It’s that wonderful time of year again – where people gather together in the chilly town squares to visit Europe’s best Christmas markets, soak up some festive cheer, see the twinkling light displays and enjoy a steaming mug of comforting glühwein. While the markets’ winter wonderland atmospheres are undoubtedly a huge draw, there are countless unique gifts to find for loved ones back home too, with artisans and vendors coming from across the world to sell their wares.
Handmade trinkets from the Cologne Christmas market
The German city of Cologne is home to a variety of Christmas markets, the largest and most popular of which is held beneath the city’s imposing cathedral. Head here to find hand-whittled toys, decorative ornaments and beautiful nativity scenes, along with delectable gingerbread treats known in German as Lebkuchen. According to local legend, ‘Heinzelmännchen’ gnomes guard each market in the city, ensuring that every item sold across each stall is authentic. As you browse the plethora of trinkets and souvenirs on display then, you can rest safe in the knowledge that any gifts you do pick up will be truly unique.
Local wine from the Strasbourg Christmas market
Held at the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral, the world-famous Christkindelsmärik is the oldest Christmas market in France, and is greatly influenced by its traditional Alsatian heritage. Alsace is renowned as a prolific wine region, so there will be plenty of stalls selling some of the very best locally produced wines. You can sample some hot on the day, and take a few bottles home as gifts afterwards too.
In 2016, Strasbourg celebrates its guest country of Portugal, offering visitors the chance to try tasty Iberian treats from the many stalls in the special Portuguese village.
Chocolate treats from Bruges Christmas market
The fairytale city of Bruges attracts thousands of visitors from across the globe every year with its cobbled streets, gothic architecture and – most importantly – its abundance of delicious chocolate. At Christmas time, seek out the proud creations of the local chocolatiers, which are available in a multitude of flavour combinations and make for wonderful presents if you can save any. Other vendors lay out everything needed for a festive celebration, including traditional gifts for all the family and a warming mug of glühwein.
Honey treats at Frankfurt Christmas Market
Frankfurt Christmas market was incredibly first heldin 1393, so you won’t be surprised to hear it’s one of Germany’s longest standing markets. Famous for its elaborately decorated stalls and cosy log cabins, visitors can enjoy a delicious cup of Apfelwein (apple wine) and can even buy a bottle (or two) to bring back home for loved ones.
While you’re there, be sure not to miss the Honey House. Rebuilt every year for the festive season, the 300-year-old timber structure houses treats and gifts based around the sweet stuff – from beeswax candles to honeyed wine.
If this has inspired your very own Christmas adventure, take a look at our adventure planner. It’s tailor-made to help you find a destination that suits you.