News 10 of the best Christmas markets in Europe (and why you should book now)

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10 of the best Christmas markets in Europe (and why you should book now)

You may think it’s too soon after the holiday piña coladas to be thinking about Christmas pudding, but did you know you could save 29% on Christmas travel bookings if you do it 13 weeks in advance? We make that, er now! First trip of the season surely needs to be a getting-in-the-spirit shopping trip. We’ve hopped into the Skyscanner sleigh and travelled to all the best Christmas markets in Europe and found you the ideal places to stay – for location and price – and of course, we can find you cheap flights to each. Christmas has come early 🎄

1. Vienna, Austria

Why settle for one Christmas market when you can have a whole bunch of them? In Vienna more than 20 pop-up festive villages fill the prettiest squares and sit against impressive imperial backdrops, such as the Schönbrunn and Belvedere palaces. Granddaddy of them all is the Vienna Christmas Dream on Rathausplatz, with 150-plus traditional stalls laid out in front of the City Hall. For something a bit different, try Art Advent on Karlsplatz, where the focus is on handmade arts and crafts. The food is all organic, and the theatrical live entertainment might include choreographed pyrotechnics and ethereal stilt walkers.

When

Vienna Christmas Dream: 17 Nov-26 Dec 2018
Art Advent: 23 Nov-23 Dec 2018

Where to stay

Ruby Lissi opened last year in a converted convent close to the river. Rooms are swishly kitted out with high-thread-count bed linens and flat-screen TVs, the breakfast buffet is largely organic, and the bar has free guitars to borrow if you fancy strumming a few festive tunes. Rooms from £78.

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2. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague has fairy tale good looks all year round, but come Christmas the Czech capital adds an extra layer of twinkly fabulousness. At the heart of the action is Old Town Square, where a humungous Christmas tree is draped in lights and there’s a stable with live animals for children to pet. Wander the rows of red-canopied wooden huts, browsing the displays of wooden toys, embroidered lace and traditional Christmas decorations (the Czech glass baubles make a great festive souvenir), and fortify yourself along the way with klobása (barbecued sausages), trdelník (sugar coated dough, roasted over hot coals) and medovina (hot honey wine).

When

1 Dec 2018-6 Jan 2019

Where to stay

If you like staying in the thick of things, the traditionally furnished Hotel Rott will fit the bill. It’s on Malé Náměstí, a pretty little square that’s the shortest of stumbles from Old Town Square – handy if you end up overdoing it on the medovina. Rooms from £71.

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3. Brussels, Belgium

Brussels’ Christmas market is Belgium’s biggest, with more than 200 chalets selling all manner of seasonal souvenirs and serving up no end of foodie treats, from tartiflette and pretzels to oysters and delicious Belgian chocolates. You also get an ice rink, fairground (complete with steampunk carousel and giant Ferris wheel) and a whole constellation of Christmas lights. Check out the glittery makeover of the normally formal-looking Bourse and don’t miss the nightly spectacle in the Grand Place, when the beautiful buildings around the UNESCO World Heritage-listed square form the backdrop for a choreographed display of lights and music.

When

30 Nov 2018-6 Jan 2019

Where to stay

Yadoya, on the northern side of the city centre, opened last spring and takes its design cues from Japan. The bedrooms are elegant little havens of calm, with light wood, clean lines and fabrics in a soothing shade of Japanese tea green. Rooms from £84.

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4. Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Amsterdam may not have a dedicated Christmas market, but that doesn’t stop the city turning the festive dial up to 11. All the regular markets break out the tinsel and stock up on seasonal specialities; the Koninklijk Theater Carré puts on the World Christmas Circus and an outdoor ice rink pops up right in front of the Rijksmuseum. Best of all, the Amsterdam Light Festival rocks into town, filling the streets, canals and parks with a magical selection of illuminated installations. As you wander round them, snack on some oliebollen – the seasonal doughnuts aren’t in the least bit healthy but do, apparently, ward off evil spirits.

When

Amsterdam Light Festival: 29 Nov 2018-20 Jan 2019

Where to stay

As well as being handy for sightseeing (less than 10 minutes’ walk from the Stedelijk, Van Gogh Museum and Vondelpark), Conscious Hotel Museum Square also earns brownie points on the eco front (it’s Green Key Gold certified) and has its own little garden. Rooms from £85.

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5. Nuremberg, Germany

Some Christmas markets are more tat than tasteful – but that’s not an accusation you could level at Nuremberg, the Bavarian town that’s home to one of the oldest and best-loved of German festive markets. Here, there’s a strict ban on modern, mass-produced goods, so the orderly rows of stalls, topped with red-and-white-striped awnings, are filled with traditional goods. Look out for gold foil angels, carved wooden candle stands, Springerle (anise-flavoured moulded biscuits with intricate designs), and the quirky local speciality of Zwetschgenmännle – little figures with prunes for bodies and walnuts for heads.

When

30 Nov-24 Dec 2018

Where to stay

Handy for the market, the family-run Burghotel Nürnberg is hidden away on a side street in the old town and has an unexpected bonus in the form of a swimming pool and sauna. Rooms from £86.

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6. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen may be as cool as capital cities get, but that doesn’t stop it coming over all warm and fuzzy in the run-up to Christmas. In its cobbled streets and squares the air is scented with mulled wine and roasted almonds, the trees are strung with fairy lights and cosy, candlelit bars are filled with people soaking up lashings of hygge over glasses of gløgg (spicy mulled wine). Epicentre of all things twinkly is Tivoli, where little wooden huts sell Christmas crafts and seasonal foods – snack on a portion of æbleskiver (sugar dusted pancake balls) as you browse the stalls for woollen sweaters, marzipan pigs and pretty tea light holders.

When

Tivoli Christmas Market: 17 Nov–31 Dec 2018
Other market dates vary – check visitcopenhagen.com for details.

Where to stay

You can’t get much more at the heart of things than The Square – opposite the Town Hall Square, round the corner from Tivoli and less than 10 minutes’ walk from Central Station. Rooms are smart, service is friendly and you can rent bikes from reception. Rooms from £113.

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7. Manchester, UK

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Last year Manchester Christmas Markets were voted the best in the UK in an online poll and named the most popular in Europe among Instagram users. Not bad going, considering they only launched in 1999 in one city centre site. Now they’ve grown to take in 10 different locations, with 300-odd stalls spread between them, selling a mix of gifts, crafts, food and drink. You could easily walk round them all in one glühwein-fuelled evening but if time is tight, head straight for the main event in Albert Square, where the grand Victorian town hall is adorned with a giant sparkly Santa for the occasion.

When

9 Nov-22 Dec 2018; the Albert Square market is also open on 23 Dec

Where to stay

Midway between Exchange Square and Albert Square, Motel One Manchester-Royal Exchange is brilliantly placed for exploring the Christmas markets. Interiors are bright and funky, with plenty of playful nods to the city’s industrial heyday. Rooms from £69.

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8. Gothenburg, Sweden

Daylight may be in short supply during Swedish winter, but there’s nothing gloomy about a pre-Christmas trip to Gothenburg. There are festive markets dotted around the city centre, singing choirs on Kungsportsplatsen, and no shortage of places to refuel with smoked sausage, roasted reindeer and glasses of glögg. Outshining all other attractions, though, is Liseberg amusement park, where they really push the festive boat out, bringing in artificial snow and Christmas trees by the lorryload, laying on fire pits, winter carousels and an ice ballet, and illuminating the whole magical scene with more than five million fairy lights.

When

Christmas at Liseberg: 16 Nov-30 Dec 2018 (closed some weekdays; see liseberg.com/christmas-at-liseberg for details)

Where to stay

A late 19th-century palace in the city centre is now home to the Elite Plaza Hotel, where they’ve retained many of the original features and paired them with contemporary art and design. Rooms from £95.

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9. Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg’s been hosting its Christkindelsmärik (Christmas market) since 1570, so it’s no wonder the self-proclaimed ‘Capitale de Noël’ puts on a fine show. The pretty half-timbered houses of the historic centre are festooned with lavish decorations, there are elaborate illuminations strung across the cobbled streets and in Place Kléber a gigantic fir tree, adorned with 7 kilometres of fairy lights and hundreds of giant baubles, towers over the market stalls below. Expect plenty of tradition in everything from the gifts to the food, which includes bredele, scented festive biscuits that you can take back to decorate the tree at home.

When

23 Nov-24 Dec 2018 (with some markets staying open until 30 Dec)

Where to stay

At the Mercure Strasbourg Centre Petite France (10 minutes’ walk from Place Kléber) the bedrooms come complete with air con and soundproofing and the look is largely monochrome and uncluttered, with occasional pops of colour. Rooms from £123.

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10. Tallinn, Estonia

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Small but perfectly formed, Tallinn’s Christmas market looks like a scene from a Victorian Christmas card. Tiny huts covered in fairy lights fan out from a huge Christmas tree in the centre of the handsome Town Hall Square, and there’s every chance of snow falling to add to the picture-book effect. You’ll find plenty of mulled wine and gingerbread on offer as you browse the stalls, which mostly sell local handicrafts and traditional Christmas dishes, such as sauerkraut and black pudding. There’s a merry-go-round for the kids and a stage that plays host to folk dancing and choir singing at weekends.

When

24 Nov 2018-6 Jan 2019

Where to stay

The four-star Hotel Imperial has a good location on the edge of the old town, right by the city walls. Décor is quaintly old school in style and there’s a basement sauna to warm you up after a day at the market. Rooms from £63.

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All prices are as of date of publication on 11 September 2018 and are subject to change and availability.

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