Nothing beats a good Christmas Market – the smell of mulled wine, the cosy lights and the colourful stalls . Today they take place all over the world, but we all know that no-one does a Christmas Market better than our friends over on the continent. They’ve had plenty of time to perfect their talents – the tradition of Christmas Markets has gone back centuries and originated in the German-speaking parts of Europe. They originally marked the beginning of Advent, or in some cases like Nuremberg it was a chance for farmers to sell and trade during the run up to Christmas.
Christmas Markets all over the world
Nowadays they’re a little bit more of a commercialised affair, having spread all over Europe to the likes of the USA, Canada and even China and Japan! But that centuries-old charm and German fairy tale magic has still endured the test of time, and that’s what we love about them!
I’m going to take you on a tour around Europe to see the best Christmas Markets around – the ones that combine charming settings with that pure Christmas magic we can never get enough of. I’ll also show you a few hotels in each city, so it might serve as a little bit of inspiration if you want to experience it for yourself!
Where better to start than the self-declared ‘capital of Christmas’? Strasbourg boats one of the oldest Christmas Markets in the world, dating back to 1570. Running from the 27th November to the 31st December the market is spread over 11 sites and has almost 300 stalls, and there’s even a Children’s Village to keep little ones happy. What really makes Strasbourg special though is the settings of the city itself – half-timbered houses, towering churches and narrow winding streets all make for a very romantic and rustic atmosphere. It’s also massively popular, with 2 million visitors a year on average!
Strasbourg also has a wealth of boutique hotels that make for a great place to stay after a long day of exploring this medieval Alsatian town and are all conveniently located in the town centre. Hotel D for example (4.5/5 on TripAdvisor with 276 reviews) is a really trendy place near the L’ill canal and will make for a very comfortable stay indeed!
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There’s also the very reputable Régent Petite France, which is beautifully located on the canal front. The hotel has an extensive spa, so after a busy day spent scouting the markets you can sit back, unwind and pamper yourself!
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Wiener Christkindlmarkt in Vienna
The beautifully intricate city hall makes for a striking backdrop for the Christmas Market in the Austrian capital of Vienna. The grandeur of this city really comes into its own during the festive season! This Christmas Market can be traced back to 1296, when the Austrian emperor Albrecht I granted permission to the Viennese merchants to hold a market in December. It has since evolved into a lively meeting place, and there is a wide variety of handmade crafts and refreshments available.
If you want an idea of the opulence that’s going around in Vienna then take a look at the legendary Hotel Sacher (5/5 on TripAdvisor with 1,005 reviews and ranked #1 in Vienna). Founded in 1876 it has since gone on to become the most revered hotel in Vienna – and it’s clear to see why! The interior is bursting with extravagance and there’s a small army of porters who can cater to your every desire.
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There’s also the stylish Hotel Rathaus (5/5 on TripAdvisor with 908 reviews) located in the classy Josefstadt with its myriad of cafes and theatres, and here you’ll be a stone’s throw away from some of the main sights such as the parliament building and the Volkstheater. Wine lovers will also be pleased to hear that there’s a vast selection of vino available here, and each room is actually dedicated to a local vintner!
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When people mention Christmas Markets it’s often Nuremberg which immediately springs to mind. It’s another well-established tradition, with the first recorded mention of it emerging in 1628. Nuremberg is considered the epitome of a German Christmas Market, with the 180+ stalls arranged into neat little rows and massive decked-out Christmas trees. It attracts at least 2 million people from all over the world every year, and it’s one of those things in Germany that everyone has to see at least once!
Design Hotel Vosteen (4.5/5 on TripAdvisor with 229 reviews) may look like an unsuspecting townhouse, but inside you’ll find a charming hotel that’s full of classic 50s design! The owners’ attention to detail is evident in all of the little bits of retro goodness dotted about, including an vintage record player and kitsch ornaments. You won’t be far from the centre of Nuremberg either, as it’s just a 15 minute walk away.
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Right in the middle of the Nuremberg Old Town is the Hotel Victoria (4.5/5 on TripAdvisor with 560 reviews + Certificate of Excellence), set in a dramatic listed building built in 1896. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome here and the location is fantastic – it’s located within the medieval city walls which encircle the Old Town.
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Christmas Market (vánoční trhy) in Prague
Prague is easily one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of Europe, so it makes sense that one of the best Christmas Markets takes place here. Compared to the other major markets it’s quite new, but it’s nevertheless incredibly popular! What makes the Prague Christmas Market so special is that it adds a real Czech twist to the otherwise German affairs – why not try medovina, a warm honey liquor, or perhaps buy some of the traditional Christmas potpourri (purpura)?
When it comes to a good hotel in Prague you’ll be absolutely spoilt for choice with all the botique hotels that offer stunning views of the old city. This one, Residence Agnes, is tucked away in a quiet side street just metres away from the historic centre. People have also voted it the best hotel in Prague (5/5 on TripAdvisor with 1,842 reviews and 2015 Travellers’ Choice Award), stating that the hospitality here is unmatched. Well worth a look!
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The Mandarin Oriental (4.5/5 on TripAdvisor with 867 reviews and 2015 Travellers’ Choice Award) is probably the most impressive hotel in the entire city. The former Dominican monastery from the 14th Century was lovingly restored and the location is fantastic – Prague Castle looms overhead and the neighbourhood it’s in (Malá Strana) is perhaps the most beautiful in all of Prague.
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Manchester Christmas Market
To end our European trip I thought there’d be no better place to end it than at home in the UK. The vibrant and diverse city of Manchester is home to one of the largest Christmas markets in the UK – in fact it’s getting so popular that the council were forced to extend it to two additional locations! In a poll last year carried out by Eurpoean Best Destinations Manchester was the only British market to make it to the top 10, alongside giants like Strasbourg and Nuremberg. It’s clear to see why – the town hall makes for a stunning location and the atmosphere is simply enchanting.
In a city as trendy as Manchester it should come as no surprise that the hotels are all filled to the brim with style. One of them definitely stands out from the rest – Hotel Gotham (4.5/5 on TripAdvisor with 300 reviews) is located in an imposing, listed building, and there’s definitely more here than meets the eye when you stay. With a classy retro theme there are characters who are all in costume and in character, so it’s up to you if you want to get involved and discover the story behind what’s going on!
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Velvet (4.5/5 on TripAdvisor with 1,181 reviews) has 19 rooms all individually designed and styled with plenty of statement pieces to go around. There’s a fantastic bar and restaurant there too, and with Canal Street just around the corner you’ll be close to all the lovely cafes and the sights of central Manchester. Velvet’s also won the OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award in March 2015, so you’re in for a treat if you stay here!
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Booking Hotels and Flights
Due to the popularity of Christmas Markets it’s sensible to do all the research in advance and book as early as possible – hotels can fill up overnight! Booking flights well in advance is also normally your best bet, but as with everything sometimes last minute deals are available, so it’s best to keep and eye out.
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