Christmas markets in major European cities that won’t break the bank, from Prague to Seville
For the first time in too many years, the Christmas markets are back in full force. And that means Gluhwein’s heady spices, irresistible pastries, roasting chestnuts, woolen goods and handmade seasonal crafts.
Lots of people are pulling the purse strings this winter, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up the holiday cheer. So here’s our roundup of the best Christmas markets in Europe that won’t break the bank.
Beaming with festive cheer: Gdansk’s Christmas market, above, is brimming with handcrafted gifts. Return flights from London with Ryanair start from £26
Located on the Baltic coast, Gdansk is home to a center with colorful facades and a 17th-century fountain topped by a bronze statue of Neptune. This Christmas market is one of the most attractive in the country and is full of handcrafted gifts.
Strasbourg and Metz tend to take the top spots in France’s Christmas markets, but this smaller one in Lille is still home to 90 chalets selling gifts, decorations and crafts. Wreaths of garlands cover the city. While in the market there are pony rides for children and concerts on Friday evenings.
Above, the Tallinn Christmas Market in the Town Hall Square. Return flights from London with Wizz Air start from £92
You can see Helsinki from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, which overlooks the Baltic. The Christmas Market takes place on the town hall square. But there are plenty of other things to do, including seeing the Kiek in de Kok, a defensive tower, or the display of ecclesiastical art in the 13th-century Church of St. Nicholas.
HOW TO DO: Wizz Air London to Tallinn from £92 return. Double at the Hotel von Stackelberg (www.vonstackelberghotel.com) from £69. The market runs from November 25 to January 8.
GREAT IN BUDAPEST
The largest market in Hungary, that of Budapest, is located on Vorosmarty Square. There are over 100 stalls selling classic Hungarian dishes such as goulash and sausage as well as handicrafts. The town is bursting with Christmas cheer, and more markets can be found under St. Stephen’s Basilica and in Fo Square.
Slovakia’s capital Bratislava is often overlooked, despite its charming 18th-century Old Town, imposing castle and lively bars and cafes. And it’s just over an hour from Vienna by train, for those who also want to visit the Austrian capital.
HOW TO DO: Ryanair London to Bratislava from £67 return. Double at the Radisson Blu Carlton (radisson.com) from £86. The market runs from November 22 to December 22.
CZECH IT OUT
The Prague Christmas Market is held in Old Town Square (pictured). Wizz Air London-Prague costs from £74
Nicknamed “the city of a hundred spires”, Prague is known for its old town with its colorful buildings, its Gothic churches and its medieval astronomical clock. The Christmas market is made up of brightly decorated wooden huts selling many seasonal gifts.
HOW TO DO: Wizz Air London-Prague from £74. Double room at Hotel Grandium Prague (hotel-grandium.cz) from £62 per night. The market runs from November 26 to January 6.
Copenhagen is probably not on the lists of reasonably priced European destinations. However, this year it has been ranked as the seventh cheapest Christmas market destination by Flightsfinder.com, with average flights and two nights in a hotel costing £280 per couple. So maybe it’s time to take a trip to the Danish capital and visit the markets of Tivoli Gardens, Bakken and the city zoo.
HOW TO DO: Ryanair London to Copenhagen from £43 return. Double at the Mayfair Hotel (hotelmayfair.dk) from £75. The market runs from November 4 to December 21.
Esslingen in southwestern Germany holds a medieval Christmas market (pictured). BA flies London to Stuttgart from £98 return
Esslingen in southwestern Germany has a medieval Christmas market, which means that in addition to 180 stalls there are stilt walkers, jugglers and fire eaters. All this in the middle of romantic alleys.
Andalusia’s capital may not have the image of snow-covered houses, but that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have a good winter market. The Mercado Navideno de Artesania takes place in front of the town hall with stalls selling produce, food and drink in Andalusian style.
Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, Merano is an atmospheric winter destination in South Tyrol. It’s famous for being the home of writer Franz Kafka, but the Christmas market is nothing to sniff at either. There are daily concerts, children’s entertainment and this intriguing Italian commune embraces the Austrian Krampus – when actors dressed in scary masks stroll around the market, supposed to scare children who have misbehaved.
HOW TO DO: Ryanair London to Merano from £20 return. Double at Hotel Aurora (hotel-aurora-meran.com) from £89. The market runs from November 25 to January 6.