Celebrate the magic of the festive season with a trip to a Christmas market, at home or on a short break abroad
Take the chance to browse market stalls for handmade and unique presents, warm up with traditional food and drink and explore a new city.
It’s the perfect time to wander round the prettily lit and scented markets in the UK or further afield. Browsing for handmade Christmas presents, drinking mulled wine and eating festive food – what could be better?
22 November – 9 December
Each year Bath Christmas Market transforms the city into a shopper’s paradise, as over 180 chalets – packed with Christmas goodies and predominantly run by local businesses – line the picturesque streets surrounding the Roman baths and Bath Abbey.
The market exudes a more romantic atmosphere than some, and attracts thousands of visitors from across the UK. Take a break from shopping to enjoy a hot chocolate in the snug pop-up Après Ski Bar, or visit the Abbey for a Christmas carol service. And, with an ice rink nearby, there’s plenty to keep little ones happy too.
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The Leeds Christkindelmarkt
9 November – 22 December
Millennium Square in Leeds is transformed into a scenic festive village for the Leeds Christkindelmarkt with more than 40 traditionally decorated wooden chalet stalls selling traditional German delicacies. Expect glühwein, bratwurst sausages, schnitzels, goulash, stollen, gingerbread, roasted nuts and candied fruits, as well as traditional and home-made Christmas gifts. An open-air stage hosts a daily programme of music and children’s shows.
You can also enjoy Santa’s Breakfast in the Alp Chalet on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and there's a Ski Hutte bar for some après-ski ambience. The Alp Chalet – a Bavarian style restaurant – also returns as does the popular ‘Kuh Stall’, complete with its real log fire.
London's Winter Wonderland
22 November – 6 January
Family favourite Winter Wonderland returns to London's Hyde Park with a host of Christmas-themed fun and activities, including big-top shows, an observation wheel and huge Christmas market.
The market is full of arts and crafts, jewellery and trinkets, and the Angels and Yuletide section, with wooden chalets overflowing with festive goods, is particularly charming.
Or have a go on the UK’s largest open-air ice rink. The market is free to enter so you can walk around at your leisure and soak up the atmosphere. New attractions for 2018 include ice-sculpting workshops and a comedy club.
9 November – 22 December
No Mancunian winter is complete without a wander through the chalet-lined streets of Manchester's 10 distinct Christmas markets, all within roughly a quarter of a mile of each other and easily accessible.
European and local producers offer everything from fine jewellery, handcrafted leather bags and bonsai trees to Dutch cheeses, French breads and Spanish chorizo.
Each market has its own distinct character and atmosphere, with nearly 350 stalls in total.
Bars are open until 9pm on all sites so you can soak up the atmosphere of a international event with a uniquely Mancunian flavour.
Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market
15 November – 23 December
Birmingham hosts the largest German market outside Germany and Austria and the highlight of the city's festive event calendar returns to Birmingham's Christmas Market each year in November. Explore stalls selling gifts, jewellery, decorations, handmade toys, delicious German fare and the ever-popular Glühwein.
It's run for over 15 years, and features live music alongside the market stalls.
28 November – 23 December
Dating back to 1692, the Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt is one of Germany’s best-known Christmas markets.
More than 3.5 million visitors come here every year to get into the Christmas spirit. The 300 or so stalls boast a diverse range of goods – including arts and crafts and culinary delicacies from all over the world.
Daily live concerts, a children’s fairy tale land with nostalgic carousels, a real mini steam engine and a children’s bakery and candle workshop as well as the antique market on Karlsplatz square make this market something special.
Prague’s classic Christmas
1 December – 6 January
Christmas markets are a key ingredient of the festive magic in the Czech Republic, and the Prague Christmas markets (pragueexperience.com/events) are the most impressive. Admire the giant Christmas tree that 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, plus daily performances by folk bands and choirs.
Eat klobasa (Polish sausage) or trdelnik, a hot, sugar-coated pastry as you comb the stalls for carved wooden trinkets, crystal and traditional decorations.
If you can, enter one of the city’s many churches for an evening classical concert.
9 November – 1 January
Visitors to Budapest will find fairy lights on every tree and lamp post, and 100 cottage-style wooden stalls in the main Budapest Christmas market in Vorosmarty Square.
It’s a charming plaza in the heart of the city at the end of Váci Utca, in front of the prestigious Gerbeaud Coffee House with a laser show projection, and two outdoor stages with free concerts ensure the ambience is buzzing. Sweet Hungarian pastries, fur hats and gloves, traditional gifts and handmade chocolates and honey cakes rub shoulders with ironwork and jewellery items.
Eat cinnamon-pastry chimney cakes (kürtőskalács) and töki pompos, a Hungarian-style pizza topped with bacon, onion and cream.
And make sure you have a glass of Hungarian sparkling wine in Varosliget Café, which overlooks the ice rink.
23 November – 30 December
In Strasbourg in 1570 the very first Christmas market in Europe took place, called the ‘Christkindelsmärik’ (market of the infant Jesus).
Ever since, Strasbourg has continued the tradition, and is considered by many to be the best Christmas Market in Europe. During advent, the capital of Alsace is even more magical.
Half-timbered houses are garlanded with giant red-and-white hearts, stars, angels and snowflakes; and the cobbled streets and towering fir tree on the Place Kléber means it gets top marks for olde-worlde charm.
Innsbruck's romantic markets
15 November – 5 January
Imagine the lights of a Christmas tree shining on the glistening tiles of the Golden Roof, the smell of freshly made Kiachln (piping hot doughnuts laced with Sauerkaut), and the sound of traditional Christmas carols.
This is Christmas time at Innsbruck’s Christmas markets. Of the half-a-dozen markets, the most romantic is in the Altstadt (old town), lined with medieval houses, where stalls are piled high with wooden toys, gingerbread and handblown glass.
Strolling through the market you’ll find Christmas ornaments, handicrafts and other winter treats, and a mug of Glühwein will keep you warm as you listen to trumpeters play carols on the 500-year-old Golden Roof.
Ride the funicular up Nordkette mountain to Hungerburg Market and for views of the twinkling city lights and snow-tipped peaks.
Antwerp's magical markets
8 December – 6 January
Enjoy a hot chocolate or a glass of glühwein and listen to festive music as you browse the stalls, try your luck on 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 Scheldt.
Stretching from Groenplaats to the handsome central square, Antwerp’s Christmas market has nearly 100 stalls selling handcrafted decorations and gifts, local delicacies and clothes and accessories by local designers from its vibrant fashion scene.
Berlin's festive celebrations
26 November – 6 January
From the end of November the city is transformed into one big festive celebration, with not just one Berlin 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 am 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.
Bruges’ traditional market
11 November – 1 January
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 beautifully packaged Belgian chocolates, brightly coloured sweets and homemade gifts, take a twirl on the ice-rink, and then hop on to a horse-drawn carriage for the ultimate festive experience.
Copenhagen’s fairy-tale Christmas
17 November – 31 December
Take the family to Copenhagen’s Christmas market in Tivoli Gardens. Little ones and grown-ups will enjoy the thrills of 27 fun rides, illuminations on the lake, 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, in Nytorv Square from 16 November – 21 December, is devoted to the works of Denmark's famous storyteller Hans Christian Andersen – each stall is named after one of his fairy tales.
Maastricht’s mistletoe and music
1 – 31 December
Take in the delights of magical Maastricht’s Christmas markets, 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, for a bird's-eye view of the lights and the ice rink, hop aboard the Ferris wheel in Vrijthof Square. There's a full entertainment programme, too, with 90 different theatre, dance and music performances at various cultural hotspots across the city.