From the 1st of November, we’re officially in the lead up to Christmas. All the coffee shops have launched their Christmas cups, searches for Mariah Carey’s smash hit are starting to rise – and it’s high time to start planning your Christmas market visits. Winter wonderland may be a safe, local option, but if you’re in the mood for a weekend Christmas trip, here’s five of the best Christmas markets in Europe. <br> <br>
While Gothenburg isn’t quite close enough to the North Pole to argue that this is where Santa lives, the Christmas market may make you believe. Theme park Liseberg (allegedly the best in Northern Europe – and well worth a visit in the summer as well!) transforms into a high-quality Christmas market from the end of November, with plenty to do for the whole family. Some of the attractions are open for business, and there’s plenty of market stalls serving mulled wine – or as the locals call it, glogg. Unlike most Christmas markets, there’s an entry fee of £30-£40 depending on which day you go, but it’s well worth it for the market, Santa’s workshop and the half hour ice show you can catch at various points throughout the day. And children under 3’7” go free, so make sure they’re not wearing their tallest shoes! <br> <br> The market is on from the 19th of November 19 until the 30th of December. You can fly direct from London from about £105, and rooms at Clarion Hotel Post, right in the city centre, start from £115 per night. <br> <br>
For a more romantic Christmas mood, head to Bruges. Although a beautiful city all year round, something happens in December, and the city comes to life. With dual Christmas markets in the city centre, you’ll be sure to find everything you need. Starting at Simon Stevinplein square, you can follow the Light Experience Trail with its light installations guiding you along a route past all the sights of the city, and ending up at Markt square. Once there, the next stop is the romantic ice rink, with its twinkling Christmas lights. If you feel the need to warm up with some mulled wine, you’ll want to ask for gluhwein. <br> <br> The markets are open from the 25th of November until the 8th of January. The easiest way to get there is to fly to Brussels, with tickets from Manchester starting from £49 in December. From there, it’s a short train ride of about an hour to Bruges for about €17. Hotel Karel de Stoute is a cosy, historic building right in the city centre with rooms starting from £198 per night. <br> <br>
Can the Christmas market in Krakow really be called a Christmas market, when it’s more like the entire city transforms into a Christmas wonderland? The main market is in 13th century square Rynek Glowny, but it spans the entire Old Town, including the renaissance building Sukiennice, or Cloth Hall. In here, lights hang from the arched ceilings, making the experience one of a kind. Don’t miss the rest of the candlelit churches and galleries, either. Eastern Europe do hearty food very well, so make sure you’re sampling the local delicacies. Oscypek, smoked goats cheese, is a local favourite, especially washed down with one of the many flavoured vodka drinks on offer.
<br> <br> The markets are on from the 25th of November to the 26th of December, although some of them then roll into the Roman Catholic Epiphany festival until the 2nd of January. You can get to Krakow from London from £107, and rooms at PURO Kraków Kazimierz in the Old Town start from £79. <br> <br>
For an immersive medieval experience, the Christmas market in Esslingen, Germany, is a must-see. Though the city itself is quite small, the Christmas market is well worth a mention. Locals dress up in medieval grab, and street entertainers like fire breathers and stilt walkers give the markets an almost circus-like flair. The market stalls also retain a touch of the medieval, with most items for sale made by craftsmen in the same way they would have been in the middle ages. If your main goal is finding unique Christmas gifts, this market is the one for you!
<br> <br> The market is on from November 22nd to December 22nd. To get there, head to Stuttgart – tickets from London start from about £178 – and then hop onto a train from there. It won’t take more than 17 minutes, and costs €6.20. For more choice in hotels, you may want to stay in Stuttgart – for example, rooms at the Maritim hotel Stuttgart with its three restaurants and a spa start from £243 per night.
Strasbourg has been called the Christmas capital of France, with the entire city transforming into a real-life nativity scene during December. Its over 300 market stalls mainly sell items from independent producers, like hand painted wooden ornaments. The Market of Independent Producers of Alsace is a good place to start. Don’t miss out on local delicacies like sausages and kugelhopf, which is similar to Bundt cake – being right on the border, the region tends to mix both French and German traditions. <br> <br> The market is on from the 25th of November until the 26th of December. To get there, fly to either Stuttgart or Paris, and get the train from there. Both trains will take just under two hours, and cost around £25. Once you get there, check into the Garrigae Villa La Florangerie hotel, with rooms available from £279 in December. <br> <br>