If you're tired of shopping malls and want a more traditional December shopping experience, then Europe's medieval-style Christmas markets capture the festive spirit, as visitors and locals alike browse the stalls, socialise, and enjoy carol singers and buskers under snowy skies.
BudapestIn BUDAPEST'S Vörösmarty Square, Christmas trees hung with red ribbons, fairy lights, and candy in gilded paper illuminate the cityӳ biggest market. Browse for puppets, handicrafts, candles, ornaments for your Christmas tree, and glassware. The smell of roasting chestnuts hangs in the air; a paper bag of hot nuts is just the thing to warm your hands on, while mulled wine will do the same for your insides. You can also indulge in some hearty Hungarian fare such as spicy sausages, grilled meats, and walnut cookies. Carol singers entertain visitors, and there are merry performances of folk dances that keep the crowds in festive good spirits until nightfall. Crowds also gather daily for the opening of another window on the giant Advent calendar that takes up the entire facade of the Gerbeaud building.
One of Europe’s most traditional Christmas markets combines arts and crafts with folk entertainment and dance.
Hungary’s capital and largest city lies on the banks of the River Danube in the country's north.
HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Budapest from January 17, 2011.
NurembergIn 1616 a Nuremberg priest complained that the Christmas market attracted so many people, his church services were barely attended. These days, 2 million visitors flock to Nuremberg’s Christmas market, held in the old town’s main square beneath the walls of the medieval castle. It features some 180 stalls under red-and-white awnings, offering traditional buys such as enamelled music boxes, incense burners, tree decorations, wooden figurines, and nutcrackers. Honey cakes and ‘plum people’ (figurines made from prunes) are a regional speciality. Stollen, a bread-like cake made from candied fruit and nuts and liberally dusted with icing sugar, is the seasonal treat. Live bands and choirs entertain crowds in the evenings, when the market is illuminated with thousands of tiny lights. There is also a children’s market with historic carousels and entertainment.
Nuremberg hosts one of Germany’s most famous, atmospheric, and oldest Christmas markets.
Nuremberg lies in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria, some 170km north of Munich and 227km from Frankfurt.
HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Frankfurt and Munich, both connected by rail to Nuremberg.
CopenhagenCopenhagen’s Christmas market is held in the grounds of the fabled Tivoli Gardens, an historic amusement park decorated for the occasion with fairy lights and pine wreaths. Visitors warm themselves around fire pits as they sip on hot, spiced wine, traditionally accompanied by jam pancakes or apple dumplings. Wooden toys and Royal Copenhagen porcelain make the best buys, while ballet performances and concerts entertain.
Tivoli Gardens provides not just a Christmas market but pantomimes and plays, a skating rink, pony rides, and a wandering Santa Claus.
Copenhagen spreads across the islands of Zealand and Amager in eastern Denmark.
HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways flies from Doha to Copenhagen four times a week.