There’s nothing like a visit to a Christmas market to get you in the festive mood – and help you find that perfect gift
Enjoy a hot chocolate or a glass of gluhwein and listen to festive music as you browse the stalls, skate around the ice-rink and stroll through the cobbled streets of this enchanting port city. As you shop, admire the city’s historic buildings lit by the festive lights that run all the way from the central station to the docks of the river Schelde.
Stretching from Groenplaats to the handsome central square, Antwerp’s Christmas market has around 100 stalls selling handcrafted decorations and gifts, local delicacies and clothes and accessories by local designers from its vibrant fashion scene.
From the end of November, Berlin is transformed into one big festive celebration, with not just one Christmas market but dozens of them. Not to be missed is the Winter Wonderland in Potsdamer Platz, where you can browse the colourful market stalls, circle the ice-rink, speed down Europe’s largest toboggan run and dance the night away to live DJs at the ‘après ski’ parties.
Meanwhile, Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus is a charming market with an ice-rink and a ferris wheel with fabulous views of the magically lit city. The largest market is in the Spandau Old Town, where at weekends you can finish off your day’s shopping with a rock ’n’ roll concert or karaoke session.
Tuck into mince pies and warm yourself with a glass of mulled wine as the streets of this historic city come alive with the sound of Christmas carols. Priding itself on being distinctively British, what makes Bath Christmas market particularly special is that more than 80 per cent of the 200 chalet-style stalls are run by local businesses.
There are 60 newcomers this year and the hugely popular market has been extended into SouthGate Street, Union Street and Hot Bath Street. You can sample cheese from the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, Rubis Chocolate Wine, Thunder Toffee Vodka and lots more. Gluten free? There’s a stall selling gluten-free Christmas puddings.
Take in the smell of warm, fresh waffles as you wind your way around the rows of little wooden chalets at the Bruges Christmas market. With twinkling fairy lights reflected in the canals, Christmas trees and street performers providing family entertainment, it’s the time of year when the city is at its most magical.
Treat your loved ones to some of the beautifully packaged Belgian chocolates, brightly coloured sweets, and homemade gifts, twirl around on the ice-rink, and then hop on to a horse-drawn carriage for the ultimate festive experience.
Take the family to Copenhagen’s Christmas market in Tivoli Gardens, which runs from 19 November until the end of December. Little ones and grown-ups will enjoy the thrills of 27 fun rides, illuminations on the lake, a Santa’s grotto complete with reindeer, and dozens of stalls selling locally made decorations, gifts and jewellery.
In true Nordic style, the city is transformed into a fairy-tale Christmas celebration, with decorated wooden houses, snow-covered trees and Christmas lights. Another of the city’s markets, on Axeltorv, is devoted to the works of Denmark’s famous storyteller Hans Christian Andersen – each stall is named after one of his fairy tales.
Admire the giant Christmas tree which dominates the Old Town Square, surrounded by the brightly-decorated wooden huts selling traditional handicrafts, glassware, jewellery, embroidered lace, wooden toys, ceramics, scented candles, hats, gloves, scarves, and puppets and dolls in traditional costume. There’s also a stable, where children can pet sheep, goats and a donkey and see Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the Three Kings.
Five minutes’ walk away is another magical market at Wenceslas Square, complete with choirs singing carols, hearty food – roasted hams, barbecued sausages and local cakes and hot pastries – and, of course, famous Czech beers. The markets start on 2 December and run until 6 January.
Take in the delights of magical Maastricht, when this city in the Netherlands is lit up from its historic centre and across the river. Don’t miss the light animation of the 200 mistletoes in the trees on Onze Lieve Vrouweplein square, the chandeliers at Plein 1992 and Markt Square and the special light path across the river Meuse via Sint Servaasbrug bridge and the Hoge Brug.
Or, get a bird’s-eye view of the lights and the ice rink from the ferris wheel in Vrijthof Square. There’s a full entertainment programme, too, with 90 different performances of theatre, dance and music at various cultural hotspots across the city.