Europes Best Christmas Markets – Pt 2

Christmas Market PragueFollowing on from our Europes Best Christmas Markets – Part 1, here we explore Christmas markets in Munich, Prague and Tallinn.

Munich Christmas Market

The focal point of Munich in December is famous Marienplatz, the heart of the old centre, flanked by the grand neo-gothic town hall and filled with hundreds of stalls in the run-up to Christmas. There are a number of smaller markets dotted around the city, but this is the largest and dates back to the 17th century.

The market is inaugurated on the Friday before the first Advent, when thousands gather in the square to watch the thirty metre-high Christmas tree light up for the first time. Over 140 stalls are set up in the square, selling hand-carved wooden Christmas decorations, glass baubles, jewellery, arts and crafts.

Behind the main market is the Crib Market, where traditional nativity figures from Bavaria and Austria are for sale. It couldn’t be more different than the Oktoberfest if it tried. Every evening at 5.30pm, Alpine choirs and brass bands perform from the Town Hall balcony, while locals stream to the food stalls for an after-work plate of hot potato cakes and a mug of Glühwein. There is a child crèche in the town hall, and the ‘Heavenly Workshop’ is a free area for children to paint, make Christmas cookies and dress up as angels.

Prague Christmas Markets

The Czechs take Christmas seriously, and the capital hosts a number of cultural events, folk displays, concerts and theatre in December. It’s unpronounceable Vanocni trh (or Christmas markets) are fairly low-key and family friendly – there are several dotted around town, and the biggest is held on the busy Old Town Square.

The idyllic Baroque setting of the cobbled square seems perfectly suited to a quaint seasonal market, helped along by the generous layer of snow that visitors should expect at this time of year. A central petting zoo, complete with ponies, goats, sheep and a single folorn-looking lama, is the big attraction for kids.

The rows of colourfully decorated wooden huts stock some attractive hand-made stocking fillers, including the locally made wood-carved puppets, jewellery, toys and candles. You may also find some good deals on Bohemian crystal. A central stage hosts daily carol singers and bands playing seasonal tunes.

Tallinn Christmas Market

What Tallinn’s market lacks in history – it’s only been running since 1991 – it makes up for in atmosphere and romantic appeal. The Christmas market takes place on the ludicrously picturesque Raekoja plats, the Old Town Hall Square, a cobbled expanse dominated by the 15th-centry Town Hall, although all the surrounding buildings are chocolate-box charming.

Given its latitude, you’re almost guaranteed snow here, and while the small market isn’t worth visiting for alone, it adds significantly to the old-fashioned romance of a snow-dusted weekend here. A brightly lit Christmas tree stands above the groups of stalls which line the square, selling a range of Estonian arts and crafts, mulled wine and sausages.

You can pick up some good hand-made, natural, gifts here – such as carved wooden bowls or decorations made from wood and twine. The best buy, though, is the hand-knitted jumpers, socks and bobble-hats, knitted in natural grey, white and beige wool.

Father Christmas arrives in the evenings to pose for photos with children, although the low-key atmosphere probably makes it a better choice for couples. There are several candle-lit restaurants fringing the square, making good refuges if the cold gets too much.

Berlin Christmas Market

As befits a city as modern and edgy as Berlin, the city’s main Christmas market has an altogether more contemporary feel than those in the rest of Germany. There are actually several markets that take place around the city, but the most popular – and most visited, with around four million visitors last year – is the one that takes place around the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche.

The setting itself is interesting, with stalls clustered around the Gedächtniskirche (or Memorial Church) which was hit in a bomb attack in WWII, and left only partly restored as a poignant reminder to the war.

The market isn’t as large as one might expect, with around one hundred stalls, housed in traditional rustic, wooden huts that seem rather out of place in Berlin. There’s the usual array of traditional arts, crafts and Christmas decorations, but the fact that the city is home to some of Europe’s leading cutting-edge artists and designers doesn’t go unnoticed – you should find a good selection of more radical artworks and decorations, as well as an eclectic selection of antique and contemporary jewellery.

Copenhagen Christmas Market

Europe’s oldest amusement park, the Tivoli Gardens, hosts Copenhagen’s annual Christmas market. The setting is out of Hans Christian Andersen, with hundreds of Christmas trees and over half a million lights illuminating the stalls and park.

The main lake is transformed into an outdoor ice skating rink, where visitors can hire skates. There are around 60 colourfully-painted stalls, selling locally produced arts, crafts and decorations, such as Copenhagen porcelain or wooden dolls.

There are plenty of food stalls – the main draw here is glögg, Danish mulled wine mixed with liquor and spices. Hot apple dumplings make for a warming mid-shopping snack. Other attractions include pony rides, a Father Christmas who does the rounds and poses for photos in the ‘leprechaun tent’ – filled, rather bizarrely, with actors dressed as red-clad leprechauns.

This News top secret hotel was added on 04 Nov 2010

easyJet Holidays

easyJet Holidays

Best Rates Guaranteed!

Check-in date

Check-out date

Great Holiday Getaways

Fantastic Last Minute Deals