As much as d love holidays in the sun, there is something very cosy and ‘hygge’ about winter holidays. Over the last few years Gibraltar has definitely upped its Christmas market game, and we’re never far from getting some warm chestnuts (or castañas). ûhat being said, it’s always nice to have a change of scenery and immerse yourself in different traditions and their local treats. So here are five Quropean destinations to consider visiting this Christmas period.
1. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is probably one of the cutest and most quaint places I have visited. The main square is filled with colourful gingerbread looking houses, and if you like your dairy products you will appreciate all the chocolate and cheese shops dotted around (and the free samples). This year the Christmas markets run from 26th November to 9th January and will be located at the Markt and Simon Stevinplein in the city centre. If you’re a fan of cherry products, then I recommend you try Kriek – their cherry infused local beer. Which is actually more popular than regular beer in some areas! If you’d like something a bit more filling, make sure to try a Belgian waffle with warm cherries on top.
On your trip to Bruges, also make sure to check out the Choco-Story museum, or the Frietmuseum if you want to find out more about the history of chips. We actually learnt that ‘french fries’ actually originated in Belgium, and not France. Another interesting site to see is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, with the main point of interest here being a relic of the Holy Blood allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land. If you want to get inspired, watch the film ‘In Bruges’ starring Colin Farrel before your trip.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is full of buzzing markets throughout the city, the biggest one probably being in Nyhaven Harbour. Here you can get everything from flavoured fudge, waffles on a stick, chocolate tools and lots of personalised gifts. You then also have the Christian Andersen market that can be found in Nytorv, where each stall is named after one of his fairytales, including The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling. The most impressive of them all is in Tivoli, which is the second oldest theme park in Europe and costs £20 to enter. Here you can see great sculptures and gardens, try Danish yuletide and glogg. The Christmas markets run from the 16th to the 22nd December.
If you want to visit a unique place in Copenhagen whilst on your trip, head to the commune of Christiania. Give it a Google to find out more about what makes this place so interesting!
3. Frankfurt, Germany
It wouldn’t be a proper list without including the home of bratwurst sausages. In terms of visitors and the size of it, the Frankfurt Christmas Market is one of the largest and oldest Christmas markets in the whole of Germany. It is complete with elaborate decorations, scenic surroundings
from the Romerberg and St Paul’s Square combined with the huge Christmas tree at the market. If you’re a foodie like myself then don’t just come here for the sausages, you can also have a helping of pretzels, berliners and gluhwein. Some stalls also sell local craft beer and hot apple wine. This year the Christmas Market runs from 22nd November – 22nd December.
4. Seville, Spain
If you want all that comes with the festive markets without the freezing temperatures, then Seville will be a good option. It also means you won’t have to catch a flight (or take a PCR covid test) and can be there in 2 and a half hours.
There are a number of markets in Seville ranging from typical ones to ones that specialise in art created by Spanish artists in the Plaza Nueva, including pottery, paintings and wooden toys. There are also two combined markets in the Alameda de Hercules that feature a range of attractions and special performances for the whole family – including ice skating and performances by disney characters. These markets usually run up until the 5th of January as in Spain the day of the 3 Kings is even more celebrated than Christmas Day itself. If you’re spending a weekend in Seville make sure to also check out the Royal Alcazar Palace, which Game of Thrones fans might recognise as the filming location for the Kingdom of Dorne.
5. Budapest, Hungary
Last on the list is the beautiful Hungarian capital of Budapest. This is a place I’ve only visited in the summer months, but have heard from friends it is just as beautiful in the winter. The two main markets in Budapest are located in the Vorosmarty Square and at the Budapest Basilica Christmas Fair. At the Basilica fair you not only find the usual food stalls and handmade gifts, but there is also a Christmas laser projection show. Make sure to try their famous chimney cakes known as ‘Kurtoskalacs’, or warm up with a warm bowl of Goulash stew!
Aside from the Christmas markets, make sure to visit some of the ruin bars around the city, visit the House of Terror and take a boat along the river Danube at night to get the best views of the Hungarian Parliament Building. Just make sure to bring plenty of layers of clothing, and gloves! The dates planned for the Budapest Christmas Market are 19th November to 31st December.
Most of these cities are doable in 2-3 days, so you won’t have to take a lot of time off work to visit. Remember to check reopen.eu if you are planning on visiting one of these locations to see any updates on entry restrictions relating to covid.