- Prague (December 1st – January 6th)
Prague boasts one of Europe’s most impressive old towns where westerners go to get impressively drunk on beer. Come winter time, the city can also greet you with a more wholesome thing: a Christmas market!
And not one, but two Christmas markets. One is held at Wenceslas Square, named after the patron saint of Bohemia. The other is at the Old Town – as luck would have it, they’re within spitting distance of each other. Get there and enjoy some trdelník, a type of spit cake that’s basically a tube of dough. My editor attests that one filled with Nutella – stuffed trdelniks gained popularity in 2010 – is amazing!
- Brussels (November 30th – January 6th)
If you ever wanted to visit Brussels for reasons that have nothing to do with the EU, here’s one. It’s one of the cities that holds an annual Christmas market, after all! It takes place at the Grand-Place, next to buildings and institutions of various historic importance.
The place is covered with 200 wood chalets and you can probably find mulled wine at more than one. There are ice skating rinks and even a Ferris wheel!
- Vienna (November 17th – December 26th)
Europe capitals can hardly get any older than this. Vienna is the city most associated with operas (which any spy-thriller franchise must visit at least once) and strudels (which we must eat at least once), so it can hardly contain itself without throwing a Christmas market or two.
Vienna Christmas Dream on Rathausplatz the biggest of them all, with 150 stands that line up in front of the city hall. However, it’s only one of the 20(!) pop-up Christmas villages happening in the city. For a taste of something different, try the Art Advent, which takes place on basically the same days and features some more surreal sight.
- Manchester (November 9th – December 22nd)
Manchester, once described as “third world” by world’ leading documentarians at Monty Python, only started hosting its Christmas village 16 years ago. And while the market isn’t old enough to vote, it makes up for it by being voted the best at many a competition.
Once there, you will be greeted with 300 wooden stalls, selling all sorts of handcrafted gifts, from bonsai trees to jewelry. There’s a reason it attracts seven million visitors, you know! And since no Christmas town is complete without a culinary treat, go to Albert Square to try out a variety of European dishes.
- Hamburg (November 26th – December 23rd)
You won’t be saying “bah, humbug” if you visit the Christmas markets in Hamburg! Germans have some serious Christmas traditions, which leads to seriously fun seasonal villages. The biggest one in Hamburg is located in front of the Rathaus – the pleasant German word for “city hall.”
There will be stalls, there will be treats, and all of it will happen under a giant illuminated tree. More than than that, you can expect to see Santa Claus fly over the market at certain times of the day.
- Tallinn (November 17th – January 6th)
We all know that Germans have a lot to do with various Christmas traditions and whatnot, but the first public Christmas tree was unveiled in Tallinn 600 years ago and the Estonians are keeping those traditions going.
Try such seasonal treats as black pudding and sour cabbage. Chase them with hot chocolate or hot wines. It’s one of the coldest Christmas markets you visit, so try and stay warm.
- Nuremberg (November 30th – December 24th)
While Nuremberg is best known for half-forgotten history lesson bits about trials of Nazi war criminals, it has a lot more going for it. For example, Christkindlmarkt is its 400-year-old Christmas market, and it’s probably the biggest and most famous in the world.
It presents its wares on 180 stalls, loaded with strong glühwein, Bratwurst and all sorts of stuff that’s just waiting to become Christmas gifts. Special wardens ensure that none of cheap, factory made stuff makes it to the stalls, so you can expect from prime class things to buy. Make sure they all fit in your carry on!
While Christmas markets do last a month, flight disruptions can still wreck your experience. Flight delays, cancellations or overbookings are all things that will make you wait at the airport instead of walking around in Christmas markets. So don’t let the airlines be the Grinch that steals your Christmas, claim flight compensation! With compensations of up to €600, you might just win yourself a king-sized trdelnik budget!