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Christmas markets

One of the absolute nicest things you can do when December arrives is visit a Christmas market. We get to warm cold hands around a steaming cup of mulled wine, and get into the festive spirit while doing a bit of shopping.

There is any number of so-called German markets popping up across the UK, but they pail into insignificance when compared with the show stoppers that our international cousins throw. Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the best Christmas markets.

Berlin

Berlin Xmas market

(Image scource: germany-christmas-market.org.uk)

You'd expect the Germans to put on a good German market, naturally, but the one at Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche is widely touted as among the very best. Though there are phenomenal markets in Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Cologne, Time Out magazine goes so far as to claim that Berlin is 'the capital of the Traditional Christmas market'. This one is the most popular, welcoming two million visitors to its 170 stalls and promising that from within them, you'll find a present for everyone. Expect to find hand-crafted jewellery, artwork and pretty decorations. As for refreshments, if mulled wine isn't your thing, then go for the famous cocoa and sweet, roasted almonds.


Prague

Prague Christmas Market

(Image source: myczechrepublic.com)

Pretty at any time of the year, Prague's Wenceslas Square seem to come alive in December. Along with the usual wooden hut stalls, you can go for horse-drawn coach rides or listen to live entertainment as choirs, schools and ensembles perform. Food is more popular than gifts at this market and visitors should make sure they try the hot honey mead-like drink and a sweet trdelnik pastry which is wrapped around a stick and cooked over flames. That's not to say that you won't find anything nice among the handicrafts, metalwork, ornaments and embroidered lace that are on offer. The focus of the market is the huge tree which dominates the square. Make sure you arrive just before 5pm each evening to watch the lights being switched on.

Budapest

Budapest Christmas Market

(Image source: budapestchristmas.com)

The market at Vörösmarty tér, on the Pest side of the river, usually kicks off in mid-November. Perhaps unlike many other Christmas markets, all the items on sale here have been certified as traditionally handmade by a professional jury. As such, you'll find all sorts of local crafts in addition to some incredible food and drink - if you like your sausages, then you're in for a treat!

The market is situated close to Budapest's shopping district and the nostalgics amongst you can pop into C&A beforehand. One of the things you must do when at Vörösmarty tér is to watch the Christmas lights projected on the iconic Café Gerbeaud. If your budget stretches, pop in for some chocolates afterwards.

 

Stockholm

 Stockholm Christmas Market

(Image source: wikipedia.org)

Located in Stortorget in the Old Town, Stockholm's Christmas market is almost 100 years old and features little red huts which sell all sorts of culinary delights. In addition to gingerbread and saffron buns, you can find reindeer, elk and glögg. Visitors are treated to numerous musical performances while they peruse strictly Swedish-made items including glass and pottery.

The market might be small, but it guarantees a 'genuine' experience. For something a bit bigger, the nearby Gamla Stan is the more popular - and busy - choice.

Chicago

Chicago Christmas Market

(Image source: christkindlmarket.com)

If you fancy something a little more long-haul, then you'll find many Christmas markets across the Atlantic in the USA. Many - including this one in snowy Chicago - are based on the Christkindlsmarket in Nuremberg, hence they have a heavily-German feel to them. Located on Daley Plaza, this 'unique shopping experience' is a Chicago institution and one of the city's most loved winter attractions. It boasts a plethora of German sausages among the 70 different types of food on sale, not to mention the authentic cuckoo clocks, wood carvings and glass goods on display.

It might seem a bit far to go for a German market, but Chicago is a great city for shopping and sightseeing. Go on the right day and you could see the Christkind himself visiting the market.

 

Barcelona

Barcelona Christmas market

(Image source: barcelonablog.net)

The Fira de Santa Llúcia Christmas fair in Avinguda de la Catedral is a very 'Spanish' market; you won't find mulled wine and German sausages here. Instead, you will find Christmas trees, mistletoe, poinsettias and decorations at this 228-year old market. You'll also find artisan goods such as leather goods, toys and nativity figurines. One of the most popular nativity figures on sale is - unbelievably - the caganer (or 'crapper') which...well, let's just say it's squatting and leave it at that. There is usually a life-size nativity scene (watch your step for the caganer), musical parades and exhibitions of Catalan Christmas traditions.

If the markets of Winchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh don't float your boat this year, why not venture that bit further afield and try one of these spectacular Christmas markets instead?