Christmas is undoubtedly the most magical time of the year, and one of the highlights of the festive period is exploring a winter wonderland of twinkling lights, beautiful aromas, traditional celebrations and delicious treats. Pack up your hats and gloves and discover somewhere new from our selection of the best Christmas Markets in the world…
The capital of Croatia takes the festive season very seriously, so much so that it has received a “Best Christmas Market in Europe” award for the past three years running. Despite this recognition, Zagreb does not yet seem overcrowded at this time of year so get there soon before it is discovered by the masses. In Ban Josip Jelačić Square you can enjoy live music, food and beverages by the huge Christmas tree whilst marvelling at the fountain’s stunning light display. Then wander around the lantern-lit Zrinjevac Park to see trees adorned with thousands of twinkling lights alongside the sparkling pavilion, and sample specialities such as baked štrukle, cookies and mulled wine. Ice skating is also a must, visit King Tomislav Square for a fairy-tale setting!
The whole of this gorgeous capital city is transformed into a paradise of Christmas nostalgia during the advent period, with traditional nativity scenes on display and authentic trinkets for sale presented in traditional wooden huts. The largest of Vienna’s markets is located in front of spectacular City Hall, with hundreds of food and beverage options. A huge ice skating rink is the main event, as well as reindeer rides for children. Another unmissable experience is visiting the market at Belvedere Palace when it is all lit up after dark for a wonderfully festive atmosphere, as well as the Christmas Village at Maria-Theresien Platz and the market at Schonbrunn Palace.
Toronto’s exciting Distillery District market is a change of pace from the European style you’re probably used to, with an almost excessive amount of twinkling fairy lights guiding you along industrial cobblestoned streets until you stumble on gigantic gingerbread houses, bacon socks(!), ferris wheels, and a vast selection of treats covered in maple syrup. Head to the food stalls for an array of samples from around the world before tucking into the delicious Canadian classic, Poutine. If you’ve never tried the mix of french fries, cheese curds and gravy then be prepared to find your new guilty pleasure. Finish with a free tasting session of various wines, beers and spirits or pick up some unique gifts for loved ones at home.
The Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) describes a feeling or atmosphere of coziness, warmth and enjoyment, which pretty much encapsulates the spirit of Christmas in itself. Copenhagen’s markets embrace this notion with a multitude of locations around the city popping up throughout the festive season. Tivoli Gardens, a stunning year-round destination in its own right, is the best of the bunch with stands offering a range of delectable goodies and gifts, snow-covered trees adorned with lights, traditional live music, spectacular light shows, tonnes of exciting rides for the whole family, and even Santa and his reindeer! Visit on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Eve for a special fireworks display.
Hong Kong, China
If you’ve seen how striking Victoria Harbour is on a normal day, imagine it during the holidays! Glittering lights cover the entire area and huge decorations cover the buildings along the waterfront. Take an evening cruise during the festive season to experience the magnificent skyline at its best. The centre is transformed into a buzzing winter wonderland, regardless of the climate, with markets dotted all over the place ideal for hunting down special gifts for loved ones at home, with artisanal goods from intricate jewellery to elaborate furniture, traditional toys to authentic leatherware. As you explore you’ll stumble upon dance performances, light shows, food tasting stands and plenty of stalls selling delicious foodie spoils.
1. The first official Christmas market was held for one day in 1434 in the charming city of Dresden, Germany, and the festivities continue to be one of the most fascinating in Europe to this day.
2. Bamberg in Germany is known for its wonderful Route of Nativity Scenes, part of its festive celebrations. A trail is formed over 40 locations around the town, featuring over 400 Christmas cribs, each depicting stories from the Nativity.
3. On a visit to Prague’s rustic Christmas Markets, whilst wandering around decorative wooden huts, a Nativity-like stable of livestock, and stunning architecture, you might be surprised to find buckets of carp for sale. This is because Czechs include the delicacy of deep-fried fish and potato salad as part of their Christmas meal.
Call 0161 440 6735 to discover your next Christmas Market...