As the festive season approaches, cities across Europe convert their town squares and open spaces into traditional alpine villages serving up arts, crafts and Christmas treats. You'd be forgiven for thinking that if you've seen one Christmas market, you've seen them all but we've picked some of the most unique markets in unexpected locations.
From under a bridge to deep inside a cave, these unusual Christmas markets are perfect for seeking out a festive experience like no other. If you're looking for something out of the ordinary this festive season and fancy visiting a Christmas market in an unlikely location, you'll want to head for Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland...
Top ten unique European Christmas markets
Top ten unique European Christmas markets
1 - 23 December 2017
Nestled beneath the impressive Ravenna Gorge viaduct in Germany’s mystical Black Forest, Hochschwarzwald’s Christmas village attracts thousands of visitors each year. The market’s fairytale setting in a deep valley gives it a rustic feel, while the local crafts and entertainment on offer give visitors a taste of the Black Forest – one of Germany’s most popular destinations. The market also offers a dedicated programme for children, making it a great choice for families.
17 November – 23 December 2017
Often touted as the hidden gem of the Netherlands, Valkenburg is a lively village close to Maastricht in the south of the country. Its annual Christmas Market is one of the oldest underground markets in Europe and is held in the cavernous Velvet Cave, located beneath the striking Valkenburg Castle. The Velvet Cave boasts an 18th century chapel, impressive murals and sculptures, creating a unique festive atmosphere in an intimate setting. Valkenburg also holds a Christmas parade through the town.
18 November – 31 December 2017
A famous landmark in the heart of Copenhagen, the Tivoli Gardens amusement park was first opened in 1843 and for the last 23 years has hosted its own annual Christmas market. Starting from mid-November, guests are welcomed on arrival by Father Christmas himself and can enjoy a traditional Alpine village and Christmas market, a reindeer park, a choir procession and festive food and drink – not forgetting the impressive grounds that make Tivoli Gardens so popular year-round.
1 - 15 December 2017
A sleepy town in the east of Bavaria, Vilshofen an der Donau is home to a unique Christmas Market, which is partially located on a ship. The market’s showstopper, the world’s largest wooden nativity scene – which is 20 metres long – is found onboard the boat, while most of the stalls are located on the picturesque riverbank of the Danube. Every year, craftsman and artists from around the Lower Bavaria region flock to the market to present their products and demonstrate their traditional methods.
23 November – 24 December 2017
A novel answer to festivity on the go, one of Switzerland’s most famous Christmas markets is held in Zurich’s main train station. But it’s not just travellers and commuters that add to the bustling atmosphere – with around 150 market stalls, the Zurcher Christkindlimarkt is one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe. At almost 50ft high, the clear focal point of the market is the beautifully ornate Christmas tree, which is decorated with around 7,000 crystals, dazzling thousands of visitors every year.
17 – 19, 24 – 26 and 30 November and 1 – 3, 5 – 10, 12 – 23 and 26 – 30 December 2017
Sweden’s largest Christmas market is found at Liseberg Amusement Park in the country’s second city. Well known for its wooden rollercoasters, the park becomes a winter fairground during the holiday season, welcoming thousands of guests. Visitors can shop for Christmas presents at the traditional Christmas market and enjoy steaming hot chocolate and roasted almonds. Once the shopping is complete, there are several rides to enjoy – adding to the market’s festive atmosphere.
What better location for a Christmas market than Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland and the official hometown of Father Christmas. Santa Claus Village is located within the Arctic Circle and is open year-round, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy Christmas at any time of the year. In the 400 square-metre exhibition, guests can observe Finnish Christmas traditions, while children will love the elves’ toy factory and the Santa Claus photography service. Shoppers can expect a range of products, from local artisan handicrafts to top Finnish design products, which can even be sent from the Santa Claus Main Post Office – making it appear as though they were sent by Father Christmas himself.
1 - 3 and 8 - 10 December 2017
In an astoundingly beautiful ambience in the home of the Prussian Royal family, the Royal Christmas Market in the Hohenzollern Castle is very rightly regarded as one of the most picturesque Christmas markets in Germany. A broad spectrum of exhibitors create a festive delight, to experience, discover and shop. The castle's treasure room, two churches and cellar are open to be explored during festive visits.
30 November – 23 December 2017
An hour north of the Austrian city of Villach, Lake Millstatt (Millstätter See) is a picturesque spot high in the Alps. Surrounded by high snow-capped mountains, the lake’s steep shore gives the area a fjord-like feel. In the winter months, this shoreline plays host to one of Europe’s most unique Christmas markets – Millstatt’s Christbaumwald im See – a floating Christmas terrace on the lake. Located on a pier, this charming market has an intimate festive atmosphere with just a handful of stalls. Visitors can enjoy Glühwein by an open fire, surrounded by Christmas trees and watch the reflection of the Christmas lights on the water.
1 - 2 December 2017
Hosted by restaurant Novikov, Mayfair Christmas Market is a luxury market in Mayfair Place, which is closed off to traffic and offers a line-up of London’s finest retailers and brands, including exciting new jewellery label Olivia & Pearl, Sandy Bay London and Savernake Knives, to name but a few. Father Christmas himself entertains on both days and there's a special guest appearance by Santa’s live reindeer on Saturday. There are pashmina shawls, paintings, men's grooming products and even Christmas trees available at this alternative Christmas market in London.