There’s few better ways to spend a weekend in the build up to festive period than strolling through a Christmas market. Originating in Germany and Austria, the Christmas market is now a popular tradition throughout Britain, as well as Europe. They have become synonymous with the most wonderful time of the year, evoking a festive spirit in visitors and celebrating everything about the holiday season.
They offer traditional delights for the senses: the sights, sounds, aromas, and tastes of Christmas are all there and provide a truly festive atmosphere. Best of all, each market reflects the local specialities and culture of the region, providing the perfect alternative to high street shopping.
From Germany to New York, we have compiled a list of our top 5 Christmas markets around the world. So, don your Santa hat, dust off the mulled wine glass and head off to a magical winter wonderland.
1: Cologne, Germany
Every year, the city of Cologne comes alive with the magic of Christmas. With not one but seven Christmas markets throughout the city from the 23rd November to 23rd December, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Head to the cobbled streets in the heart of the old town to enjoy the traditional Alter Markt, which is outside the Old Town Hall, where children in particular will find their Christmas fairy tale with Santa’s grotto, a puppet theatre and plenty of toy stalls providing endless fun and entertainment.
There’s also the market in front of Cologne’s impressive Cathedral, with the largest Christmas Tree in Rhineland. Here you can enjoy the ‘Original Christmas mulled wine’ as you watch artisans work and enjoy sampling the local delicacies on offer.
No visit to Cologne would be complete without a trip to the Angel’s Christmas market, which is the oldest in Cologne. Visitors will be enchanted by the charming chalets and the Yuletide splendor, with angels floating through the streets, sprinkling glitter and spreading Christmas cheer.
2: Copenhagen, Denmark
In the heart of winter, the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen come alive with decorations and illuminations. With a vast Christmas Grotto and market from the 14th November to 3rd January, the atmosphere at Tivoli feels truly Christmassy.
Based in the centre of the capital, the whole park is decked out in thousands of fairy lights and there’s Father Christmas and his reindeer waiting to for you to visit them. The gardens also offer an ice rink, rollercoaster and theme park rides, which makes this a must for all visitors, young or old.
3: Manchester, United Kingdom
With over 300 stalls, the Manchester Christmas market is a uniquely international event. Wander through the chalet-lined streets, enjoy food and drink from all over Europe, and pick up some hand crafted Yuletide gifts. The market trail winds its way through the heart of the city, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere of the festive period with a Mancunian twist.
4: Stockholm, Sweden
If you’re looking to enjoy a traditional Scandinavian Christmas, then Stockholm has everything you could want. For a genuine Swedish Christmas, the market in the heart of the Old Town, located in Stortorget Square, is a must. From the 21st November until the 23rd December, the square is filled with little red stalls selling Christmas treats, Swedish delicacies and much more. Drink glögg (mulled wine) and eat ginger bread in this picture perfect Christmas scene.
Alternatively, head to Skansen’s Christmas market, which has been held annually since 1903. Here you can discover festive traditions at Skansen’s historic houses and farmsteads; enjoy the beautiful music and singing of the choirs, as they perform throughout the market; and look out for traditional Christmas ornaments and Swedish crafts.
5: New York, USA
Few nations embrace the holiday season with as much enthusiasm as Americans, and New York is no exception. From the end of Thanksgiving until Christmas time, the city brims with festive markets.
Lose yourself for hours in amongst the stalls at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market in Central Park. Or if you’re looking to work up an appetite before hitting the food stalls, head to the Winter Village at Bryant Park. With a free outdoor ice-skating rink to enjoy, along with holiday shops selling a variety of treats, you can be sure to find a hot drink to warm up with after skating.
For the best of New York’s street fairs, head to the Union Square Holiday Market. With more than 150 local and national vendors selling an impressive selection of handcrafted gifts, this is certainly worth braving the cold for.
Will you be heading to any of these fantastic Christmas markets this festive season?