Every year, cities all over the world are decorated with lights, tinsel and trees bigger than houses. It’s a time of year that brings out smiles, a little silliness and of course, the Christmas markets. With Christmas music and the aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and mulled wine filling the air, and stalls bursting with unique gifts, it’s impossible not to be filled with excitement at a Christmas market. No one does a Christmas market quite like the Europeans. and with the start of market season upon us, here are the top Christmas markets to visit in Europe, each paired with a luxury hotel stay. After all, what is Christmas without a little indulgence?
Nuremberg is one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe. With mulled wine, rum punch and roasted almonds filling the air (and bellies), this market is delight for the senses. Steeped in history, the Nuremberg Christmas market has been going for quite some time, with more than 30 stalls dating all the way back to 1890. Dates: 30th November – 24th December.
Where to stay: The luxurious Sheraton Carlton Hotel Nuremberg is located on the edge of Nuremberg’s Old Town. The suites are elegantly furnished, the sauna steamed to perfection, and the views are outstanding. Centrally located, this hotel is the perfect starting point for roaming the romantic alleys of Nuremberg and visiting the famous Christmas market.
The capital of Christmas in France is none other than Strasbourg and its festive Christmas market. Dating back to 1570, it’s one of the earliest Christmas markets in Europe, so it’s safe to say they have the market experience perfected. There are over 300 chalets to browse, four concerts, live music and so much more. One area in the market that inspires Christmas magic is La Petite France, with its picturesque buildings, Christmas shops and gingerbread bakery ready to tempt. Dates: 23rd November – 30th December.
Where to stay: Found in the heart of Le Petite France in Strasbourg is Hotel Regent Petite France. Once an ice factory, the hotel and surrounding canals, locks and the rushing waters of the River Ill form one of the most photographed parts of the medieval Petite France quarter. The hotel Regent Petite France is sophisticated, romantic and a lesson in luxury.
For three years running, Zagreb has been voted the best Christmas market in the world. Every year there are new events and experiences for market-goers to revel in. From live music to the magical ice park, Zagreb knows how to do Christmas. When it comes to indulging, be sure to try a Christmas Apple, as well mulled wine, decorated gingerbread cookies and the rakija bars. Dates: 1st December – 6th January.
Where to stay: What do you get when you blend Art Deco heritage with contemporary flair? The Esplanade Zagreb. This iconic hotel dates back to 1925 and was originally designed to be a glamorous layover hotel for passengers travelling on the Orient Express. The hotel has come into its own since its ‘stopover’ days and exudes luxury like no other.
Image courtesy of Esplanade Zageb Hotel
Quite literally a “festive extravaganza”, the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland elevates Christmas markets to a whole new level with circus performances, ice sculpting and a comedy club. Although having only been around for 10 years, what this market lacks in age it makes up for in Christmas spirit… and roller coaster rides. Dates: 22nd November – 6th January.
Where to stay: Art-deco extravagance and a name that won’t leave you guessing, 45 Park Lane Hotel resides at number 45 on one of London’s most prestigious streets. A 1930’s ambience washes over you as you walk through the doors of this ultra-luxe hotel, where not a single detail has been overlooked in the design, including having the building’s windows double-glazed to eliminate any noise from the hustle and bustle of the London streets outside. It always pays to opt for the Penthouse Suite, and 45 Park Lane is no different. For arguably the best views of Hyde Park in the city, the Penthouse is where you need to be.
A legend in the world of Christmas markets, the market in Brussels truly is a sight to behold. While wandering through the stalls, watching the Christmas parade and marveling at the giant Christmas tree, you’re sure to delight in warm waffles with hot fudge sauce. Christmas and some of the best chocolate – is there anything better? Dates: 30th November – 6th January.
Where to stay: Nestled amongst the traditional Belgian architecture lies the Pillows Grand Hotel Place Rouppe. This neo-classical building has 43 guest rooms and suites, designed with elegance and modern flair. Named ‘Pillows Grand’ after the luxuriously soft beds, you are assured of a divine sleep after enjoying the markets.
One of the most traditional Christmas markets in Europe can be found out the front of City Hall in Vienna. With the first market held in 1298, the Viennese Christmas Market has everything you could wish for, from stalls selling every kind of Christmas treat to a reindeer train. Be sure to fight off the cold with a spin around the huge outdoor ice rink. Dates: 17th November – 26th December.
Where to stay: Vienna has its fair share of luxury accommodations with the likes of Park Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton amongst the finest. The only hotel to out-do these is the Palais Coburg Residenz: this opulent former palace offers every ounce of luxury to its guests from residence suites to culinary experiences.
There are no shortcuts or half jobs when it comes to Christmas in Prague. Market-goers will be blown away by the fairy lights lighting up the city, a gigantic Christmas tree, brightly decorated wooden huts and not one, but two markets to get lost in – just remember that getting lost is always more fun with a cup of mulled wine in hand. The Prague Christmas markets are the definition of Winter Wonderland. Dates: 1st December – 6th January.
Where to stay: If you love music, the Aria Hotel will have you singing from the roof tops, the hills and anywhere else you feel like unleashing your voice. The décor in each room is inspired by artists, composers or musical genres, and it’s not just the interior design that has earned this hotel its five stars, but also the staff, including a musicologist who’s on hand for any music queries or requests.
For a chic Christmas market experience, head to the quaint ski town of Cortina d’Ampezzo, where you’ll be immersed in the beauty and vibrant colour of the markets in one of Europe’s most picturesque locations: northern Italy’s Dolomites. Browse the array of artisanal products, wooden handicrafts, toys and candles while enjoying roasted chestnuts and traditional sweets, then when you’ve found the perfect market gifts, why not hit the slopes? 1 December – 7 January
Where to stay: Since opening in 1897, Grand Hotel Savoia has seen some of the most titled European families and celebrities walk through its doors. Experts in hospitality, Grand Hotel Savoia offers every luxury, including its 5-star spa experience, the Secret Beach. After a day at the Christmas Markets, this is the place to unwind: with Jacuzzi relaxation, multi-sensory shower and chromo therapy, king sized water beds and oil massages on hand, the word stress will no longer exist in your vocabulary.
Did someone say fairground rides? The Danish go all out for their Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market. You won’t just find Christmas handicrafts and delicious food and drinks here: with three light shows, fireworks and a fairground, this market screams fun. On December 13th, the annual Lucia procession takes place, with 100 girls passing through the gardens, candles in hand, singing to mark St Lucia’s Day. Whether you are religious or not, there is no denying the beauty of the procession. Dates: 17th November – 31st December.
Where to stay: Founded in 1755, Hotel d’Angleterre combines its historic design with contemporary comforts. The hotel has a special place in Copenhagen’s history, with major events hosted in its ballroom including Amundsen’s triumphant return from the South Pole in 1912. Christmas is the best time of year to reside in the hotel, but even those who are not staying here will flock to watch the marvel at the hotel’s Christmas light display.
Berlin is bursting with choice when it comes to Christmas markets, but it is the Gendarmenmarkt that shines above all others in the city. The market is located amongst the imposing yet remarkable architecture of the Deutscher Dom and Französischer Dom, whose. unique setting adds to the magic of the market. With a cup of Glühwein in hand, explore the handicrafts from paintings to wooden carvings to Christmas décor, and at night, the market comes alive with live music. Dates: 26th November – 31st December.
Where to stay: Notably one of Berlin’s most glamorous hotels, Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin has hosted royals, intellectuals and pop icons throughout history, including the Queen of England, Einstein and the king of pop Michael Jackson. The service is impeccable, the spa is divine and the setting, unparalleled.
Image courtesy of Kempinski Hotels
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