated square, where you can buy everything from intricate ceramics to handwoven Andalusian textiles. Alternatively, head to La Feria del Belén (Bethlehem Christmas Fair), set by the cathedral, which is famous for its nativity scenes.
Come the festive season, the wooden chalets of Brussels’ markets start selling handcrafted gifts and serving delectable food.
Winter Wonders takes place throughout December and puts on a twinkling array of festive fun: enjoy circus acts, an ice rink, illuminated art installations, choirs, and amusement rides.
Salzburg Christmas markets are overflowing with traditional charm and spirit. In the city centre you’ll find the main Christmas market around the cathedral, with stalls selling warm punch, toasted almonds, hot roasted chestnuts, beautiful Christmas tree ornaments, and lots of cosy knitwear. Watch the choir sing carols in front of the cathedral, or visit the nativity scene in the Residenz courtyard.
The Advent Market sees Salzburg Palace transform into an oversized advent calendar with a different scene in 24 windows, creating a Christmas experience for the whole family.
Gothenburg hosts many cosy seasonal fairs, including Sweden’s largest Christmas market, which is held at the Liseberg Amusement Park. Whether you’re looking for the sights, sounds and smells of a traditional Swedish Christmas, or the best of contemporary Nordic art and design, you’ll find a Christmas market for you in Gothenburg.
While you’re there, don’t miss a traditional Christmas concert. Enjoy the Swedish custom of a Lucia costume, where a choir dressed in white gowns performs by candlelight. Alternatively, experience the Gothenburg “singing Christmas tree” – a fun series of concerts by some of Gothenburg’s best choirs, where the singers dress up as Christmas trees.