There's nothing like a Christmas market to nurture that festive feeling. And the following cities aren't just famous for their fantastic festive-themed extravaganzas; travel to any one of these gems and you'll have plenty of Christmas cash left over, because it's possible to get to every single one for under £80*.
The best Christmas market: The Winter Market on Potsdamer Platz
Berlin has over 50 Christmas markets. WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt is the best option for some tasty Noël nosh, from smoked salmon to apple strudel. The Winter Market on Potsdamer Platz is great for kids – there’s a toboggan run and an ice rink where you’ll be able to sign up for free ice skating lessons. In Pankow district you’ll find Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt, a romantic Nordic-Scandinavian style market set in the courtyards of a nineteenth century brewery. You’ll be able to browse more than 60 stalls selling a wide range of gifts.
2. Düsseldorf, Germany from £40 with Ryanair
The best Christmas market: The Marktplatz Christmas market
With eight different Christmas markets to visit in Düsseldorf, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to buying your seasonal stocking fillers. The biggest event is held on Marktplatz and runs from 17th November to 23rd December – the biggest draw here is the lovingly restored, 100 year old carousel. After a few spins, take a stroll along the Koenigsallee, a riverside boulevard lined with chestnut trees lit up with twinkling fairy lights. Flinger Strasse’s gluhwein windmill, complete with nativity scene, is the place to sample some of Germany’s best mulled wine.
The best Christmas market: Schlachte Christmas Market
Hear the sleigh bells ringing in the spiritual home of the Christmas market, Bremen, with flights to this picturesque city starting at just £40. Situated in northern Germany, Bremen is the ideal weekend getaway for anyone looking for Yuletide fun on a budget. Browse for bargains among the 170 stalls, or step through the doors of the life-size Advent calendar at Schlachte Magic Christmas Market, on the banks of the Weser River.
The best Christmas market: Markt der Engel (Angel Market)
Join the Christmas crowds at one of Cologne’s many Christmas markets, the largest of which can be found in the shadow of the city’s cathedral. This is also where you’ll bump into Cologne’s largest Christmas tree, surrounded by more than 160 gingerbread house-style stalls. For something more intimate, try the Alter Markt, on Neumarkt and Rudolfplatz. This is the city’s oldest and it’s guaranteed to get you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Markt der Engel (Angel Market), which kicks of the 21st November, is the prettiest event, with illumination provided by a sea of tiny, shining stars.
5. Salzburg, Austria from £76 with British Airways
The best Christmas market: Salzburg Christmas Market, Hofhaymer Allee 42
With its soundtrack of Christmas carols and clusters of traditional markets, Sazlburg is the perfect city for a festive weekend break – after all, it was here that Silent Night was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818. The city’s main market surrounds Salzburg’s Hohensalzburg fortress, but the one held in Mirabell Square is especially popular with foodies. Visit the snow-dusted cabins to sample local delicacies such as halusky, small chunks of dumpling mixed with fried bacon.
The best Christmas market: Places d’Hiver
Places d’Hiver, or Winter Pret, is one of Belgium’s biggest Christmas markets, stretching from the Place de la Monnaie to the Vismet. You’ll find dozens of stalls selling seasonal souvenirs, along with an ice skating rink and cosy cabins selling warming mulled wine. And the best bit? Some of the cheapest hotels in Brussels are within walking distance (we love the seriously chic Motel One Brussels), so no matter how many gluhweins you’ve sunk, getting home should be relatively easy. Our top tip? Take in the view of this magical winter wonderland from the top of the 55 metre tall Ferris wheel.
The best Christmas market: Koningsplein Christmas Market
As the winter nights draw in, Amsterdam amps up its Christmas celebrations with a series of seasonal markets, most of which appear in late November. Find plenty of holiday cheer at the Leidseplein market’s ice rink, or at the Koningsplein market, where you’ll find stalls piled high with olibollen (Dutch doughnuts) to keep energy levels high as you explore this historic city. But make sure to check out the smaller ones too – the markets in neighbourhoods like Haarlem, Lelystad and Keukenhof offer fantastic value for money and have a more local vibe. Looking for a cool crash pad in Holland’s capital? Check out our guide to Amsterdam’s artiest hotels.
8. Gothenburg, Sweden from £40 with Ryanair
The best Christmas market: Röda Sten Art Centre Christmas market
Get some Christmas sparkle at Gothenburg’s Liseberg Amusement Park, where almost five million fairy lights will be twinkling away from mid-November until the end of December. Enjoy traditional music performances from the Sámi indigenous people of Lapland, or take a tour of Rabbit Land to see how these floppy-eared friends get festive. And when hunger strikes, sweeten the deal with some sugary treats from the one of the park’s traditional food stalls. But don’t forget to check out the markets in the city centre, too. For truly unique gifts, head to the one at Röda Sten Art Centre, which opens in December.
The best Christmas market: Rynek Glowny Christmas market
Dreaming of a white Christmas? Well you’re almost guaranteed one in Krakow, because the city is usually shrouded in a blanket of the white fluffy stuff at this time of year. Head to the city’s main square (known as Rynek Glowny) for one of the largest events – it’s the ideal spot to pick up a handmade festive jumper for that special someone. Many of the stalls specialise in traditional handicrafts and locally-made woolen clothes.
The best Christmas market: Princes Street Christmas market
Getting your Christmas fix in Scotland’s capital is easy. Edinburgh is home to one of the most popular markets in the UK, and it’s held in Princes Street Gardens, just a few metres from the train station. Clusters of log cabins sell everything from gingerbread to tinselled trinkets, and this year, younger visitors will be able to meet Father Christmas at Santa Land, or take a spin on one of the six rides at the Christmas-themed funfair.
The best Christmas market: Old Town Market
Slightly smaller than their German rivals, Sweden’s Christmas markets are known for their family-friendly atmosphere. Gluhwein may be called glögg in Stockholm, but it’s just as delicious, especially if accompanied with a traditional snack like smoked sausages, or (if you’re feeling brave) elk meat. The Old Town market in the Swedish capital is jam-packed with these delicacies, along with romantic wooden chalets well-stocked with more Noël knick-knacks than you can shake a candy cane at.
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Still can’t work out where to head for your pre-Christmas break? Our breathtaking gallery, dedicated to the world’s finest winter wonderlands, might just help you decide!
*Published September 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability. Flight prices are based on return flights from the UK November-December – departure dates depend on destination.