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Top Holidays

Europe's most magical Christmas Markets

  • Inspiration
  • By Natalie Baker
  • Published 20 October 2023
  • Revised 27 October 2023
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Festive breaks to jingle your bells

As the festive season approaches, it's that time of year when Europe's cobblestone streets come alive with the enchantment of Christmas markets. So, grab your wooly mittens, and let's embark on a yuletide journey through the continent's most delightful bazaars, where twinkling lights, mulled wine, and handcrafted treasures await.

Get merry in Munich

Germany, the birthplace of Christmas markets, hosts one of the country's most beautiful in Munich's Marienplatz. Set against the stunning neo-Gothic town hall, arriving feels like stepping onto the set of a classic Christmas movie – and it really is 'a wonderful life' strolling through the market, where twinkling lights adorn quaint wooden stalls, and the rich scent of cinnamon fills the air. Sip on hot mulled wine, feast on gingerbread hearts, and shop for handcrafted treasures to take home. Don't forget to snap a holiday memento in front of the 80-foot-tall Christmas tree bedecked with a cosmos of tiny bulbs. 

STAY – Mandarin Oriental, Munich 
Having tested the fortitude of your shirt buttons against the onslaught of Bratwurst, the sedate ten-minute stroll back to this grand city centre icon allows you to walk off some of those calories while taking in the effervescent atmosphere of one of Germany's prettiest cities. Plus, the Mandarin Oriental, Munich, will be dressed in its festive best, and even offers a range of speciality dining options to celebrate the season (hello, rooftop Domes).

DO Hop aboard the Christmas tram
Though they run throughout the year, Munich's trams undergo a festive makeover as the Christmas season approaches, and offer a wonderfully cosy way to explore the city. There is a stop just outside Marienplatz, where the market takes place, so you can hop on and off at leisure. 

GET INTO THE SPIRIT –  Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, pickles hidden in your...tree?
Germany is known for its traditional Christmas charms and accompanying centuries-old customs. But one rather unexpected Christmas tradition takes the form of, well, a pickle. Followers of this tradition hide a tiny, green pickle within the branches of their Christmas tree and on Christmas morning, the first child to find the pickle receives an additional gift or the privilege of opening the first present. No one is quite sure where this custom originated, and only a handful of Germans actually adhere to it, but if you can hang a candy cane from your tree, why not have a savoury treat nestle between its branches?

Explore a winter village in Vienna

Vienna's Christmas markets are like stepping into a winter wonderland where time-travel and tummy-filling treats collide. With roots dating back to the Middle Ages, these markets offer charming crafts, delightful decorations, and that unmistakable scent of roasted chestnuts. You can warm your mittens with a mug of Glühwein, groove to live music, or let little ones ride the famous carousel. As for the food, heavenly gingerbread, hearty sausages, and sugary delights are the order of the day – and enough to make anyone renew their commitment to a New Year's diet (but it is Christmas, after all). It doesn't get much better than Weihnachten in Wien: a fairy tale of festivity that'll whisk you into the spirit of the season.

STAY – Rosewood, Vienna
The seasonal cheer extends beyond the city's enchanting markets. With the famous Rathausplatz market a scenic 15-minute walk away, you can fill your day with festive treasures and treats, then retreat to a luxurious haven of comforting opulence. As the city beyond is illuminated with gently glimmering lights and the sounds of Christmas songs drift in on the night air, the Rosewood, Vienna cocoons you against the winter chill while offering gourmet dining and a sumptuous bed to rest your head if you perhaps got a little too merry.

DO Join a Christmas craft workshop
While in Vienna, add a dash of sweetness to your Christmas market adventure by visiting a marzipan workshop. Watch the magic happen as almonds transform into edible art. You might even craft your own marzipan masterpiece to add to your Christmas tree – just don't be surprised if it ends up on your dessert plate instead of the tree.

GET INTO THE SPIRIT – Mind your Ps and Qs, or Krampus will get you...
While light-hearted festive vibes abound, keep an eye out for Krampus – the Austrian 'evil twin' of Santa Claus. This mischievous horned creature roams the streets during the Christmas season, frightening children and even adults with his devilish appearance. But don't worry, he's just here to remind everyone to stay on the nice list! In some towns, you can even catch a 'Krampuslauf' (literally Krampus run), where folks dress up as Krampus and parade through the streets, spreading both cheer and a little fright.

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Stock up on seasonal cheer in Stockholm

The Christmas Markets in Stockholm are your ticket to winter wonder. In the heart of Gamla Stan, the medieval old town, history and merriment unite. Brimming with festive treasures and street vendors peddling yuletide delights, these markets take you back in time to experience a true Nordic fairytale amid the city's atmospheric cobbled streets. Bundle up and wander the labyrinthine alleys, stopping in at one of the many cosy cafes for a spot of fika and let Stockholm's Christmas Markets work their holiday magic.

STAY – Grand Hôtel Stockholm
With the ideal waterfront location, Grand Hôtel Stockholm is within easy reach of many of the city's best-beloved markets, while the stunningly elegant interiors and picturesque river views will have you feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. You'll also have the choice of a variety of bars and restaurants, each of which offers invitingly intimate spaces simply perfect for sharing a special festive meal or raising a glass of bubbly to toast the season of goodwill.

DO – Get your skates on
Whether you're a seasoned skater or a complete novice on the ice, don't miss out on the chance to take part in an age-old Scandinavian tradition. Natural ice rinks spring up all over the city during the first winter months and subsequently come alive with people whizzing around and demonstrating varying degrees of skating prowess. See how your skills fare and work up an appetite for (another) Lussebullar, or saffron bun.

GET INTO THE SPIRIT – Oh Christmas Goat, Oh Christmas Goat
The start of the festive season sees many of us put up a Christmas tree, but in the Swedish town of Gävle (yeah-vleh), locals mark the beginning of the holidays by erecting a giant straw goat. Originating from the Pagan Yule Goat tradition, which figures the goat as a benevolent gift-giver and overseer of preparations, the town then endures a nail-biting wait to see if the goat survives until Christmas, as locals often attempt to burn it down. It's Christmas meets the Wicker Man (though we're not sure about the custom's health and safety credentials...).

Immerse yourself in Milanese traditions

Milan's Christmas markets, like a sprinkle of holiday magic, add extra allure to the city's fashionable charm. These markets, rooted in centuries-old traditions, offer a glimpse into the rich history of Milan. Amidst twinkling lights and festive decorations, you can peruse artisanal crafts, savour the mouthwatering Milanese delicacy of panettone, and sip steaming cups of vin brûlé. Whether you're captivated by the nativity scenes or eager to explore the elegant shops, the markets are a delightful Italian holiday tradition, where an irresistible hum of joyous celebration fills the air.

STAY – Bvlgari Hotel Milano
The Bvlgari Hotel Milano sparkles during the festive season, capturing the magic of the city's Christmas markets and mirroring Milan's iconic glamour. Amid the hustle and bustle, it's a haven of luxury and tranquillity, with sumptuous interiors, delectable dining, and an unfaltering emphasis on bespoke service among the many gifts it offers. Plus, you'll find yourself just a 15-minute walk away from the gorgeous Piazza Duomo, upon which the market unfolds itself.

DO – Make the most of Milan's magnificent shopping opportunities
Spend the day perusing around the spectacular Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, starting with a sweet cappuccino and a flaky cornetto at one of the cafés. Stroll under the magnificent Christmas tree and watch the grand arcade come to life courtesy of its colorful, yet oh-so-tasteful, decorations. Shop for designer gifts, and don't forget to turn a circle on the bull's 'jingle bells' for good luck – a quirky Milanese tradition. As day turns into evening, take delight in an aperitivo at one of the elegant bars, feeling the spirit(s) of the season in this splendid, historic setting. We'll toast to that.

GET INTO THE SPIRIT – Ready, steady, shop!
Milan: a city renowned for its world-class design houses and enviably chic inhabitants. But that's not to say Milan takes itself too seriously to have fun – especially when it comes to Christmas. The season is heralded by the quirky "Feast of Saint Ambrose", which takes place on December 7th. Imagine a day filled with spirited processions, funky flea markets, and vibrant street performances. The highlight? A parade of marathon shoppers sprinting through the streets, hunting for the quirkiest gifts – well, they do take shopping seriously in Italy's second city. In the evening, locals and visitors alike gather to watch the sky alight with a dazzling fireworks display, the perfect end to a day of festive chaos. It's a uniquely Milanese tradition that adds a delightful dose of eccentricity to the already exuberant season. Buon Natale!

Ready to get into the spirit of the season? Call our team of personal travel experts on 0203 816 0985 or enquire online and let’s start planning your perfect festive break (wooly mittens optional).

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