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Christmas markets in Europe

By TheStudentGuide
Christmas markets in Europe

Feeling festive yet? You will be soon — we take a look at the best Christmas markets in Europe.

Christmas draws ever-closer and one of our favourite things to do over here at thestudentguide.com is to get festively merry at one of the UK’s many Christmas markets. Originating from Germany, these markets have provided friendly links between towns and cities as well as creating some really lovely places to spend your time in the winter months. So, whether you want to make a long weekend or a full holiday out of it, we take a look at the best Christmas markets throughout Europe. Ho Ho Ho.

Frankfurt, Germany

Where else to begin than the Frankfurt Christmas market which is one of the most important markets in Europe. Its elaborate and creative stand decorations, beautiful backdrop of the Römerberg and Paulsplatz and the huge Christmas tree also make it one of its most beautiful. The Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Leeds Christmas markets are all based upon this original and it’s not difficult to see why. You can buy traditional German gifts, drink and eat the traditional German Christmas delicacies and even take a tour of the market. Plus, this year, the Christmas tree (stemming from Inzell near the Austrian border and standing at 28 metres tall, weighing eight tonnes), is decorated with more than 5,000 fairy lights and close to 400 ribbons.

Check out the Frankfurt Christmas market website for more information.

Lincoln, UK

City of Lincoln Council

The Lincoln Christmas market was the first to open in the UK, set up through the city’s friendship and twinning with the town of Neustadt in Germany. Dating back to 1982 when it comprised of just 11 stalls, it has greatly expanded and is now one of the largest in Europe both in terms of area and of the 300 stalls which make it up. Unlike others across the UK which are often in operation for over a month, the Lincoln Christmas market is just four days long at the beginning of December. Set against the backdrop of the city’s Gothic Cathedral, it takes over most of the cultural quarter of the city and attracts over 150,000 visitors each year. So just make sure, if you are going to head over, prepare for a bit of a crowd.

The Lincoln Christmas market takes place December 6 — 9. Visit the website for more information.

Dresden, Germany

The Dresden Christmas market is one of the oldest around, beginning in 1434. Attracting between 1.5 and 2 million visitors a year, it now has over 250 stalls and is a popular tourist destination in East Germany. It also runs very close to Christmas, taking place right up to Christmas Eve, differing from the British markets which tend to close the week before giving all of their stallholders time to get back home for the big day. Expect to find hand-blown glass and hand-made candles as well as traditional Erzgebirgischer folk art, Freiberger tin and pottery, wooden toys and hand puppets. You can also try crepes and hot waffles, sugar roasted almonds, Marzipan, nougat and baked apples which really give the market its Christmassy fragrance. Plus, the Dresden Christstollen is a particular delicacy so make sure to try some if you can!

Visit the website for opening times and further information.

Strasbourg, France

Since 1570, Strasbourg has held its Christmas market around its prestigious Cathedral. Its humanist spirit has helped it to continually expand and it now stands as 12 Christmas markets throughout the city. Strasbourg’s advertising campaign declares it as the ‘Capitale de Noel’ and whilst this may not be an official title, you can definitely see where they’re coming from. With stall after stall and delicacy after delicacy to try, the only real way you can imagine this spectre is to see it.

Visit the website for programming, times and maps.

Sibiu, Romania

Starting at the end of November and lasting until Christmas Day, the city of Sibiu in Transylvania becomes the home of Romania’s most authentic Christmas Market. The century-old beautiful architecture which surrounds Sibiu's Great Square acts as a backdrop to the huge Christmas tree and life size Nativity Scene carved in lime wood and the town becomes an idyllic Christmas village full of the scent of fir trees, roasted chestnuts and ginger bread. The stalls stock both traditional and original handicrafts offered for sale by artisans from all areas of Romania. 

For more information, visit the website.

Manchester, UK

The Manchester Christmas market is actually eight Christmas markets across the city. The Albert Square Christmas market is the biggest; set against the Town Hall (atop which a giant Santa perches), its centrepiece is a giant revolving nativity. There are also beer halls, Gluhwein houses and coffee stalls nestled between hoards of gift stalls, home-grown products and seasonal flowers and plants. Other markets are located on King Street, Brazennose Street, New Cathedral Street and in the St Anne and Exchange Squares amongst others. Enjoy them all one at a time or follow the Christmas Market trail!

Visit the website for up to date information, times and maps.

Basel, Switzerland

Photograph: Johann Wanner

Nestled amongst the vibrant Christmas decorations adorning the historical Old Town district is Basel’s Christmas market. Open daily from 11am until 8pm, there are lots of local traders and artisans offering you their Christmas-related goods. There are also plenty of Christmas treats to delight the palate, from aromatically spiced mulled wine to tasty waffles, the famous Basler Läckerlispiced biscuits or delicious grilled sausages.

Check out the website for more information.

Berlin, Germany

With over 60 Christmas markets (some of which are open on Christmas and Boxing Day), Berlin has more on offer than anywhere else on the list. For 35 days, Charlottenburg Castle and its park play host to one of the most famous Christmas Markets in the German capital with a fantastic mix of traditional German goods, and Gendarmenmarkt is also a good choice taking place in a picture perfect square and offering performances from jugglers, acrobats, fire artists, dance groups, choirs, Berlin classical, jazz and Gospel ensembles, as well as internationally famous artists. Berlin’s largest Christmas market though takes place in the Spandau Old Town, casting a spell on the historic backdrop with pre-Christmas lustre. At the Spandau market, 250 stands during the week and 400 at weekends take to the streets and the stage programme (including a Christmas rock concert on Fridays from 6 pm) ensures multi-facetted entertainment — it even has a crib with living animals!

For the full list of Christmas markets in Berlin, check out the website.

Vienna, Austria

The Vienna ‘December market’ was a sort of forerunner to the Christmas market and dates back to 1294. Now, the myriad of Christmas markets line streets and squares and it can often be hard to tell where one finishes and another begins! Indulge yourself in Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Gebrannte Mandeln (toasted almonds), Waffeln (waffles), Maroni (sweet chestnuts), Bratkartoffel (baked potatoes), Bratwurst (fried sausages) and hot Glühwein and Punsch(glogg) of various kinds, and take in the beautiful surround of the sity while you’re at it.

For comprehensive listings of the Christmas markets in Vienna, visit their website.

Bautzen, Germany

The Bautzen Christmas market was first mentioned in the records in 1384 and the story goes that from Michael mass until Christmas every year, King Wenceslas would order the holding of a free meat market where every butcher could sell his produce. Over the centuries this has evolved and expanded until today’s Christmas market which features food and drink as well as gifts and crafts.

Visit the website for information.

Tagged: winter, travel, tips, christmas

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