Over the last couple of decades, continental-style Christmas markets have become increasingly popular in the UK. While many people still make the pilgrimage to well-known markets such as Cologne, Strasbourg and Vienna, there are plenty of other options, both at home and across the Channel. Here are a few to try.
Beginning on the 17th November, this is a six-week Christmas extravaganza that includes much more than just the market itself. There are fairground rides, ice-skating and a plethora of shows. Unlike many other Christmas markets, Edinburgh’s offering stays open into the new year – and, thanks to its northerly latitude, there’s the chance of some seasonal snow.
Open from 22nd November until 9th December, the 180 chalets that form Bath’s Christmas market make the most of the city’s Georgian setting. This year, green aficionados should watch out for eco-friendly decorations made from recycled plastic bottles and bags that are the design if Christine Leech, Marie Clair Runway Magazine’s Creative Director.
The Leeds Christkindelmarkt is a traditional German Christmas market that is open from 9th November until 22nd December. Centred in the city’s Millennium Square, the market features more than 40 traditional wooden chalet stalls, a Christmas carousel and a variety of German eateries and entertainment. On Saturday and Sunday mornings from 24th November, there’s also the opportunity for children and their families to join Santa Claus for breakfast in his Alp Chalet.
Nestled around an open-air ice rink in the Cathedral Close, right next to the grand Gothic cathedral itself, Winchester Christmas market is open from 17th November to 20th December. Around 500,000 visitors come to browse the offerings of over 110 traditionally-decorated chalets, gaze at the Nativity scene, take a turn around the ice rink or enjoy evensong at the cathedral. Thanks to its national reputation, good transport links and relative proximity to London, Winchester’s Christmas market can get very busy. Mid-week is the quietest time to visit.
Taking place on Cathedral Green, Exeter Cathedral’s Christmas market opens between 15th November and 16th December. As well as local and continental traders in the chalet stalls, the west front bandstand showcases a number of local bands, choirs and carol singers who come along to entertain visitors and really put the sparkle in this magical event.
The Plaza Mayor Christmas market is open between 24 November and 31 December. With a centuries’-long history of hosting Christmas markets, Madrid knows how to run them properly. As well as traditional stalls selling nativity scenes, decorations and gifts, don’t miss the chance to purchase wigs and jokes for the Day of the Holy Innocents. Taking place on 28th December, this is Spain’s version of April Fool’s Day and, as elsewhere in the country, is celebrated with gusto by the city’s population.
A veritable fairyland of lights, an enormous Christmas tree (on the site that’s reputed to be where the first Christmas tree in Europe was put on public display), traditional seasonal Estonia cuisine, merry-go-rounds, handicraft stalls, Santa Claus and, like as not, real snow, this Christmas market is well worth the journey from the UK. It’s open between 16th November and 7th January.
Open from St Nicholas’ Day on 2nd December until 6th January, the Dubrovnik Christmas market is held in the atrium of the Convent of St Claire. Traditional craftspeople display handmade goods and there are also plenty of delicious local treats to sample, such as quince cheese (kontonjata) and roasted candied almonds, and beautiful music to enjoy.
Europe’s highest Christmas market is open between 16th and 18th November. Visitors who make the journey Kriens up Mount Pilatus by cable car or cogwheel train can shop for local crafts and seasonal Swiss eatables at 40 chalet shops. Local restaurants also open their doors, offering hearty meals and scenic views.
Held in the city’s Marienplatz between 27th November and 24th December, Munich’s Christmas market draws in visitors from across Germany and beyond. Enjoy traditional Bavarian hospitality while shopping at the chalet stalls, admiring the 3000 candles that adorn the huge Christmas tree, listening to some of the musicians who perform from the town hall balcony or joining in with carols beneath the tree. There are craft events for children, the chance to have letters and postcards stamped with the Christkindl postmark and, on 9th and 23rd December, there’s the Krampus Run, where 300 masked beings (Saint Nicholas’ traditional assistants, charged with ensuring their master receives appropriate respect) run across the city via the Christmas market.