8 alternative Christmas markets in Europe 2021


1. Bruges, Belgium

Bruges rarely lacks atmosphere, but its medieval cobblestones never have more charm than under a pinch of snow. The town’s main square is particularly beautiful, as food and craft stalls huddle under the Gothic menace of the Tower of Belfort while carriage rides add to the fairytale vibe. Christmas miracles abound; you can even walk on the water at Minnewater Park, where a floating ice rink nestles on the surface of the lake.

Must buy: Chocolate, of course. If the stalls aren’t your thing, head to “bad-boy” chocolatier Dominic Persoone’s The Chocolate Line for some cocoa-related whimsy.

When: 26 Nov 2021 – 9 Jan 2022

The best Christmas markets in Belgium

2. Tallinn, Estonia

The story goes that Europe’s first public Christmas tree was exhibited on Tallinn‘s Town Square in 1441. Suitably enough, it was raised by merchants, making it perhaps the very first Christmas market. Today’s equivalent is a duly comfortable affair, enhanced by the medieval setting of the old town. Shop around and you will find wooden stalls selling crafts and treats from the small islands of Estonia as well as plenty of party facilities in the shops on Pikk Street.

Must buy: Piparkoogid (pepper cookies) are, in fact, rather delicious gingerbread cookies. The locals, meanwhile, are crazy about black pudding and sauerkraut – they are everywhere here!

When: Nov 19, 2021 – Jan 2, 2022

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

Come winter, CopenhagenThe historic Tivoli Gardens amusement park, has millions of festive lights, as the stalls are full of wooden toys, traditional ceramic decorations, mulled wine and Dansk aebleskiver (Danish donuts). For a more unique experience, head to the waterfront market in Nyhaven, where you can watch the Santa Lucia Parade (December 13): hundreds of Christmas carols in kayaks dotted with fairy lights, which paddle down the nearby wharf in a floating musical procession. Magical.

Must buy: Denmark is the land of design. Handmade pine tableware and julepynt (Christmas ornaments) adorn each stand.

When: 19 Nov – 23 Dec 2021

4. Cologne, Germany

CologneDowntown is everything you would expect from a German Christmas market: twinkling lights, pig mountains, the familiar lapping of glühwein, and all under the majestic Gothic gaze of the magnificent cathedral. But there are a lot of other options here. Heinzels Wintermärchen even has its own rinks for curling and ice skating, while Heavenue, a lively LGBTQI + market in KölnBonn with shows and music every weekend, adds a bit of panache to Christmas.

Must buy: Warm up with a cup of feuerzangenbowle – a rum-soaked sugarloaf dipped in hot wine and inflamed.

When: 22 Nov – 23 Dec 2021

The 10 best Christmas markets in Germany

5. Zagreb, Croatia

The Croatian capital goes wild in winter, with live music, illuminated fountains, and red-cheeked vendors serving thousands of sweet and savory strukli dumplings. Across the city, 25 strewn markets are worth browsing, from the giant ice rink in King Tomislav’s Square to the stalls filling the former bomb shelter of the Grič Tunnel. For a bit of peace, head to the delightfully lit Strossmayer promenade atop the city walls and admire it from above.

Must buy: Hand-carved wooden toys from the Hrvatsko Zagorje region make an exquisite gift and are even recognized by UNESCO.

When: Nov 27, 2021 – Jan 2, 2022

6. Colmar, France

Strasbourg is the oldest and most famous Christmas market in France. It’s also busy. For a quieter taste of festive Alsace, the town along the Colmar canal is a discreet joy. Its storybook references (Gothic churches, cobbled streets, medieval half-timbered houses) create a warm decor for its half-dozen markets. With the carousel and the ice rink, there is enough festive joy and späetzle (little dumplings) to warm hearts and bellies until New Years.

Must buy: Handcrafted Meisenthal Glass Balls are a craft dating back to the 19th century. Colmar is also known for its superb Alsace wines.

When: 26 Nov – 29 Dec 2021

5 best Christmas markets in France

7. Innsbruck, Austria

While Salzburg is perhaps home to AustriaInnsbruck’s most glamorous market, location counts for everything in Innsbruck. With a view of the Karwendel Alps, the old town market basks under the glittering tiles of the early 16th century golden roof building – gilded to mark the wedding of Emperor Maximilian I. But the real treat is above, as a funicular takes you to Hungerburg and its market in the sky. Go shopping, take a peek at the glittering city below, and get ready for the Krampus Race, when Austria’s traditional festive devils emerge in force.

Must buy: It would be a crime against snacking not to taste a fresh kiachln – savory donuts bursting with sauerkraut.

When: Nov 15, 2021 – Jan 6, 2022

5 fabulously festive Christmas markets in Austria

8. Blenheim Palace, United Kingdom

The UK has no shortage of Christmas cheer. Hyde Park in London puts on a beautiful winter show, Manchester typically has a dozen moving markets, and the Georgian streets of Bath are teeming with festive charm. But what beats Christmas in a sprawling country house? The history, the grounds, the lights. Winston Churchill’s ancestral home, Blenheim Palace, hosts 70 shops in winter, as designers and artisans take center stage and illuminated night trails through the gardens add to the fun.

Must buy: Handicrafts are always at the top of the list here, with plenty of handmade decorations and ornaments to choose from.

When: Nov 19, 2021 – Jan 2, 2022

12 of the UK’s best Christmas markets


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