Treat yourself to a last-minute getaway and cross the last names off of your Christmas list while you’re at it. As you wander down historic streets laced with the warming scent of cinnamon, where fairy lights twinkle from the branches of towering trees and magnificent landmarks stand over dainty medieval houses, you’ll find yourself falling in love with the festive season all over again. Here’s our pick of the best Christmas markets in France, Germany and Belgium.
Cologne Christmas Market
Cologne is home to no fewer than seven separate Christmas markets, and they attract close to two million visitors between them every year. Browse handmade crafts and home-baked goods under the watchful eye of the stunning gothic cathedral in the old town, before heading to Neumarkt, the city’s oldest Christmas market.
Discover more German Christmas Markets.
Bruges Christmas Market
The medieval city of Bruges transforms into a magical wonderland fit for fairytales when the festive season descends. The marvellous cobbled streets wrapped in lights and decorations lend a beautiful stage to the annual Christmas market, where delicacies of crisp frites and fresh shrimp can be enjoyed as you peruse the local goods.
Discover more Belgian Christmas Markets.
Strasbourg Christmas Market
The oldest Christmas market in Europe, the first edition of Strasbourg Christmas Market took place back in 1570. Today, it’s one of the largest in Europe, with 300 stalls across 10 different locations around the city. Continuing a tradition first mentioned in 17th century scripture, a huge Christmas tree from the nearby Vosges Mountains will be the centrepiece, illuminating the market square along with kilometres of fairy lights.
Discover more French Christmas Markets.
Lille Christmas Market
The Lille Christmas Market is something of a European legend. Only in the Grand’ Place could a 60-foot Christmas tree be eclipsed by a giant ferris wheel decorated with 10,000 light bulbs. The historic centre is filled with festive lights and the streets warm with mulled wine spices drifting from the wooden chalets along Place Rihour.
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Featured image by Guillaume Bavlere.