From Germany to Croatia to Birmingham, the best Christmas markets across Europe all have a few things in common - excellent food, hot toddys and unique gifts
Everyone loves a Christmas Market. Festive foods, carol singing and the occasional sighting of Father Christmas are just part of the reason why more and more people are attending these events year on year.
Although considered to be part and parcel of the Christmas season, the traditional markets, which originated in medieval Germany, only arrived in Britain 15 to 20 years ago. But with so many to choose from in the UK and beyond, which ones are worth visiting? Admiral have compiled of some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe, new and old.
Belfast Continental Christmas Markets 18th November 2017- 23rd December 2017
Now in its thirteenth year, the Northern Irish present their take on a traditional Christmas celebration.
The markets, which are centred around Belfast’s City Hall, are growing in size and popularity year on year, with over 1.3 million visitors in 2016 alone. Famous for their stalls featuring continental dishes such as Bratwurst and Dutch pancakes, you may even get to taste a Kangaroo burger or two.
A community event, their annual Pitch Perfect competition offers prospective business owners a free chalet and business support for the whole season.
With over 100 chalets and range of entertainment, it’s worth considering Northern Ireland for your next seasonal trip.
Aachen, Germany 24th November 2017- 23rd December 2017
Placed snugly on the German border between the Netherlands and Belgium, Aachen calls itself “The City in the Heart of Europe”.
Considered to be one of the best markets in the country, the Aachen Christmas celebrations typify what a German Market should entail. Set around the city’s cathedral, the tradition dates back centuries and brings in approximately 1.5 million visitors per year.
The event features culinary delicacies from throughout Germany, in particular the Aachen Printen, a locally made gingerbread.
Closing the day before Christmas Eve, you’ve got plenty of time to explore this beautiful city. It is certainly not one to miss if you wish to experience an authentic German Market in all its glory.
Prague, Czechoslovakia 2nd December 2017- 6th January 2018
There is no better time to visit this capital city than during the Christmas season. The main market stalls are situated in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, although smaller clusters are also dotted around the city for you to explore.
A particular favourite of visitors is the market situated in Prague Castle, but we would recommend taking the time to explore for yourself, as around every corner there is sure to be a new festive surprise.
Try some of the traditional street food sold at the stalls, such as langoš, a Hungarian deep-fried dough with cheese, or trdelnik, a dough grilled on a spit and then sprinkled with walnut mix.
Make sure you taste the famous sausages made on the stalls on Wenceslas Square - Prague has a multitude of culinary delights!
Once you’ve tried all the street food Prague has to offer, wash it down with a Pilsner Urquell or Budvar.
Afterwards, don’t miss the open entertainment that is available in the city. The opera, ballet and theatre are also all available to book, even on Christmas Day, giving you the traditional Czech experience.
Advent at Zagreb, Croatia 2nd December 2017- 7th January 2018
It may come as a surprise to learn that Croatia’s capital has been voted as having European Best Christmas Market for the past two years running. But we can assure you that it is worthy of its title. Not just a city for the summer months,
Zagreb comes alive during the feast of Advent in the run up to Christmas. In its eighth year of business, the streets surrounding Ban Jelačić Square, the Upper Town and New Zagreb all feature live music, dancing and ample amounts of traditional Croatian delicacies such as stuffed turkey with mlinci, and paprenjaci, a peppered gingerbread.
Events on offer as well as the market stalls include an ice park, a live nativity show, guided tours, concerts and street entertainment. Definitely not one to miss.
Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham 16th November 2017- 24th December 2017
Named in honour of the 1966 Frankfurt-Birmingham partnership, the bustling market has been in business for over 15 years.
With over 120 stalls selling traditional gifts and seasonal food such as pretzels, bratwurst, burgers and roasted chestnuts, Birmingham has one of the biggest markets in the UK, and brings in millions of visitors every year.
Featuring live music from the bandstand on Victoria Square, the United Kingdom’s second-largest city comes alive with eager shopper’s year on year, and 2017 is looking to be bigger and better than ever. Known as the largest authentic German Christmas Market outside of Germany or Austria, the market runs up until the 24th December leaving you loads of time to book that train ticket to the West Midlands.
Edinburgh, Scotland 18th November 2018 – 6th January 2018
Nobody does Christmas quite like the Scots! The market is comprised of two main components; the European market on East Princess Street Garden, and the entirely Scottish festivities on George Street.
However, there is so much more to do than visit the markets. George Street boasts a Grotto and a Snow Sculpture exhibition, making it a worthwhile place to take the whole family. There are a number of free events on offer throughout the city, such as Edinburgh’s Giant Advent Calendar, new for 2017, where 25 glimpses of previous Edinburgh winters will be projected onto the General Register House in the 25 days leading up to Christmas.
Make sure you don’t miss the Norwegian Christmas tree. An annual gift from Hordaland County Council since 1986, it is given to mark the cultural ties between Norway and Scotland. The event in the picturesque Scottish capital has been running for over 20 years, and is becoming more heavily attended as the years go on. So, what are you waiting for?
If it is a long way to travel, consider extending your trip until Scotland’s Hogmanay festivities on the 31st December! You won’t regret it.
Fancy booking a weekend away to shop and eat your weight in strudel? Make sure you’re covered with Admiral Travel Insurance before you set off.