Discover 5 top European Christmas markets in 2019

Experience magical sights and sounds this festive season

Marcus Webb – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Marcus Webb | Independent Money Mentor

Editor of Delayed Gratification and independent journalist

Nothing brings the seasonal glow quite like a Christmas market. Whether you’re looking for festive food, unique decorations, stocking fillers like no other or just want to throw yourself into another country’s traditions, you can find all you want for Christmas at one of Europe’s markets. Here’s our pick of 2019’s very best. 

1. Bath

28 November to 15 December 2019

With its Georgian architecture, cobbled streets and twinkling lights, Bath starts to feel Christmassy from the moment the clocks go back. But come 28 November things really kick up a festive gear when wooden chalets and the smell of mulled wine fill the courtyard between the imposing Abbey and the perma-steaming Roman Baths. Since 2018 the market is bigger than ever, having expanded up Milson Street, the city’s main thoroughfare.

2. Cologne

25 November to 23 December 2019

From the last Monday before Advent, Cologne becomes a whirlwind of lights, cinnamon-scented steam and rosy-cheeked locals and tourists as it turns into Christmas city with its famous buden (huts).  

There are seven separate Christmas markets in Cologne: the oldest, the Markt der Engel (Angel Market), is a joyous festival-like affair that takes over Neumarkt, the city’s main shopping square, while the biggest, in the Roncalliplatz opposite the famous Cathedral, attracts 4 million visitors. With people more interested in eating, drinking and socialising than actually buying anything, it harks back to a time when Christmas was to be celebrated, not just consumed.

3. Copenhagen

16 November to 22 December 2019

For those sick of their dreams of a white Christmas being dashed by uncooperative cold fronts, Copenhagen is the place to get your Yuletide kicks. The city is a snowy wonderland come mid-November, when the central Tivoli Gardens are transformed into a Christmas grotto inhabited by hundreds of nisser (Danish Christmas pixies). 

Food and drink highlights among the 60 cosy booths include flæskesteg (roast pork) and gløgg, the Danish take on mulled wine which sees red vino, brandy and sherry warmed up with cloves and cinnamon before being served with slivered almonds and raisins. There are also stalls selling impeccably cool Scandinavian decorations, an ice rink and even a rollercoaster (which is best enjoyed pre-gløgg). This year’s highlight promises to be a special ballet performance of the Nutcracker, with the set and costume designed by Denmark’s Queen Margrethe.

4. Prague

30 November 2019 to 6 January 2020

Held on Wenceslas Square (as in Good King…), Prague’s Christmas credentials are second to none. The setting is about more than name-dropping though, since this is a beautiful corner of the city and throughout the market the stunning architecture is illuminated by a dazzling light display. 

Stalls are geared more towards food and drink than gifts and decoration, with tubs of carp – a traditional Czech Christmas dish – being pored over by locals and given a wide berth by most tourists. The steaming mugs of grog and honey appeal to both groups though, and may be responsible for the gusto of the Czech carols which can be heard echoing around the square. Children aren’t forgotten either, with a mini zoo and creative workshops also among the attractions and (as this year the market runs until January) New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

5. Vienna, Austria

16 November to 24 December 2019

Vienna throws itself into Christmas with all the enthusiasm of a particularly excitable elf. The city has more than 20 Christmas markets to choose from, making it one of the few cities where you can pull off a legitimate Christmas crawl. 

The star of the lot is the Wiener Weihnachtstraum Christkindlmarkt, which holds court on Rathausplatz in front of City Hall from 16 November. There are over 150 stalls, a reindeer train and a gigantic 3,000m² fairytale ice rink. It’s music that really makes a Viennese Christmas special though, and with gospel choirs in the squares and candlelight concerts in the surrounding buildings you can feast on the food of love.      

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