It’s time to get festive at Europe’s stunning Christmas markets. Swap grey high streets for bustling squares and do your Christmas shopping in some of Europe’s most magical capital cities.
What’s more, if you avoid the school holidays, you’ll save money on flights (leaving more to spend on gifts)
Find your two-night Christmas break, including flights, from £79
Budapest: Vörösmarty Square. 13 November to 6 January
Hungary’s capital is either “the second best city in the world” or “Europe’s seventh most idyllic place to live” – depending on whether you read Condé Nast Traveller or Forbes – but there are few arguments over its festive charm.
Throughout November and December, the central Vörösmarty Square is a folksy delight, packed with wooden stalls, handmade gifts, singing choirs and a pleasing cinnamon aroma from the abundance of local ‘chimney cakes’ on offer.
One of the newest Christmas markets in Budapest is the Advent Feast at the Basilica, right in front of St.Stephen’s Basilica. Its downtown location, the ice-rink at its heart and the great view of the Basilica illuminated with 3D projection mapping have made it a firm favourite.
There is a focus on gastronomy with stalls selling grilled sausages, goulash and reams of traditional warming dishes.
Two nights in Budapest, including flights, from £79. Based on two sharing. Book by 15 December.
Munich Christmas market. 27 November to 24 December
Expect an eclectic mix of seasonal cheer, whether that’s in the captivating Christkindlmarkt or the Tollwood Christmas market, and enjoy festive treats and handmade gifts. The main market is held on century Marienplatz Square, where you can pick up German gingerbread and traditional craft figures.
Book your winter break with High50 Travel on 020 3384 8496
Nearby Neuhauser Strasse is famous for its nativity figurines, and the Tollwood market calls itself the ‘cultural festival in Munich’. Expect installations, dance and other performances with an international feel.
Two nights in Munich, including flights, from £129. Based on two sharing. Book by 15 December.
Cologne Christmas market. 23 November to 23 December
Visited by over two million people each year and recognised as one of the finest of all Germany’s Christmas markets, the Cologne Christmas market is a magical site to visit.
There are seven different sites that comprise the city’s Christmassy complex. The primary locations can be found at the city’s cathedral, Alter Markt, Neumarkt and Rudolfplatz.
While all sites will encompass the romance and excitement of Christmas holidays, it is the market that thrives in the shadow of the cathedral that is most picturesque, home to the biggest Christmas tree in the Rhineland and over 160 festive huts for you to meander round.
Two nights in Cologne plus flights from £85 per person. Based on two sharing. Book by 15 December.
Frankfurt Christmas market. 25 November to 22 December
Frankfurt’s Christmas market focuses on Romerberg old town, overlooked by pretty timber-framed buildings and Germany’s tallest Christmas tree.
Pick up delicious Bethmännchen marzipan and almond biscuits, enjoy a hot apple wine, and browse the traditional crafts for sale such as beeswax candles at the Honey House and local art at the Romerhallen.
If you visit the Christmas market at the weekend, you’ll hear choirs perform carols on the stage by the tree, where there’s also a life-size nativity scene.
Two nights in Frankfurt, including flights, from £79. Based on two sharing. Book by 15 December.
Düsseldorf Christmas market. 19 November to 23 December
Düsseldorf’s market is held in seven different places, so there is plenty to see and do. You’ll find an ice rink on Jan-Wellem-Platz, and you can enjoy a mulled wine or hot chocolate at Marktplatz, watching glass blowers and wood turners create their wares. For a more modern feeling, head to Schadowplatz, with its winter village, all set around the Scandi-style Kö-Bogen buildings.
The Sterchenmarkt, or ‘Star Market’, at Stadtbrückchen is magical, lined with stars, snow-covered huts and crystals. As well ad foodie treats, you’ll find jewellery and home furnishings.
Two nights in Dusseldorf, including flights, from £105. Based on two sharing. Book by 15 December.
Barcelona: Fira de Santa Llúcia. 28 November to 23 December
If there’s only so much glühwein you can take, then head for the heart of Catalonia. Christmas in Barcelona is milder than its European neighbours and in the Artesania section of Fira de Santa Llúcia, there is a market that’s still rich in Catalan heritage.
Stalls are nestled at the foot of Barcelona Cathedral (a sight more impressive than its notorious cousin, the Sagrada Familia), which lends some suitably gothic charm to proceedings. Shop for crafts, candies, decorations and presents.
The Fountains of Montjuic have a new schedule that runs until 30 March as well. You can see Barcelona’s most magical display of light, water and colours every Friday and Saturday evening. Don’t miss it!
Two nights in Barcelona including flights from £89. Based on two sharing. Book by 15 December.
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