Nothing gets you in the festive spirit quite like wandering around a traditional Christmas market, fairy lights twinkling above and a powdery blanket of snow underfoot. There’s a wealth of arts and crafts on offer, and even if your Christmas shopping is complete, it’s still worth visiting a market to imbibe a sweet glass of mulled wine, or to hear a traditional Bavarian Oompah band play.
While the UK’s big cities play home to their own special markets, why not go big on the Christmas feeling and sample some of the festive offerings abroad. Whether you want to experience a traditional Christmas market in Europe, or see how they do December across the pond, there’s plenty of variety. And if you’re struggling to muster up that yuletide spirit this year, the magical atmosphere of these markets is sure to enchant even the Grinch-iest of attendees.
Here’s the Flexicover team’s pick of our favourite traditional Christmas markets around the globe.
Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, New York, USA: 27 October – 2 January
While some European markets are a short flight away, if you fancy heading a little further from home cross the pond for a little Christmas magic in New York. The Big Apple is the most Christmassy city in the USA, featuring in endless festive movies, from Miracle on 34th Street to Elf. As well as the iconic ice rink in Central Park and the Rockefeller Center’s twinkling tree, New York is home to the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. It’s populated with 125 traditional-style kiosks selling jewellery and handicrafts sourced from all over the world, and it’s home to the city’s only free ice skating rink. We hear the Christmas shopping opportunities in the rest of New York aren’t too shabby either.
Viennese Christmas Market, Austria: 17 November – 26 December
There’s no better time to visit Vienna than during the Christmas season. The Austrian capital has been doing Christmas markets for longer than most, with the tradition dating back to 1298. While there are over 20 events to choose from, we recommend that you head to the Viennese Christmas Market, located in front of City Hall. Here you’ll find more than 150 stalls to choose from, offering everything from beautiful festive ornaments to huge Austrian sausages. Kids will love its vast ice skating rink and the reindeer rides. And if you're up for having a go at the winter sport of curling, you can try your hand here.
Winter Wonders, Brussels, Belgium: 30 November – 6 January
If you like your Christmas celebrations on a larger scale, consider a trip to Brussels this winter. As well as being the world capital of chocolate and beer, the Belgian capital’s Winter Wonders event includes more than 200 chalets. You’ll find the market spread out amidst the stunning Olde Worlde scenery of this chocolate box city, with the central point - and giant Christmas tree - in the Grand Place. Head here at night for a spectacular light show, when the grandiose buildings that line the square are illuminated in time with the music booming from the speaker system. It’s really something to behold.
Rothenburg Christmas Market, Germany: 1 – 23 December
There’s a reason Bavarian markets are exported across Europe: people from this part of the world do Christmas enchantment extremely well. In the medieval German town of Rothenburg – two hours away from both Frankfurt and Stuttgart – the market dates back around 500 years. Wander the narrow streets, lined with snow-dusted architecture, and you’ll truly feel like you’re holidaying in a fairytale. Snack on a bag of roasted chestnuts or opt for a local delicacy, the Rothenburg Snowball Cake: fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar. The atmosphere is charming and intimate, and Santa Claus makes an appearance every day too. Visit in the early evening to enjoy the brass band concert.
Prague, Czech Republic : 1 December – 6 January
Another city that lends itself rather well to Christmas is Prague, which transforms into a veritable winter wonderland once December rolls around. The Czech capital hosts two major Christmas markets just a five minute walk apart, one in Old Town Square and the other in Wenceslas Square. At both markets you’ll find traditional beers, mulled wine, and deliciously unhealthy snacks like barbecued sausages and trdelník: a hot sugar-coated pastry. At the Old Town Square you’ll find Prague’s main Christmas tree, as well as a stable of biblical animals like donkeys, sheep and goats for children to pet. As the evening descends, Christmas concerts are regularly held at the Old Town Square market too.
At some markets, as detailed, you can enjoy a spot of ice skating or other winter related activities. Just make sure that your policy covers you automatically for these or whether you need additional cover.
Wherever you plan on heading this winter it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.