In this article, we will be looking at the 5 most beautiful Christmas Markets, both in the UK and the EU, for that much needed winter break/foreign shopping excursion.
Image credit: Budapest Christmas
From quaint gnome houses, hot spiced apple cider and vintage carousels to illuminated cathedrals, palaces and castles, there’s no place quite like Europe for a traditional Christmas market. Steeped in history, with some markets going back 700 years, European Christmas markets tend to nestle around their most majestic and well-known landmarks, meaning you can stock up on authentic holiday gifts whilst taking in the city’s renowned historical sights.
So ditch the dull shopping centres and manic malls this Christmas and swap them for festive donkey rides, hot spring bathing and fascinating christmas traditions by heading to a beautiful Christmas market this winter. Take a look at our favourite destinations below and see which one grabs your imagination, and remember; don’t leave home without your luxury suitcase to get you there in style!
Image credit: CGP Grey
Christmas in Cologne is a like festive dream come true. ‘Buden’ huts selling hot cider and cinnamon biscuits pop up all over the city, but downtown tends to be the hub of the action. With over 10 markets to choose from, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed. For the best experience, don’t plan, just allow the gingerbread aromas and twinkling lights be your guide as you explore this magical Christmas city.
If you find yourself beneath the spectacular Cologne Cathedral, congratulations! You’ve hit the mother market. Grab a cup of ‘original Christmas mulled wine’ and gaze up at the magnificent architecture that surrounds the fair. The largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland sits alongside these iconic buildings, which include the Roman-Germanic Museum, Cologne Philharmonic Concert Hall and the famous Dom Hotel, so take a moment to sip your hot spiced wine and take the scenery in.
Other picturesque market destinations include the Harbour Christmas Market, which takes place at the Chocolate Museum (yum!) overlooking the spectacular Rhine – the perfect place to pick up some sweet treats, and the Old Town Market, which is situated at the Alter Markt in the heart of the Old Town. This is perhaps one of the most adorable Christmas markets thanks to its glistening gateway and rows of illuminated huts. Everything here, from the wood carved toys to the gingerbread treats, are rumoured to be made by gnomes – but shhh… don’t tell anyone! A festive paradise for children (and adults), little ones are sure to be delighted by the old-fashioned roundabout, puppet theatre and Santa Claus quarter!
(£589.00 - Rimowa)
Christmas markets don’t get any more enchanting than Vienna’s. From baroque palaces to utterly majestic landmarks, each year the city festoons its most famous landmarks with quaint wooden huts and festive cheer, providing a Christmas experience fit for a king.
Begin your trip in true Austrian style by swigging some Glühwein at the Viennese Market. Situated on the Rathausplatz in front of Vienna’s awe-inspiring 19th century City Hall; the market’s 145 stalls and cabins lure you in with their sweet aromas and tantalising treats. At the weekend, international choirs create a spine-tingling atmosphere inside the city hall, and whilst it’s hard to predict exactly which Christmas markets have snow, Austria’s sub-zero temperature provides the perfect backdrop for a white Christmas. Fingers crossed!
If a more regal and upmarket shopping space is more your scene, then the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace won’t disappoint. Set in front of Vienna’s most glorious landmark, the village dazzles with glittery huts and elaborate decorations. Thirsty for more royal revelries? Head to the market at Schönbrunn Palace and tuck into some freshly baked Vanillekipferl whilst you take in the festive atmosphere.
(£459.00 - Briggs & Riley)
Image credit: Pazuzu
Prague, Czech Republic
From breathtaking basilicas to historical town squares, Christmas markets adorn every corner of Prague come December. Sparkling fairy lights, lofty Christmas trees and splashes of scarlet and holly festoon the city for a truly magical, festive and authentic eastern-european experience. Is it any wonder this is one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe?
With over six glorious markets to choose from, you’re truly spoilt for choice, but the epicentre of the festive gatherings occurs in the Old Town Square, which is surrounded by beautiful architecture and a dazzling Christmas tree transported from the magical forests of Central Bohemia. Packed with brightly decorated wooden huts selling traditional handicrafts, hearty local food and piping hot drinks, the square oozes a festive air of bygone days, whilst the nativity comes to life in the Bethlehem inspired Inn stable, where children can stroke goats and sheep, as well as enjoying a donkey ride - adorable!
Why not kill two birds with one stone and combine your market revelries with a spot of sightseeing? Head to the magnificent Prague Castle and you will discover a plethora of pagoda tents nestled amongst St. George’s basilica selling local produce by craftsmen and artisans. If you’re lucky, you might even catch some carol singing!
(£385 - Samsonite)
Image credit: Rob Schulze
When the year draws to an end, shining decorations snake up the pillars of Edinburgh’s historical landmarks, and spectacular lights illuminate the city’s amazing architecture to create an astounding winter wonderland. We couldn’t think of a more magical city to get wrapped up and explore the Christmas markets in.
Although one of Europe’s smaller Christmas markets, Edinburgh enchants visitors with its breath-taking backdrop, friendly locals and countless activities on offer. Kick off your visit in true festive style by grabbing a gingerbread latte and wandering down Edinburgh’s prestigious George street. Here you will find the Scottish Market surrounded by splendid buildings such as the Graeco-Roman Dome and the Assembly rooms, which are lit up with glittering decorations – heaven!
Now for some fun; little kids and big kids will adore Santa Land on Princes Street Gardens, which is packed full of exciting fairground rides, a Christmas tree maze and even Santa’s grotto! Pop the little ones on the carousel, visit Santa’s Helpers and while the kids aren’t looking, pick up a couple of stocking fillers at the Children’s Market to add to their surprise on Christmas morning.
Finish the day by skating around the picturesque Melville Monument at St Andrew’s Square, or take in the glorious cityscape from the top of the Big Wheel – complete perfection!
(£639 - Rimowa)
Image credit: Max Pixel
Fancy something a little bit different? How does blackcurrant rum punch and pink bubble-gum marzipan sound? If you’re looking for an authentic Christmas market experience with a twist, then pop on your thermals and faux fur coats and head over to Budapest.
Forget about the usual mulled wine and hog roasts (although you can still get them here) this is the place to experience new tastes such as the belly warming goulash, hearty pigs’ knuckles and mouth-watering wild cherry soup.
Commence this quirky Christmas trip in the city’s Vörösmarty Square where a myriad of cute pop-up cottages and wooden stalls make you feel like you’ve just walked into a giant Christmas card. Traditional honey biscuits, spicy cinnamon and roasted chestnuts create the most tantalising aroma as you browse the 28 craft stalls selling artisanal products and handcrafted gifts.
Once you’ve tucked into the warming Hungarian delicacies, skate off all those calories on the stunning ice rink at St Stephen’s Basilica. Overlooked by the neoclassical landmark, the rink sits below thousands of sweeping fairy lights and surrounds a dazzling, electric blue lit Christmas tree for some extra yuletide magic.
Feet hurting after all that skating? Soothe them, and the rest of your body, in the steamy hot waters of the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. This romantic outdoor hot spring is perfect for unwinding after a long day exploring the city, whilst you marvel at the twinkling Budapest cityscape. A perfect ending to the perfect day.
(£529 - Briggs & Riley)
All this talk of mulled wine, cinnamon, Christmas trees and sweet treats has got us in serious Christmas market mode. Have you visited any of the markets we mentioned? Which is your favourite? They all look so beautiful and interesting, we can’t decide! One thing we can decide on is that we need a new luxury suitcase to fit in with these beautiful festive surroundings; pick your new travelling partner here and let the Yuletide celebrations begin!