VICTOR’S TOP 5 EUROPEAN DESTINATIONS FOR WINTER MARKETS
If you’re looking for a last minute pre-Christmas getaway, as well as an opportunity to pick up some truly unique presents, decorations or culinary treats, then look no further than the Christmas markets of Europe. Here is our top 5…
The tradition of the Christmas Market was born in Vienna, with the first Krippenmarkt (December Market) recorded as early as 1298. The Viennese Christmas Market, found at the front of the City Hall, lures in locals and visitors alike with aromas of spiced candles, mulled wine and hot chestnuts. Elsewhere, the Enchanted Rathauspark is one of the city’s most romantic spots and, in November and December, it comes complete with pony rides and a carousel that enjoy a roaring trade under the sublimely illuminated trees. Also worth looking up is the The Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung, which has been held in the city centre since 1772. Today, it is renowned for handicrafts, glass decorations, traditional cribs and ceramics. Festive Advent music can also be heard on the square everyday from 4pm.
Don’t miss… The Vienna Opera Ball
Although the world famous ball doesn’t take place until February, tickets book up early, as it is undeniably one of the highlights of the international opera calendar. The event attracts opera lovers from around the world, all dressed in their finest gowns and tails.
The Danish capital’s Christmas markets tempt in the crowds with gallons of Gløgg, mountains of Æbleskiver pancakes and a wide range of distinctively Danish gifts on offer. The most popular spot to soak up the festive atmosphere is at Tivoli – the world’s second oldest amusement park and the inspiration behind Disneyland – which boasts an Alp Village, the candlelit Saint Lucia procession by a 100 strong girl choir, and a huge fireworks festival, in addition to a 50 stall traditional Christmas market. Also worth a visit is the Nyhavn Christmas Market, which is located along the waterside of the old harbour and features entertainment, food and drinks alongside traditional Danish crafts. Nyhavn was home to Hans Christian Andersen and is a haven for foodies, all drawn to its numerous restaurants.
Don’t miss… the opportunity to dine at Noma, the Christianshavn two Michelin star restaurant which, for four of the past five years, has been ranked the ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ by Restaurant magazine.
Germany is synonymous with Christmas markets and no German city more so than Dresden. The nearby Erzgebirge mountain range is where most of Central Europe’s Christmas gifts, toys and decorations are crafted – and the eastern city’s Striezelmarkt is Germany’s oldest winter market, dating back to 1434. The market is famed for building the world’s tallest Christmas Pyramid (a carousel-like tower that predates the Christmas tree), and displaying the world’s biggest nutcracker. The city also hosts the acclaimed Winterlights of Dresden, which covers a mile long parade of stalls and shops along Prager Straße to the south of the city. A 50-foot Christmas tree and numerous markets line the route, which is bathed in garlands of light and pulses to the chimes of traditional Christmas music.
Don’t miss… the annual StollenFest on 6th December, where the world’s largest stollen Christmas cake (4m x 2m x 1m and weighing a staggering 4 tonnes) is paraded through the town and then sold at the market with all profits going to charity.
As the global capital of chocolate, it’s no surprise that Brussels puts on a spectacular spread at Christmas. Running a course through some of the most magical areas of the Belgian capital, Plaisirs D’Hiver blends seasonal tradition with cutting edge technology. The recently restored 19th Century Place St Catherine, becomes an ice cathedral courtesy of 3D video mapping, while the city’s Grand Place central square is transformed by a state-of-the-art sound and light installation, created by leading conceptual lighting designer, Koert Vermeulen. At Place De La Monnaie Muntplein, a 200-foot ice rink pulls in the crowds, while at the other end of the parade a huge ice monster both terrifies and delights children and adults in equal measure. And for those who are in town to pick up the Christmas presents, the 230 shops that line the route are open until late every night.
Don’t miss… signing up for a chocolate making course at the workshop of leading chocolatiers, Zaabär.
Although Strasbourg’s status as the official seat of the European Parliament only dates back to 1952, its standing as host for one of Europe’s largest Christmas markets spans back to 1570. Collectively known as the Christkindelsmärik, with its main site overlooked by the gothic towers of Strasbourg Cathedral, the market hosts some 300 chalets over 11 sites and is brightened by hundreds of kilometres of lights. The market specialises in arts and crafts, seasonal foods, and traditional Alsatian Christmas decorations, but is also awash with cultural events from street theatre up to major concerts and exhibitions. What’s more, Strasbourg never forgets that Christmas is the season of giving. Every year locals and visitors alike are encouraged to leave presents for the less fortunate at the foot of the Great Christmas Tree.
Don’t miss… indulging your savoury side at La Cloche à Fromage, which stocks over 200 cheeses on what the Guinness Book of Records has recognised as the World’s Biggest Cheeseboard.
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