It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Usually, one of my favourite parts of the festive period is deciding which city to head to for a gluhwein – or two. This year I may be resorting to my own mulled concoctions, but it won’t stop me from reminiscing about, and sharing below, some of my favourite destinations for European Christmas markets. SPOILER ALERT – all of these markets are in either the UK or Germany. Let me know some of your favourite places for European Christmas markets in the comments below!
1) Munich, Germany
Where better to experience traditional European Christmas markets than the capital of Bavaria? Munich has a number of markets dotted across the city, the largest of which sits in the Marienplatz – Munich’s main square as pictured below, which has hosted Christmas markets since the 14th century. With a backdrop of the gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), the location of the ‘Christkindlmarkt Marienplatz’ is certainly wonderful but, in terms of stalls, I prefer the Residenz Christmas Village which is a short walk away from the Marienplatz. This ‘village’ is found in a courtyard of a former royal palace and has a large range of stalls offering food and drink. At the Residenz, the gluhwein is amazing and the knoblauchbrot (garlic bread) is even better.
Check out what else you can get up to while in Munich here.
2) Manchester, UK
In my opinion, Manchester hosts the UK’s best Christmas market. The bulk of the markets are found next to the city’s Town Hall in Albert Square (as pictured below), but I really like that the wooden stalls also trickle into the side streets spawning off of the Square, weaving their way through the city. Each year Manchester seems to achieve a good balance between the stalls offering different crafts and food produce, along with the stalls where visitors can grab freshly made snacks and beverages. There always seems to be the odd offering that isn’t particularly typical of a Christmas Market too, such as the stall trading under the name of ‘Little Spain’, which serves up the most incredible paella.
3) Berlin, Germany
From high-end to low-end, big to small, there certainly is a huge spectrum of different Christmas markets across Berlin. For me, the best market in the German capital is the very beautiful WeihnachtsZauber at Gendermenmarkt. This is quite a ‘luxurious’ market which has some indoor heated restaurant tents, as well as a vast range of stalls offering high quality culinary delicacies. The bacon-topped raclette at one of the stalls was so moreish that I returned immediately for a second portion. WeihnachtsZauber also hosts a constant stream of entertainment, with a programme of choir and musical events unfolding on the stage at the market, resulting in a very packed and atmospheric environment. Alternatively, while still very busy, the Alexanderplatz market in Berlin is a bit more low-key. At the Alexanderplatz you can more easily grab cheaper gluhweins, alcoholic coffees/hot chocolates and snacks, such as kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) loaded with apple sauce.
Check out what else you can get up to while in Berlin here.
4) London, UK
I try to make at least one trip to the South Bank Christmas markets in London every year. I love the location of these markets. Walking along the bank of the River Thames with the twinkling lights, alpine huts and the iconic ‘Big Ben’ backdrop is just beautiful. The markets aren’t particularly great for crafts, but the food and drink provisions are fantastic. There a vast number of stalls offering traditional Christmas market options such as bratwurst (hotdogs), but you can also find stalls specialising in brownies, macaroni cheese and, of course, fish and chips. In terms of other markets in London, I would recommend avoiding Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park. Winter Wonderland is effectively just an area full of festive fairground rides.
Check out what else you can get up to while in London here.
5) Cologne, Germany
I’ve saved my favourite European Christmas market city until last. The Cologne Christmas markets feel like something out of a fairy-tale and could even push Scrooge into embracing the festive spirit. As with most of the other cities I’ve mentioned above, there are a large number of different markets scattered across Cologne city centre. However, as the city is quite small, these all seem to merge into one and so it feels as though the entire city centre has been swallowed up by Christmas. Each market area, however, is completely unique and it is fascinating to explore all of them (and to sample at least one gluhwein at each different market, of course). The Cologne Cathedral market (pictured below) is stunning next to the backdrop of the gothic twin-spires and, combined with the Rhineland’s largest Christmas tree and a range of different festive musical performances, provides for a truly magical Christmas experience.