With plenty of new and old-favourite destinations to explore, check out the best selection of Christmas market breaks by coach and air. Get a festive filling of Gluwein in a range of UK and European locations like Brussels, Bruges, Edinburgh, Paris, Prague, Valkenburg, the Black Forest, York, Berlin, Vienna, Barcelona, Krakow and more!
Christmas Markets have been around in Europe since the late middle ages and are a great place to look for stocking fillers and get the whole family into the spirit of Christmas. Markets usually take place during the last week of November through to December, with stalls selling a range of wonderful products including hot mulled wine for the adults and cookies (among other treats) for the children. They're also a great place for the locals to showcase their talents with a range of handmade items such as nutcrackers, candles, music boxes and other decorations, all of which make great Christmas gifts. Nativity scenes, skating rinks and Christmas trees all add to the magical winter wonderland setting with twinkling lights.
Germany is the birthplace of the Christmas Market where you can shop to a magical backdrop of cathedrals and candlelit caves. You should visit German Christmas Markets if you want to escape commercialism and swap it for a more traditional and authentic shopping experience beneath a sky of twinkling fairy lights. Popular markets in Germany are Cologne, Rüdesheim, Berlin and Aachen. You should also, if budgets allow, take a cruise along The Rhine where you will also get the opportunity to visit a few destinations.
Although extremely popular, Germany isn't the only place to visit, you should also experience the Christmas Markets in Holland where you are taken underground to follow a cobweb of candlelit corridors to a beautiful velvet cave setting for the Valkenburg Xmas Market. Belgium is another great place for Christmas Markets with its sparkling winter settings and traditional delicacies of 'klaasjes' and 'speculoos' in Bruges, Ypres and Liege. Other continental Christmas Markets can be found in France, Switzerland, Italy and the Czech Republic.
A variety of markets can also be found in the UK for those of you who do not wish to travel far, but would still like to soak up the festive spirit. UK Christmas often have a continental theme bringing over French, German or Italian traders. You'll find them in a variety of venues from town centres to stately homes such as Chatsworth House with some taking place over a weekend and others lasting a lot longer.
It doesn't matter which Christmas Market break venue you visit, you'll find stalls to explore, goods to sample and festive carols combining, where you can lose yourself in the holiday spirit.
Tis' the season to be jolly!
The Door2Tour.com Miniguide to Christmas Markets.
What do I wear?
The majority are held outside so make sure that you dress suitably for spending time in the open air. Warm clothing, comfortable shoes and a brolly should help you deal with the British weather in winter.
What should I take?
Layers, layers and more layers as it's chilly outside. Loose change or small currency notes are also advisable for the stalls as credit or debit cards are not always accepted. Take a big bag and some 'J' cloths or kitchen towels to protect those delicate gifts you've purchased.
Plan your trip?
It's worthwhile visiting the websites for the Christmas Market that you intend to visit so you can find out who will be exhibiting and what delights will be on offer. Some also provide programmes that you can download but if you can't find a particular stall, ask the friendly guides who will be happy to help.
Avoid the hustle and bustle
If you want a more leisurely experience, visiting the markets on weekdays would be best. Evenings tend to be busier than the daytime, whereas Monday to Thursday nights are usually the quietest. Expect the weekends to be busy and crowded.
Are the markets easily accessible?
The majority are suitable for wheelchair users but it might be worth considering that some are located on cobbled streets (not suitable for high heels) and there could be narrow alleyways to contend with.
Where can I eat and drink?
You'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to food and drink with many stalls offering Glühwein, Bratwurst, Christmas Stollen, Lebkuchen, hot chocolate, mince pies and mulled wine. Make time to eat in a traditional cafe or restaurant if you're visiting a continental market.
Can I take photographs?
Yes you can but photography should be for personal use only.
Can I bring the children with me?
Of course, children are welcome at any of the Christmas Markets but must be accompanied by an adult at all times. They're a great experience for the whole family to get into the spirit of Christmas.
What will I find at the Christmas Markets?
Christmas Markets are perfect for finding that elusive Xmas gift for someone who has everything! You'll find traditional handicrafts, lighting, decorations, nutcrackers, candles, glass baubles, music boxes and wonderful edible treats!
What else can I do there?
As well as exploring your Christmas Market of choice, make time to see some of the sights in the city you're visiting. These can vary from churches and museums to baroque palaces, shopping arcades and popular tourist attractions.
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What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than by visiting one of these great destinations in the UK and across Europe:
York - St Nicholas Fayre
Enjoy the historic charm of medieval York at Christmas. A great destination to take in the sights, sounds and tastes of Christmas.
Leeds - Christskindelmarkt
Leeds' traditional German market, Christkindelmarkt, brings a taste of Germany to Leeds. With the authentic wooden chalets, Christmas carousel ride and a range of festive treats. This seasonal event is not to be missed.
Experience a truly festive time in Lincoln this Christmas time. The gothic cathedral provides the perfect backdrop and with over 200 stalls to browse around, you will not be disappointed with this traditional Christmas fair.
The Scottish capitals' Christmas event does not disappoint, with traditional wooden stalls, rides for the whole family and atmospheric ice rink. The perfect place to get you in the seasonal spirit.
Located in the centre of Bath, amid stunning architecture, this famous Market is a great way to immerse yourself in the Christmas Spirit. With a picture perfect backdrop of Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths there are around 120 chalet stalls with a great selection of fantastic gift ideas, locally produced food and drink - you will be spoilt for choice when finding that unique Christmas gift.
Set in the Old Quarter, Christmas is a fabulous time to visit this quaint German town. Beautifully decorated with twinkling Christmas lights, Rüdesheim is the perfect destination where you'll find a market consisting of 120 stalls selling a large collection of food and gifts perfect for that unique Christmas present.
Valkenburg Velvet Caves
One of the most popular destinations in Europe at this time of year, the Valkenburg Christmas Markets are unique for one reason – they are held in an underground network of caves! The caves are full to bursting of stalls selling gifts and food perfect for a great Christmas present. The caves are also beautifully decorated with impressive mural paintings, twinkling lights and sculptures.
As the largest market in Belgium, it has over 240 stalls full of handmade crafts, unusual stocking fillers and speciality food and drink. Located in the heart of Europe, Brussels rises to the festive occasion with a beautifully decorated Town Hall and Guild Houses – adding up to the perfect pre-Christmas getaway!