The festive period is the perfect antidote to the temperature dropping and nights drawing in as autumn turns to winter. What could be cosier, after all, than streets strewn with twinkling lights and glittering decorations?
Preparations start long before the 25 December; the first shops will start doing Christmas deals and selling gifts after Halloween, but you really know Christmas is around the corner when the markets start popping up.
Christmas markets, whether traditional or more modern, are often the defining feature of December in many cities. From Strasbourg to Chicago, the weekends leading up to the big day are dominated by visits to markets and winter villages, tucked up in cosy drinking spots after strolls around log cabins and chalet-style stalls to grab those last-minute presents, and trying to keep warm with some hearty German cuisine or gluhwein.
Whether you’re gift-hunting, day-drinking, going on a wander with the family or simply looking to get in the festive spirit, markets are an often care-free, enjoyable festive experience, and with so much variety across Europe and the rest of the world, a trip to a market abroad is the perfect pre-Christmas getaway. Read on for a selection of the best.
One of the most well-known markets in Germany, Cologne’s Kolner Dom sits in the shadow of the imposing, Unesco-listed Cathedral. The heart of Cologne’s most picturesque market is a giant Christmas tree surrounded by dozens of mini chalets, while the stage is the site of over a hundred performances during the festive season.
There are six other markets in the city, the largest of which is the Henzels Winter Fairytale in the old town. With a more romantic feel than the touristy Kolner Dom, it has an ice rink and larger chalets that serve as drinking holes in between browsing the various handicrafts and gifts.
The best food market – for all sorts of traditional German cuisine and Christmas treats – is at Neumarket, while families will appreciate the child-friendly workshops at the Village of St Nicholas in the aptly named Rudolfplatz.
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