Some of the best Christmas markets in the world are in Europe. Where better to go for a relaxing break and to take advantage of the opportunity to buy gifts, presents and decorations that are a bit different from those that you can find in your home town. Look out for local and home-made products that will bring a smile from your loved ones when they open them on Christmas Day. Something that can’t necessarily be picked up online that will evoke the sense of the holiday season.
It’s a good idea to book early to get the best deals available and there are plenty of Christmas market breaks that include a hotel stay with breakfast, transport to and from each Christmas market plus an all-inclusive itinerary for your enjoyment. Choose from destinations that include Tallinn, Bruges and Budapest. Here are a couple of our best recommendations:
Lithuania may not immediately spring to mind as a destination for a Christmas market but Vilnius has become renowned for holding one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius boasts some of the most exquisite examples of Baroque period architecture. Discover the historic landmarks and countless churches of the medieval Old Town which looks especially festive in the months leading up to and beyond Christmas. Cathedral Square features the largest Christmas market in the city and a beautiful giant Christmas tree. Stroll around the square with a glass of mulled wine or a cup of hot chocolate and admire the decorated wooden chalets. Stop at one and buy some of the delicious homemade local foodstuffs, such as cheeses, preserves and sweet pastries.
There is another Christmas market located near Vilnius Town Hall which is smaller and more modern with stunning glass igloos. A good way to see everything that Vilnius has to offer is to hop on the Christmas train, which leaves every half hour, stopping at the best-decorated locations throughout the city centre.
Situated on river Daugava near the Baltic Sea, Riga is the capital city of country of Latvia. The most popular Christmas market is at Dome Square (Doma laukums) in the middle of Riga Old Town. According to Latvians, Riga was the site of the world’s first decorated Christmas tree. Men of the local merchants’ guild decorated a tree with artificial roses, danced around it in the marketplace and then set fire to it. The legend is kept alive each year in the town square, where an illuminated tree stands at the heart of Riga’s Old Town Christmas Market. Today a commemorative monument marks the approximate spot in Town Hall Square, just outside the House of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads where the first Yuletide tree originated.
Wander through the streets of Riga taking in the sights and smells, including the sweet odour of mulled wine, roasted nuts, glazed gingerbread and local handcrafts. There are various concerts and workshops taking place each day, not forgetting Santa Claus, of course, who will be there to welcome the children.
The magic of taking a short break and visiting a European Christmas Market cannot be underestimated and is something that definitely arouses the Christmas spirit. It is the quickest way to get into the festive mood, especially if it snows.
Many of the Christmas markets include concerts, ballets and live festive performances that display the local way of celebrating, and if you’re lucky you might find an ice rink! Don’t forget to pick up a bauble, ornament or topper to hang on your own Christmas tree that will remind you of your special trip.