select - Christmas Markets
Written by Brian Johnston
Nothing encapsulates December’s festive spirit more than Europe’s Christmas markets, where millions of visitors flock to shop for traditional goods, enjoy seasonal food, and listen to choirs sing.
Prague, Czech Republic
Few locations capture the magic of Christmas more than the baroque square in the centre of Prague’s old town, overlooked by towers, turrets, and gargoyles – especially if you’re lucky enough to see it under snow. A giant decorated tree adds sparkle, puppet shows and animals entrance children, and adults can enjoy hot drinks and sugar-coated cakes. Meanwhile, schoolchildren in regional costumes come from across the country and provide traditional songs to serenade the crowd. Magical.
Many people associate Christmas markets with the cold, snowy old towns of central Europe, but warmer climes have their own celebrations. Barcelona’s best market is Fira de Santa Llúcia beneath the splendid façade of the cathedral, where over 300 stalls sell fine artisanal jewellery, leather goods, and toys. (Look out too for joke presents on sale for December 28, Spain’s equivalent of April Fool’s Day.) The market also features parades, musical shows, and kilometres of lighting.
Distance: 4,865 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 25 minutes
Berlin hosts some 60 Christmas markets, attracting four million visitors annually to stalls selling gifts such as music boxes, nutcrackers, and wooden figurines, as well as stomach-warming food such as hot potato cakes, stollen, and steaming hot drinks. The largest is held in the grounds of Charlottenburg Palace, providing a romantic background to light-twinkled festivities, but Potsdamer Platz’s market offers tobogganing and ice skating in a more contemporary setting.
Distance: 4,393 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 35 minutes
The atmospheric Christmas market on the old town’s main square, Stortorget, has been running for a century and is the place to enjoy marzipan, cakes, and traditional Swedish sweets – and perhaps even local delicacies such as dried reindeer and elk meat. Wooden and straw tree decorations, knitwear, and traditional lace and embroidery are all good buys.
Distance: 4,585 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 50 minutes
The oldest and largest of many Christmas markets in the Austrian capital takes prime position under the glorious mock-medieval town hall, where trees are draped in lights and red ribbons. Indulge in sweet pastries such as gingerbread and strudel, hot chestnuts, nutmeg-flavoured macaroons, and hot drinks spiced with cinnamon. It’s also worth hopping on the tram to Schönbrunn Palace, where another notable Christmas market features a baroque backdrop and an enjoyable programme of events aimed at children.
Distance: 3,983 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 10 minutes