If you’re looking to really embrace the holiday spirit this Christmas, there’s no better way to get your festive fix than by visiting one of the many excellent Christmas markets on offer around Europe in November and December.
With many destinations easily accessible through low-cost airlines, economical train offers and inexpensive river cruises, it couldn’t be easier to lose yourself in the frosty delights of the traditional Christmas market.
Below we have taken a closer look at four of the best Christmas markets on offer this season.
26 November – 24 December 2015
As the oldest Christmas market in Germany (it’s been going since 1434), Dresden market — or Striezelmarkt as it is known locally — has a long history in offering shoppers a fantastic seasonal experience. The glittering lights, mulled wine and traditional German baking will help visitors to lose themselves in Dresden’s baroque centre, but you will always have the world’s tallest Nutcracker as a landmark to find your way again. On 5 December, Dresden’s Stollenfest takes place, where you can sample a piece of a four-ton stollen cake that is paraded through the streets. Budget German airline Germanwings offers flights from London Heathrow to Dresden from around £130.
27 November – 31 December 2015
Strasbourg’s market was voted ‘Best Christmas Market 2014’ in a European Best Destinations poll. Established in 1577, it is France’s oldest festive market, as well as one of the largest in Europe, with over two million visitors passing through each year. Highlights among the cobbled streets and traditionally timbered houses include a chance to see the Great Tree, which stands at over 100ft tall; miles upon miles of dazzling lights; and a large ice rink in the centre of town. You can enjoy your time in Strasbourg on a relaxing four-day river cruise departing from London from The River Cruise Line. Prices start from £399.
26 November – 13 December 2015
Who says you have to visit the mainland to get the traditional Christmas market experience? Bath’s elegant Georgian centre plays host to an excellent market, with the Bath Abbey and Pump Room providing an exceptional setting for the event. As night falls, hundreds of chalet-style wooden stalls set-up shop, all fully stocked with artisan crafts from across the South-West of England. For those seeking the indoor market experience, the Guildhall Market hosts a selection of stalls all selling their own specialised gifts, offering something a bit different to the traditional stalls outside. You can catch the train from many stations around the South of England direct to Bath station, with prices for off-peak tickets beginning at around £15 on thetrainline.com. For stations further afield, you may need to catch a connecting train.
Valkenburg, The Netherlands
13 November to 23 December 2015
If you are looking for something completely different to the traditional Christmas market experience, how does a market in a festive grotto sound? The small Dutch town of Valkenburg plays host to an underground market in its nearby Velvet Cave, which lives up to the name of Santa’s Grotto in the most literal way possible. As well as the many different stores selling seasonal crafts, you can take in the impressive cave murals, sculptures, and the unique 18th-century chapel, which combine to offer you a Christmas market that is quite a bit different to anything else. Any visitors with children will be glad to know that Santa also takes up residency in one of the many nooks of the extensive venue. To get to Valkenburg, you can take the Eurostar from London to Brussels before switching to a Belgian rail train towards the nearby city of Maastricht. From there, Valkenburg is only a short local train ride.