A Christmas market, also known as Christkindlmarkt, Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, Christkindlimarkt, and Weihnachtsmarkt, is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany, but are now being held in many other countries. Discover the most unique ones:
Schloss Hellbrunn, Austria
Christmas markets glitter all over Austria come advent, but few are as magical as Hellbrunner held at Salzburg’s Schloss Hellbrunn, with carollers, handicraft stalls, pony rides for kids and the baroque palace’s 24 windows transformed into a giant advent calendar. A Christmas parade, brass bands, Alphorn blowers, nativity scenes and a veritable forest of 400 twinkling trees make yuletide here special.
On the blustery Cornish coast, Padstow’s Christmas Festival is a cracker. Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth and Nathan Outlaw are among a star-studded line-up of chefs giving cookery demos to spice up Christmas dinner. Jazz bands and carollers entertain crowds milling around quayside stalls selling Cornish chutneys, pies and mulled cider, wooden toys and decorations. For kids there’s the reindeer enclosure and Santa Fun Run, where some 200 Father Christmas wannabes race for charity. Fireworks sparkle in the harbour at 8:30pm on Friday.
Mt Pilatus, Switzerland
For novelty value and sensational Alpine views, ride to Europe’s highest Christmas market on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, which has been trundling up to 2132m Mt Pilatus since 1889. Perched above Lake Lucerne, the mountaintop Christkindlimärt has festive music and 45 stalls selling beeswax candles, nativity figurines, gingerbread and other stocking fillers. When snow falls, combine a shop with a downhill dash by sled, airboard or snow-bike.
Malmö dishes up a Swedish smorgasbord of Christmas markets, concerts and twinkling trees. Browse Södertull for handmade decorations, pausing to warm up over glögg (mulled wine) with pepparkakor (ginger biscuits) or lussekatter (saffron-flavoured buns). Katrinetorp manor is the go-to market (6-8 Dec 2019) for antiques, poinsettias and festive food, while Good Jul at Gustav Adolfstorg (25 Nov-23 Dec 2019) sells fairtrade, recycled and vintage gifts. Slip on skates to twirl around the open-air ice rinks at Raoul Wallenberg and Folkets Park.
Few towns look as Christmassy as Gengenbach in Germany’s Black Forest. Its half-timbered old town is real snow globe stuff when the fairy-lights are flicked on, timber chalets glow and carollers sing in front of the 18th-century, pink-and-cream Rathaus (Town Hall). Grab a spot here at 6pm to see one of 24 windows open to reveal an advent calendar scene by famous artists and illustrators.
You’re more or less guaranteed snow in Tallinn at Christmas. An enormous tree towers above quaint wooden chalets on Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square), the medieval centrepiece of the Unesco World Heritage old town. Estonian crafts like hand-knitted hats, sea-grass animals, wickerwork and wood carvings are top buys. Father Christmas often stages an appearance in the evening. Find respite from sub-zero temperatures in candlelit cafes and warm up with hearty Estonian grub like sauerkraut and blood sausage.
La Fête dé Noué, St Helier, Jersey
Carol concerts, street theatre, live music, guided coastal walks and Christmas movies are bundled into one appealing parcel at Jersey’s La Fête dé Noué. Chestnut trees strung with lights illuminate St Helier’s Royal Square, and markets get shoppers into the festive spirit with mistletoe, real ales, minced pies and crafts. The nighttime Christmas Parade is a twinkling affair of floats and costumed characters, often with a fairy-tale or folklore slant.