Christmas markets 2017: the best cities to visit this festive season
When you think of Christmas markets, which cities immediately pop into your mind? Berlin, perhaps? Munich?
While the German Christmas markets are legendary and well worth visiting, there are other, equally magical ones in cities you may not have considered.
This festive season, Jet2CityBreaks offers its biggest ever choice of Christmas Markets destinations. Here are our favourites...
Vienna is at its loveliest in winter, a light dusting of snow adding festive perfection to the grand buildings and enchanting illuminations in its parks and squares. With a Christkindlmarkt tradition dating back to the 1200s, there are 10 markets to choose from, including: atmospheric cobbled Spittelberg for ceramics, silver and glass; upmarket Schönbrunn Palace for artisan candles, woodwork and stone; cosy Altwiener Christkindlmarkt for handmade arts and crafts; and tourist favourite Rathausplatz in front of the town hall for traditional Christmas cheer.
It's all very hygge (cosy) in Copenhagen's Scandi-wonderland Christmas markets. Tivoli Gardens morphs into a vast Santa's grotto with traditional market and food stalls, fairground rides, ice rink, decorated wooden houses, real reindeer, and elves. All along the pretty old harbour at Nyhavn you'll find traditional craftwork stalls, cosy eateries and lashings of glogg (mulled wine). Head to psychedelic Freetown Christiania's Yuletide bazaar for a more 'hippy' Christmas experience.
It's not just Europeans who know how to see in the Christmas season in style. A trip to NYC's holiday markets will show you a slice of the Big Apple you've probably not seen before. Check out: the magnificent Grand Central Holiday Fair & Food Court for gifts for the whole family – including the dog; the fashion and cosmetics boutiques at Bryant Park's Winter Village; Union Square Holiday Market for handmade gifts – leather, glass, jewellery and knitwear, with a side order of German mulled cider and lebkuchen; and the elegant Columbus Circle Holiday Market in Central Park for artisan crafts and delicious festive eats.
You're pretty much guaranteed a winter wonderland in Krakow when snow blankets the magnificent Baroque and Gothic buildings. Find the wooden-stalled Christmas market on Rynek Glowny, the vast town square, backdropped by the imposing, ancient Cloth Hall. While you're there, don't miss the 'Szopki' entries in the handmade Christmas crib competition, displayed on the first Thursday in December, and afterwards in the Historical Museum. Browse Rynek for jewellery, handicrafts, woollens and decorations, then take a break to enjoy the festive street musicians and entertainers. Revive yourself with the local speciality of cheese and cranberry dumplings, sausages, and perhaps a little cherry vodka to keep out the chill.
What could be more festive than Christmas shopping in Good King Wenceslas's birthplace? Prague's Christmas market stalls set up across the city: in the medieval Old Town Square, beside Prague Castle, on Kampa Island and, rather fittingly, on Wenceslas Square. City-wide nativity scenes are stage set and some feature friendly farm animals. You'll find traditional Bohemian crafts – hand-blown glass, wooden toys, and woven straw or maize decorations. There are lots of festive foods to munch as you listen to the carol singing – sausages, trdelnik (a charcoal-grilled sweet pastry) warming honey liqueur, and of course the famous Czech beers.
Budapest's biggest Christmas market appears as a twinkling village of over 100 little decorated wooden cottage stalls in Vörösmarty square. Each Christmassy cottage sells something lovely – authentically handmade chocolates, gingerbread, knitwear, music boxes, furry hats and traditional handicrafts. Puppets are big in Budapest, in the pop-up puppet theatres and to buy as gifts. There's plenty of folk dancing, live music and street food. Grab a raspberry schnapps punch, a bread bowl of warming goulash and absorb some festive Magyar culture.
At any time of year, mountainous Salzburg resembles a Baroque fairytale illustration, and even more so in the frost and snow, with the sweet scents of cinnamon apples and roasted almonds perfuming the crisp air. From the 15th century, Salzburg's Christmas markets have appeared in the Cathedral Square, the Hellbrunn Palace and the Hohensalzburg Fortress, and they are much more than just market stalls. With Salzburg's musical heritage ranging from Mozart to the writer of Silent Night, expect a variety of unique cultural events – brass bands, song, dance and the jolting, folkloric appearances of Krampus and Perchten creatures to chase away winter's evil spirits.
It's hard to think of a more imposing backdrop to a Christmas market than Gaudi's magnificent Sagrada Familia, and this is where you'll find one of Barcelona's biggest. An older Christmas market, dating from 1786, is the Fira de Santa Llúcia and you'll find that outside Barcelona's other cathedral. You can buy decorations, poinsettias and Christmas trees, and you'll quickly discover a few odd Catalan Christmas traditions including the 'caga tió' - a log that poops presents when it's beaten (yes, really). You have been warned.
Fly to Vienna, Copenhagen, New York, Krakow, Prague, Budapest, Barcelona, Berlin, Munich and Salzburg for your Christmas markets experience with Jet2CityBreaks. Packages include flights and three nights' hotel in the city of your choice. With great flight times and a selection of amazing 3-5* hotels to make your Christmas market break perfect, now's the time to visit one of these stunning cities.
Book now and save £200 per couple with Jet2CityBreaks (terms and conditions apply). You can book your holiday with just a £60 deposit per person (and zero credit card fees) with 22kg of luggage included in the price too. ATOL and ABTA protected.