Although many of us still insist on ‘driving home for Christmas’, there’s a lot to be said for jetting off somewhere a little more exotic. Bypassing the pressures of creating a perfect traditional day, by venturing abroad you’ll have the freedom to shake things up a little, while still preserving all the best bits of a festive celebration at home. On the continent, you can enjoy the snowy season (with actual snow) at the legendary European Christmas markets, offering the chance to pick up unique presents and experience local traditions. Here are a few cities that promise to deliver some charming Christmas cheer.
The German capital has an astounding array of Christmas markets, hosting over 50 in the city every year. The largest is the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche, which welcomes around two million visitors every year to its stalls. Each festive fair offers everything from artwork and Christmas decorations to jewellery and speciality cheeses – accompanied by plenty of Glühwein, of course. You can refuel with a sizzling hot bratwurst with sauerkraut before plunging back into the crowds to seek out that special gift.
This Eastern European gem is one of the most historic and beautiful cities in the world, and its festive markets are just as spectacular. Expect folk dancing, traditional food like honey cookies and kenyérlángos, live music and a free ice rink complete with free skate rental for you to show off your grace and skill – or lack thereof. Based at the centre of the Pest district, the market in Vörösmarty Square boasts around 150 stalls, with the majority of products handmade by locals. There’s even a life-size advent calendar displayed at the 19th century Gerbeaud Cafe, with one window opened every day.
The Danish capital’s biggest seasonal draw is the Tivoli market, with Father Christmas himself stopping by to greet children in the Pantomime Theatre. From mid-November, visitors can sample Danish and Scandinavian food and drink and shop for hand-made decorations, with a rollercoaster, ice rink and even a theme park to liven up proceedings. If your Christmas break lands a little after the day itself, the Fireworks Festival should more than make up for it. Held in the same Tivoli Gardens between the 26-30th December, the night sky over Copenhagen lights up spectacularly with an exciting technicolour display.
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