Twinkling lights, the crunch of snow underfoot and the comfort of a steaming glass of mulled wine; if there’s one thing keeping many of us going during the winter it’s the welcome arrival of Christmas markets. The rich scent of roasted meats mingle with the homely smell of gingerbread, making these yuletide gatherings impossible to resist, even when the temperature drops down.
With the festive period almost upon us, we decided to share with you some of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe.
1. Medieval Bruges
20th November – 3rd January
It’s no secret that the cobbled stone streets of Bruges look magical over the winter period. The main market takes place in the picturesque Grote Markt where you can ice skate under the shadow of the 83-metre Belfry bell tower. After showing off your skills on the ice you can reward yourself with a visit to the many artisan chocolatiers, which sell some of the finest pralines and truffles in the world.
2. Charming Lille
18th November – 30th December
This historic city is located a short drive from Calais and is full of winter magic. From the wooden chalets offering a range of food and gifts to the 50 metre high Ferris wheel that offers breath-taking best views of the city, you won’t fail to get into the Christmas spirit. The close proximity to Belgium means you can enjoy the best of both French and Flemish culture, or in other words, delicious crepes and moreish chocolates. Result!
3. Romantic Paris
18th November – 4th January
The city of lights will be hosting a number of awesome markets to help spread the festive cheer this year. One of the most Instagram friendly markets will be held at Trocadero Gardens near the base of the beautifully illuminated Eiffel Tower. The largest market within Paris is held along one it’s most famous shopping streets – the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Here you’re dazzled by the sparkling shopfront displays and charmed by the 200 wooden chalets offering everything from pretzels to Russian dolls.
4. Beautiful Brussels
27th November – 3rd January
Few places encapsulate a winter wonderland as well as the Belgian capital. Surrounded by elegant 17th century guildhouses and a Gothic town hall, the market square will feature a huge Christmas tree and a dazzling sound and light show. The enormous 2.5-kilometre market – which includes a huge ice rink – begins at the Ferris wheel in Place Sainte Catherine and stretches across the city. Boasting over 240 vendors this market will be bringing chilly visitors joy with sparkling trinkets, spiced wine and even a Swiss chalet where you can enjoy some cheese fondue.
5. Gothic Cologne
23rd November – 23rd December
Of all the Christmas markets in Germany, Cologne is one of the most striking. The Gothic masterpiece of the Cologne Cathedral provides an atmospheric backdrop to the buzzing marketplace. As well as boasting the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland, there are over seven markets that stretch from the harbour to the town hall that are certain to leave you enchanted. Make sure to taste the cinnamon biscuits and smoked sausages before washing it all down with some delicious gluhwein.
6. Awesome Amsterdam
26th November – 17th January
Winter parades, folk markets, flea markets and much, much more; Amsterdam is a top choice for festive visitors. This year the hotspots in the city are Leidesplein and Museumplein where the forecourts are being transformed into ice villages and surrounded by enormous ice rinks. In Museumplein, with the backdrop of the famous Rijksmuseum, you can sample some traditional fare like the delicious Dutch doughnuts known as olibollen.
7. Delightful Dusseldorf
17th November – 23rd December
With cosy huts, twinkling lights and an ice skating rink, the metropolis of Düsseldorf is transformed into a winter wonderland come Christmastime. The festive hub of this bustling city, head to Marktplatz, where countless stalls selling yuletide gifts and delectable treats await. For Scandi-inspired wares, head to the Sternchenmarkt (Little Star Market) at Stadtbrückchen, where a colourful light display adds to the festive atmosphere, while the Schadowstraße market is not to be missed for hand-crafted wooden gifts and gastronomical delights.
If you are already daydreaming of the smells and sights of Christmas, take a look at our routes and make your dream a reality this festive period.