1. Innsbruck, Austria
15th November 2016 – 6th January 2017
The most romantic is in the Altstadt, lined with medieval houses. Stalls are piled high with gingerbread, wooden toys and delicate ornaments made from handblown glass. At dusk, trumpeters play carols on the 500-year-old Golden Roof. Try the kiachln – Advent doughnuts – served hot, with cranberry sauce. At weekends, ride the funicular up Nordkette mountain to Hungerburg. After tasty treats at this little market, continue your journey to the top of the Hafelekar for views of twinkling city lights and snow-tipped peaks.
12th November 16 - 24th December 16
Vienna’s Christmas-market tradition goes back to the 13th century. It now has around 10 markets, with more than 150 stalls filling the Rathausplatz in front of the neo-Gothic City Hall. Buy miniature wooden houses, puppets, gingerbread hearts, leather clothing and woollen hats. Or try the atmospheric lanes of the Spittelberg market near the Museums Quarter for handblown glass, silverware and ceramics. Don’t miss a stroll in Rathauspark, with its carousel rides and light-bedecked trees and pavilions.
3. Lille, France
18th November 16 - 30th December 16
In France, good food is a passion and Lille’s Christmas market is a gourmet’s delight. Sip vin chaud (mulled wine); nibble on nougat; and scoff pommes d’amour – much more romantic-sounding than toffee apples, non?
You’ll find the usual Christmas-themed stalls dotted around Place Rihour, but if you’re looking for more chic gifts there are plenty of boutiques in and around the area.
4. Stockholm, Sweden
23rd November 16 – 23rd December 16
Although the first Christmas market on Stortorget square in Old Stockholm was held 500 years ago, the modern event dates back “only” a century. In front of the Nobel Museum, close to the Royal Palace, the cheerful stalls are filled with crafts made only in Sweden, such as glass, pottery and jewellery. Prices are surprisingly affordable. Grown-ups sip glögg (mulled wine) and everyone munches pepparkakor – thin ginger biscuits. With a dusting of snow, it all looks like a Christmas card, Scandinavian-style. Be sure to bring home a taste of Sweden: saffransbullar (saffron buns) and vacuum-packed sausages made of – don’t tell the children – reindeer meat.
5. MUNICH, GERMANY
25th November 16 - 24th December 16
Munich holds its traditional Christmas Market (St. Mary’s Square) in the center of Munich. A huge Christmas tree covered in lights towers over the many stands all aglow with pre-Christmas magic. Advent music is performed live every evening at 5.30 p.m. from the balcony of the Town Hall. In Neuhauser Strasse, only a few steps from Marienplatz square, you will find what probably is Germany’s largest manger market. The authentic nativity scenes at this market are complete with lanterns for the mangers, fodder for the ox and donkey and gifts from the three Magi.