The best Christmas markets in Europe to taste festive treats and pick up unique gifts

Snow (possibly fake), shopping and a glimpse of Santa? Whats's not to love?

Make the countdown to Christmas truly magical with a weekend away to one of Europe’s best Christmas markets. Filled with lit up Christmas trees, life size nativity scenes, enormous Ferris wheels and mugs of mulled wine, here is our round up of the best Christmas markets to visit this festive season.

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1. Prague Christmas market – best for a rich, historic backdrop

Christmas markets

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What to spot

‘Good’ King Wenceslas of Bohemia once ruled Prague, which today hosts some of the world’s largest Christmas markets. Hub of the festivities is Old Town Square, with its beguiling blend of Gothic, Renaissance and baroque buildings. Choose Bohemia crystal for a special gift, but traditional Czech presents also include blown-glass ornaments, blue-and-white china baubles, handmade straw angels and delicate lace snowflakes.

Feeling frosty? Buy some snug sheepskin slippers and refuel on hot sugary pastries flavoured with almonds or cinnamon. Don’t miss the nativity scene at St Vitus Cathedral and the 16th-century boutiques on Golden Lane, all inside the vast complex of Prague Castle. prague.eu.

Where to stay

The elegant Augustine hotel, 11 minutes from the castle.

Dates

20 November to 24 December 2019

2. Rudesheim Christmas market – best for a rustic setting

christmas market

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What to spot

Enjoy Europe’s largest nativity scene at the Christmas Market of Nations in Rüdesheim on the Rhine. This picture-perfect town hosts around 120 stands from 12 different countries. The cuckoo clock country
is home to Asbach brandy, but for air travellers, a modest crib scene will fit as neatly into the suitcase. Buy priceless ornaments that can be handed down through the generations. Relax with a hot glühwein (mulled wine) and take a cable car ride over the vineyards. ruedesheim.de.

Where to stay

Burg Schwarzenstein hotel enjoys magnificent views over the Rhine Valley countryside.

Dates

25 November to 23 December 2019

3. Salisbury Christmas market – best for local British produce

Christmas markets

Image credit: Salisbury BID

What to spot

Against a backdrop of the historic 18th-century Guildhall, this year’s Christmas market in Salisbury will host more than 40 exhibitors in decorated chalets. Inspired by the best of traditional European markets, Salisbury Christmas Fayre adds its own uniquely British element. Most of the goods on offer are made locally, from designer crafts to festive decorations and speciality foods. Also enjoy mulled wine, continental sausages and gingerbread. salisburychristmasmarket.co.uk.

Where to stay

The Pembroke Arms offers cosy pub accommodation in an old coaching inn.

Dates

30 November to 24 December 2019

4. Budapest Christmas market – best for delectable delights

Christmas market

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What to spot

Quality crafts and local produce are highlights of Budapest’s Christmas market, which lights up the historic centre of Pest each winter. Herend porcelain makes a special gift. For foodies? Hungarian paprika in mild, spicy and smoked varieties will prove popular. Explore the designer shops of Andrassy Avenue and book a tour of the Gothic-style Parliament building. Wander the quaint streets near Matthias Church, with its Art Nouveau interior, then head to one of the city’s famous cafés for a slice of squidgy cake. budapestinfo.hu.

Where to stay

For an ultimate indulgence, head to the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, a Budapest icon.

Dates

23 November to 1 January 2020

5. Lille Christmas market – best for shopping heaven

Christmas markets

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What to spot

Gabled Flemish aspects, picturesque canals and a medieval fortress provide a unique setting for Ghent’s decorated stalls. Look out for unusual gifts in delicate Flanders lace, from table linen to sleepwear and glass baubles filled with lace motifs. Stock up on scrumptious Belgian chocolates in festive packaging. Take the lift up the Belfry for a spectacular city panorama. Ghent has also benefitted from the arrival of several smart boutique hotels, perfect for making a long weekend of it. visitghent.be.

Where to stay

Ghent’s 1898 The Post is a former Gothic post office turned moody boutique hotel.

Dates

22 November to 29 December 2019

6. Ghent Christmas market – best for monumental architecture

Christmas market

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What to spot

Less than 90 minutes by Eurostar from London, Lille’s Christmas festivities occupy the old town’s twin squares. Eighty wooden chalets fill Place Rihour, selling a myriad of festive fare. Nearby in Grand Place, the ornate façade of the Old Stock Exchange overlooks a traditional carousel and big wheel. Browse the city centre boutiques for something special and hop on the metro to Roubaix’s outlet shopping malls. You can also find stylish gifts at La Piscine, the stunning art and industry museum housed in a former Art Deco swimming pool. lilletourism.com.

Where to stay

The smart Clarance Hotel offers classic townhouse lodging in the city’s historic quarter.

Dates

6 December 2019 – 5 January 2020

Related: Everything you need to know about the Country Homes & Interiors Christmas Show

Will you be planning a trip to any of these Christmas markets this December?

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