Whilst many of us dream of flying south for the winter, there is much to be said for a short-haul escape to warm up with a mulled wine under Christmas lights. Europe’s sparkling cities come to life during the festive season, and Christmas markets have become one of the season’s major, must-see, events.
Historically, Christmas markets were used to bring townspeople together for Christmas and encourage a sense of community during the cold winter months. One of the earliest examples of the modern Christmas market took place in Dresden, Germany, in 1434. Known as Striezelmarkt, derived from strudel or stroczel, as these traditional desserts of strudel and stroczel cakes were popular at these market events. Stroczel cake is today better known as stollen and the traditional Stiezelmarkt now features 250 stands and plays host to three million visitors a year from all over the world.
In some cities, the Christmas markets are referred to as ‘German Markets’ because they are so strongly associated with German cities, however, the tradition originated in Vienna. Known as the ‘December Market’, as it ran for all four weeks of Advent and began in 1294, the Vienna market inspired many of the long-standing traditions, including food stalls, music and festive decoration.
Centuries on, Christmas markets remain a much-loved aspect of the festive season and cities throughout Europe have adopted the tradition. Choosing where to enjoy these fun-filled events can be overwhelming, so our expert Travel Consultants have selected their favourites to help you decide where to enjoy your mulled wine.
The home of the original December market, Vienna still excels when it comes to hosting a magical market. Bavarian-style stalls, selling traditional desserts, pastries and alcohol-infused chocolates, give a wonderful scent to the air, whilst the wooden gifts, candles and unique keepsakes enhance the Christmas spirit. Taking place in Vienna’s central square, the large Christmas market is the city’s focal point throughout December. Enjoy festive music, often with an operatic twist, delectable cuisine and a thoroughly sophisticated ambience.
Frohe Weihnachten – Merry Christmas
Barcelona sparkles at any time of year, but Christmas is a particularly special time to visit this ever-impressive city. Breaking with tradition, Barcelona hosts a number of smaller markets throughout its distinctive districts, rather than one large village-style fair. In the Gothic Quarter, near Barcelona Cathedral, Christmas markets have been taking place since the 18th Century and three hundred stalls today line the streets surrounding the cathedral. A smaller, more traditional, market takes place outside La Sagrada Familia on the two Saturdays before Christmas.
Feliz Navidad – Merry Christmas
The quaint, nostalgic architecture of Edinburgh, the picturesque Scottish capital, perfectly lends itself to Christmas and shoppers can avoid the hassle of the high street by enjoying the far more genteel pace of the city’s signature Christmas market. Featuring hearty Scottish fare, mulled wine, tartan themed gifts and an impressive selection of whiskeys, Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets are a warming combination of jovial Scottish hospitality and festive traditions.
Slàinte mhath – Good Health. A traditional Gaelic toast.
Combining Italian food and the captivating, charismatic culture of Italy, Rome’s Christmas market is a perfect addition to any winter escape to Italy. Rome pulls out all the stops at Christmas, and this yuletide, the famous Piazza Navona will be home to a spectacular Christmas market, with 48 festive stands adorning the streets. Peruse while you soak up the atmosphere and delight in the street entertainment. Revel in the decorations, festive treats and handcrafted gifts as a mass of glittering lights bring Piazza Navona to life. For something a little more eclectic, Quirinetta Vintage Market offers a welcome selection of 40 merchants, with records, vintage clothing and quirky gifts for those looking for a more alternative Christmas gift.
Buon Natale! – Merry Christmas
Staying in the UK, London is a hive of festive activity at Christmas, but our advice is to stay away from the busy shops and enjoy some festive fun at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Having gained a reputation as one of London’s most successful Christmas events, Winter Wonderland is ideal for families seeking a charming Christmas day in the capital. Admission is free, but many of the main attractions require tickets. Enjoy an ice bar, ice-skating rink, live shows, a Christmas circus and all the fun of Santa Land.
To discuss your luxury winter escape to Europe, please call our expert Travel Consultants on 01244 897 771.