6 traditional Christmas markets in Europe

By Alison Hall

There’s not much that can beat beat a traditional Christmas market to bring on some early Yuletide cheer. Here are six festive market holidays that offer so much more than just Glühwein and Stollen. Why not pop over for the weekend?


1. Fuschl, Austria

On the shores of Wolfgangsee several villages hold Christmas markets that are every bit as charming as Austria’s larger, better-known markets. Stay in the away-from-it-all village of Fuschl (pictured above) in Austria’s Lake District, just 40 minutes from Salzburg. Head for St. Gilgen with its Baroque-style art or Strobl, where authentic stalls boast original wooden roof-tiles. Another highlight is to take the boat down to St. Wolfgang, with its 20-metre-high floating lantern, and watch the craftsmen at work. The next day why not strike out in snow shoes and explore the 11kms path that leads around the lake.

Copenhagen2. Copenhagen

Lit by thousands of lights, the Tivoli Gardens are home to Copenhagen’s traditional Christmas market (pictured above). Experience the magic of open air ice skating, fuelled by a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine. The city is brimming with ballet and music during December. Try the free Christmas concert given by students of the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music or catch the St. Lucia procession in Tivoli Gardens of 100 young choristers dressed in white and carrying candles. Must–see sites include the Renaissance style King’s Gardens and the Amalienborg Palace, the main residence of the Danish royal family.


3. Salzburg

As one might expect of the home of Mozart, Salzburg (pictured above) is full of music during Advent, when Christmas markets are held in several locations. The Salzburg Advent Singing event with 200 actors in the Great Festival Hall has become quite an institution; take in the carol singing from the cathedral steps daily or the Salzburg Advent brass concerts on Residenz Square on Saturdays; and visit the nativity exhibits in the Residenz courtyard. Don’t leave without seeing Mozart’s birthplace, the setting for The Sound of Music, and the Kollegienkirche, one of the most magnificent Baroque churches in Austria.


4. Lucerne

With its countless fountains, frescoes and towers, the maze of streets in handsome Lucerne’s Old Town (pictured above) is atmospheric at any time of year, but is particularly enchanting in December, when decorations hang from the Renaissance buildings. Besides the two main Christmas markets, the focal point is the Kapellbrücke, a 14th century bridge illustrated with historical Swiss scenes. The city also boasts a Baroque church, the remains of its 14th-century ramparts and a Picasso museum. Highly recommended is the Rigi Royal excursion, a journey by boat, cog railway and cable car into the surrounding mountains for spectacular winter views.


5. Prague

Visitors flock from far and wide to Prague (pictured above) to take in the festive atmosphere of its Christmas Markets in Stáromestské námestí (Old Town Square). Here, with its enormous Christmas tree, thousands of lights illuminate one of the world’s most beautiful meeting places. In between shopping, hunker down in atmospheric coffee shops, or indulge in sweet treats served up by the Choco Café, a chocolate-lover’s paradise. Not to be missed are the splendid views from the imposing hill-top castle complex, , the monumental Charles Bridge lined with Baroque statue-topped parapets, and St. Nicholas Church where the ceiling boasts Europe’s largest fresco.


6. Gothenburg

From the central harbour, a 3km-long Lane of Light guides visitors through Gothenburg (pictured above) along the main boulevard to Liseberg Amusement Park and its famous Christmas market, renowned through Scandinavia. Take in the sound and light show at Götaplatsen cultural square projected onto the façades of imposing buildings, and local choirs singing carols from a tree-shaped stage. Visitors can expect a tempting programme of events in December including recitals and Christmas concerts, as well as additional markets in the city hall, the cobbled Haga District and the landscaped gardens of the Neo-classical Gunnebo House.

All photos courtesy of Inntravel.

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