With the sound of sleigh bells starting to jingle in our ears, many of us will be starting to think about Christmas and what presents we need to buy. Even if it’s a little bit too early to start putting up the Christmas decorations and pouring the mulled wine.
If you’re thinking of going to a Christmas market and want to truly immerse yourself in the festive spirit, why not venture abroad and experience centuries-old traditions. You can’t beat the sights, the shopping and the sampling of some of the regions seasonal cuisine, not to mention picking up some unique hand crafted and unusual presents.
When: 27th November – 24th December 2015
Dating back to the 15th century, this enchanting Christmas market is traditionally known as Striezelmarkt. You will find the market radiates festive charm, with hand crafted treasures and local culinary specialities such as the traditional Striezel (stolen) fruit loaf, gluvein, German sausage, crepes and hot rolls filled with melted cheese and ham.
Just a short walk from the main square is a Medieval Market where the stall holders are in costumes, with the area lit by oil lamps and candles. This makes it feel very atmospheric as it sparkles with Christmas spirit.
When: 27th November – 31 December 2015, except Christmas Day
Locally known as Christkindelsmarik, this Yuletide event dates back to 1570 and is one of the oldest Christmas markets in France. It takes place in the Old Town – where the markets feature street parades, sound and light shows and live bands playing Christmas tunes.
Wander down the narrow streets, where the hundreds of little wooden chalets sell locally produced crafts, unusual gifts, Christmas cakes and biscuits. No visit to the Christmas markets would be complete without a glass of vin chaud, the locally produced mulled wine.
When: 26th November – 22nd December
Fira de Santa Llucia is the oldest and most impressive Christmas market in Barcelona, it is held in front of the main entrance to the iconic Cathedral and dates back to 1786. The market is a wonderland of sights and sounds, especially at night time when the lights glisten against the backdrop of the Cathedral. Along with the traditional Christmas stalls selling decorations and mistletoe, it’s also the place to buy a time honoured Christmas Caga Tio.
The Caga Tio is a small log of wood with a painted face and two front legs. It’s given to children every year on the 8th of December, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Children keep the log as a pet until Christmas Day, when it is replaced by presents. Cage Tio translated means ‘Poo Log’.
When: 28th November – 1st January
This capital city descends into a frenzy of true Christmas spirit, with Open Air concert performances, which are held in the beautiful Old Square. Wander down the streets towards Wenceslas Square where wooden huts are decorated with fairy light and decorations, giving them a warm Christmassy feel. This is where you will find a unique selection of gifts, a lot of them being handmade, including candles, jewellery and even puppets.
In keeping with tradition, a towering Christmas tree that has been brought down from the mountains is the main focal point. It is placed where shoppers meet for mulled wine or to sample the huge array of local specialities such as klobasa – barbequed sausages and Trdelnik – a hot sugar coated pastry.
When: 20th November – 4th January
For the past 20 years Princes Street Gardens and St Andrew Square come alive with Christmas spirit, where market stalls that are transformed into a winter wonderland. The celebrations begin when the Christmas lights are switched on in late November, from then on the fun continues with fairground rides, ice skating and carolling.
Wander through the markets where you can pick up an unusual gift or quirky present. Don’t forget to visit the German Christmas market where you can sample an array of German food such as bratwurst and schnitzels along with taste testing a variety of German beer.
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