It’s hard to know what to do when you’re missing that Christmas spirit.
When the twinkly sprinkling of fairy lights around the mantelpiece just aren’t doing it for you this year. When the crackle of the fire just isn’t crackley enough to spark that holiday magic. When hot choco, reindeer pyjamas and Mariah Carey only frustrate you more because “why don’t I have the feeling this year?”.
Good news. We have the answer to all your Yuletide spirit problems. Pack your mittens. Dig your fluffiest coat out from the back of the closet. Grab your passport. You’re going to a Christmas market!
1. Kraków, Poland
What: Main Square Christmas market
Where: Rynek Główny, Kraków, Poland / Google Maps
Open: 29 November to 7 January; 10am to 8pm (food stalls until 10pm)
Hotel: Bonerowski Palace / Świętego Jana 1, Kraków, Poland
Market: The scenic and very charming Rynek Glowny square in the old town makes Krakow one of the best settings for a Christmas market, the largest in Poland. Blacksmiths, jewellers, village artists and plenty of mulled wine, Polish dumplings and children’s choirs make the experience complete. There’s often snow and sub-zero temperatures to add to the wonderful historic setting. Look out for kutia cake, Christmas cheesecake, poppy seed cake and the delicious pierogi dumplings stuffed with wild mushrooms or cabbage. TIME magazine has called it one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Poland’s living traditions are alive and well in the Krakow Christmas market.
Hotel: The five-star Bonerowski Palace, which has origins back to the late 13th century, is situated right there in Rynek Glowny beside the fairy-tale market setting. The hotel is one of the finest examples of mixed Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture in Krakow old town.
2. Barcelona, Spain
What: Fira de Santa Llucia market at Plaza de la Catedral
Where: Av. de la Catedral, Barcelona, Spain / Google Maps
Open: 30 November – 23 December; 10.30am-8.30pm (9.30pm Fri-Sun)
Hotel: Hotel Cram / Carrer d’Aribau 54, Barcelona, Spain
Market: The biggest Christmas market in Barcelona has been taking place for around 225 years in front of the Gothic cathedral. There are a lot of nativity-scene figurines, handmade crafts, zambombas (friction drums), seasonal plants, Christmas trees, and mistletoe. It’s also a good place to buy your Christmas cago tio – a wood log with a friendly face, part of a very quirky Catalan Christmas tradition. There’s no mulled wine and bratwurst like northern European markets, but instead there is a fabulous artesania zone with plenty of handicrafts and gift ideas.
Hotel: This whole Gothic quarter of Barcelona is a wondrous attraction in itself and only a 20 minute scenic walk from the stylish and chic Hotel Cram. The hotel building dates from 1898. It was tastefully restyled in 2014 with a modern interior aesthetic and includes a cocktail lounge and terrace bar. It offers culinary masterclasses inspired by famed chef, Jordi Cruz.
3. Zürich, Switzerland
What: Zurcher Wienachtsdort at Sechselautenplatz
Where: Sechseläutenplatz, Zürich, Switzerland / Google Maps
Open: 21 November to 23 December; 11am-11pm
Hotel: St. Gotthard Hotel / Bahnhofstrasse 87, Zürich, Switzerland
Market: Just steps away from Lake Zurich, the Christmas village at the Opera House is an enchanting experience with around 100 stalls, a Fondue Chalet, an L-shaped ice rink, and even Bavarian curling. The largest Christmas market in Zurich, the stalls here have a lot of modern Swiss-designed products based on upcycling. You can make candles, or sample Peruvian burgers as fairy tale characters walk by on stilts.
Hotel: The four-star Hotel St. Gotthard has a wonderfully central location near Zurich Central Station. From the hotel, which has modern, well-appointed rooms, and three restaurants, it is a scenic 20-minute walk along the Limmat River through the old quarter at Niederdorf to the Christmas market at the Opera House.
4. Paris, France
What: Tuileries Garden Christmas market
Where: Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, France / Google Maps
Open: 15 November – 5 January; 11am-11.45pm; 11am-8pm 25 & 31 Dec
Hotel: Hôtel Château Frontenac / 54 Rue Pierre Charron, Paris, France
Market: Adjacent to the Champs-Elysees, the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas market is full of gift ideas, entertainment, merry-go-round attractions, and delicious French food offerings such as beef bourguignon, veal stew, mussels, all in one of the most beautiful parks in Paris. There are artisan stalls, a maze, Christmas carols an ice skating rink and a Ferris wheel with spectacular views of the Eiffel Tour and central Paris. Hotel: Located nearby, the four star Hotel Château Frontenac is a prestigious and elegant Parisian hotel where palatial splendour goes hand in hand with the ambiance of a comfortable home.
Hotel: Located nearby, the four star Hotel Château Frontenac is a prestigious and elegant Parisian hotel where palatial splendour goes hand in hand with the ambiance of a comfortable home.
5. Copenhagen, Denmark
What: Tivoli Gardens Christmas market
Where: Vesterbrogade 3, København V, Denmark / Google Maps
Open: 16 November to 5 January; 11am-11pm (Fri-Sat to midnight); 110DKK (€15) entry
Hotel: First Hotel Twentyseven / Løngangstræde 27, København, Denmark
Market: The 175-year old theme park comes alike with around 1000 Christmas trees bedecked with fairy lights, making the whole setting look like a fairytale. There’s music in the air and around 60 wooden stalls filled with aromatic Danish treats such as caramelised almonds, aebleskiver and lots of cinnamon-infused mulled wine and many handicrafts and mementoes. It’s best to go after dark when the thousands of Christmas lights make the setting memorable. Santa and his reindeer is there too. You can watch people skating on Kongens Nytorv and walk down Stroget to Radhuspladsen, five minutes from Tivoli.
Hotel: At First Hotel Twentyseven, guest experience Scandinavian design, comfort and hospitality, just three minutes from City Hall Square, Tivoli and Strøget pedestrian street.
6. Rome, Italy
Market: Piazza Navona is said to be the oldest (1860) and certainly the grandest Christmas market in Rome, surrounded by architectural beauty of Bernini’s Quattro Fiumi, Saint Agnese Church, and Palazzo Pamphili. The market is very popular with Romans drawn to the stalls all laid out in a circle with street artists, portrait painters, alongside artisanal crafts, chestnuts, sweets and spices for sale. There are holiday rides for kids such as a big carousel beside the ‘Fountain of the Four Rivers’, live performers and a nativity scene. And there are plenty of restaurants all around the Piazza’s buildings.
Hotel: The Hotel delle Nazioni provides ideal accommodation in the heart of Rome, just a short walk from Trevi Fountain and a scenic 12-minute walk from the Christmas market at Piazza Navona. The hotel is a historic building featuring spacious and elegant rooms enveloped in a quiet, relaxing atmosphere, with bathrooms decorated in marble. There is an intimate roof terrace and acclaimed Mediterranean food in the hotel’s Le Grondici restaurant.
7. London, United Kingdom
What: Winter Wonderland Christmas market
Where: Angel’s Market, Hyde Park, London W2 2UH, United Kingdom / Google Maps
Open: now until 5 Jan; 10am-10pm daily except Christmas Day
Hotel: The Chesterfield Mayfair / 35 Charles St, Mayfair, London W1J 5EB, United Kingdom
Market: This Christmas market has everything: the tallest transportable wheel in the world, ice skating, a Christmas circus, and shows such as Magical Ice Kingdom presents a Christmas Carol, Cirque Berserk, Mr Men and Little Miss. There are plenty of activities for kids including a rope ladder and live handicraft presentations for personalised Christmas gifts. This is a full-on modern Christmas market experience in the heart of London’s West End.
Hotel: The Chesterfield Mayfair has an ideal location minutes from Bond Street, Piccadilly and the Royal Parks. The hotel is known for its themed afternoon teas, molecular cocktails and gin tasting.
8. Stockholm, Sweden
What: Stortoget Square Christmas market
Where: Stortorget 7, Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden / Google Maps
Open: now until 23 December; 11am-6pm
Hotel: First Hotel Reisen / Skeppsbron 12, Stockholm, Sweden
Market: Located right in the heart of the old town (Gamla Stan), Stortoget Square holds the most traditional and famous Christmas market in the Swedish capital. First held in the square in 1837 and held every year since 1915, the lovely, often snowbound market, features little red booths selling elk and reindeer meat, smoked sausages, cheese, gingerbread, glogg (mulled wine) and a variety of local handicrafts. The Royal Palace is nearby. The whole Gamla Stan area is a pedestrian-friendly charm, with winding cobblestone streets, buildings of different colours, and many museums nearby.
Hotel: First Hotel Reisen offers views of the sea and the old town and is a four-minute walk from the Christmas market. The hotel has a sauna, cold plunge pool, fitness room, and provides a modern and pleasing Scandinavian atmosphere. First Hotel Reisen is also known for its hearty breakfasts.
So there you have it. Your “how to” guide on getting that Christmassy feeling, without blowing all your Secret Santa money. It’s a time for giving, that means to yourself too. Go somewhere you’ll remember, that’ll have you decking your insta with “wows” from holi(bops).. Find a gift they’ll never forget. That’s the spirit! *wink*
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