18 October 2018
Europe’s affection for the Christmas season extends back to the medieval ages, seeing stall based food, wine, crafts and more endearingly re-created in the 21st Century, incorporating inviting snow-tinged locations surrounded by grand halls, churches, and cathedrals seemingly frozen in time.
Read further for our choices of the best destinations in Europe to celebrate Christmas this year, ranging from the ice rink of Bruges to the tantalising traditional treats of Trondheim, each providing an unforgettable festive experience.
Combine a love of good food and a romantically enthused Christmas spirit when travelling to Lille’s Place Rihour, representing a gourmet thrill in the form of nougats, toffee apples, brilliantly baked breads and a range of enticing confectionary found among 80 chalets also teeming with boutique stores in and around the markets where you can find the perfect quirky gifts to take back home.
Sparkling decorations and nativity figures line the markets filled with regional specialities and internationally sourced arts and crafts, all of which can be enjoyed when travelling via Eurostar shuttle from London in just over an hour.
Stuttgart’s Christmas markets represent one of the longest running seasonal celebrations on the continent. Having begun life in 1692, the Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt is one of Germany’s most popular destinations for celebrating the festive period, situated in the traditional charm of the old district in the city, expect to see a refreshing throwback to age-old festivities as you savour spiced wines amid the refreshing smell of fresh pine filtering through over 300 stalls adorning extravagant decorations and twinkling lights.
Christmas market celebrations are as synonymous with Prague as is the traditional Christmas Eve dinner in the city consisting of wine sausages and freshly caught carp. The most prominent market stalls can be found at Wenceslas Square and in the appropriate medieval leanings of the Old Town Square, where the bright lights of a large Christmas tree overlook a nativity scene and small petting zoo children will appreciate. Authentic wooden toys, Czech marionettes, and handmade jewellery can be bought alongside an appealing array of gingerbread and braded pastries for those with a sweet tooth.
Championing southern Europe as a less obvious destination for the best Christmas celebrations, Bologna’s offering consists of one of the oldest Christmas markets to be found in Italy. The entwined connection of the country’s inhabitants with the symbolism of Christianity ensures there are fewer better places to spend the seasonal wintry days, with the Fiera di Natale market situated in the piazza opposite the striking San Pietro Cathedral, and the Antica Fiera di Santa Lucia combining to offer visitors gastronomy led market stalls inclusive of delicious nougat with almonds and honey alongside the continued tradition of hand-crafted nativity figures making up the nativity scene.
When you consider blanket snow coverings and archetypal winter scenes to celebrate Christmas in befitting fashion, Norway’s Trondheim markets are difficult to beat. Featuring quality hand-made arts and crafts, seasonal food, beer, cheese and sweet treats, this Viking capital of the country is brimming with history, reflected in the markets’ placing in front of the famous Nidaros Cathedral, where former Norwegian King Olaf the Holy is said to be buried.
One of the most picturesque Christmas markets in the world, Bruges main square, Markt, sparks into life as the colourful buildings surrounding the square provide vibrant, architectural based Christmas decoration overlooking stalls selling wares as varied as leather goods and handmade jewellery to Santa Claus shaped chocolate treats, each spread out adjacent to the medieval Belfort bell tower which can be climbed for magnificent views of the fair and city. For the complete seasonal experience, head over to Simon Stevinplein and the central ice rink for a romantic evening skating together before unwinding in the cosy calm of a traditional pub.
With over 20 Christmas markets to choose from, festive variety is in abundance when visiting Austria’s capital. Having hosted seasonal markets since as far back as 1298, the city certainly knows what it’s doing when it comes to laying on a shopper’s paradise, with today’s iteration of the markets perhaps best showcased in the City Hall, where international choirs, kids’ Christmas cookie baking workshops, and bright lights put everyone in the height of festive cheer.