In my opinion, Europe is one of the most magical places to spend the winter. I’ll be spending Christmas in London for the first time in a few years this year, and am so thrilled!
I decided to take a look around and see what other cities and towns in Europe are up to over Christmas, be they big or small, I really enjoyed getting an insight into how everyone else will be spending this magical season…
Rome… 26th Nov to 6th Dec
Piazza Navona, one of Rome’s most beautiful and popular squares, becomes a huge Christmas market in December with stands selling nativity figures, Christmas treats, toys and houses a merry-go-round. There you’ll also find presents from the Befana, a kind old witch who traditionally brings good children toys at Epiphany!
The festively illuminated Schoenbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Austrian Emperors, provides a spectacular backdrop for an idyllic Christmas village full of the scent of mulled wine and ginger bread. And almost every day, festive concerts spread Christmas mood.
Hamelin Christmas Fair… 25th Nov – 23rd Dec
Hamelin, south of Hannover, is the Pied Piper’s home town and so the Hamelin Christmas Market can truly be described as a genuine Fairy Tale Market. The Market features over 70 festively decorated wooden huts; all clustered around the Wedding House, the Market Church and around the picturesque old quarter with its lovingly restored timber-framed houses and grand Weser Renaissance buildings. Highlights of Hamelin’s Christmas market are the Nativity scene, which has real animals to stroke, and a Christmas pyramid at only a mere 11 metres tall.
Florence Christmas Fair… 29th Nov – 8th Dec
Families love to bring their children to Florence Noël, the Christmas fair held at the Stazione Leopolda, near Porta al Prato in Florence. This grand former station is transformed into the North Pole. Children can walk through the wondrous, magical rooms of the home of Babbo Natale, Father Christmas. Each room is decked out with holiday cheer, and stars dance overhead to dazzle the children. At the post office, children write their wish list to Santa and mail it on the spot. And they won’t want to miss the chocolate village [Villaggio del Cioccolato] where they can taste some delicious hot chocolate. Also on hand are homemade crafts and decorations for the tree.
Salzberg… Salzberger Christkindlmarkt
Every year, Salzburg’s most famous Christmas Market Salzburger Christkindlmarkt, located at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress and around the venerable cathedral of Salzburg, opens its doors five weeks before Christmas. Visitors enjoy choirs, musicians and pastoral plays while strolling among the specially designed wooden market stalls where artisans, confectioners and other merchants offer gingerbread hearts, sweets, figurines for the nativity. Salzburg’s Christmas market, is mentioned as far back as the 15th century!
Salzberg, Hellbrunn Palace… end of Nov to Dec 24
The fantastic scenery of Hellbrunn Castle makes this market extra special along with the oversized Advent calendar consisting of exactly 24 windows of the castle’s façade. The reindeers, sheep and goats, and the crafts exhibition are among the biggest highlights of this market. For fans, this is also the location for the pavillion scene in The Sound of Music!!!
France, Amiens Christmas Market… 28th Nov to 27th Dec
This is a fair which I couldn’t miss out because of the added design flavour! The stylish town is host to one of the largest Christmas markets in northern France. With an alpine theme, this market is quite different to many around Europe and offers visitors a change from the traditional wooden crafts found elsewhere. Instead, visitors can enjoy Le Creuset kitchenware, fine crystal and hand-made glass, as well as Angora sweaters. For fish lovers, the market is home to many stalls selling eel, shrimp, duck and trout, as well as Beauvais chocolate and Amiens macaroons.
Stuttgart… 25th Nov to 23rd Dec
With more than 270 decorated stalls, Stuttgart’s Christmas market is one of the oldest, largest and most attractive in Europe. Beautifully presented stalls adorned with angels, reindeer, Father Christmas, fir garlands and Christmas decorations are illuminated to transform the city center into a Christmas wonderland. The Old Castle, the collegiate church and the Baroque grounds of the New Palace adds to the medieval feel.
Berlin… 23rd Nov to 31st Dec
This year Berlin celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall. The city is also the setting for some of Germany’s best Christmas markets: wood carvers, flax embroiderers, tailors and goldsmiths compete for shoppers’ attention in the main market square, which will be filled with the scents of mulled wine, sausages, and gingerbread.
Caerphilly, Wales… 12th to 13th December
Step back in time at the Medieval Christmas Fayre in Caerphilly, Wales. Inside the walls of one of the greatest castles in Western Europe, visitors can browse goodies to a soundtrack of period seasonal music.
London… Hampton Court Palace 27th Dec 3rd Jan
Join Henry VIII and his wife [which one?] as they celebrate the festive season at Hampton Court Palace. There’ll be musicians and entertainment in the state apartments while, down in the Tudor Kitchens, the cooks will be preparing food fit for a royal Christmas. The palace will also be decorated with festive arrangements from the 19th December until Twelfth Night. The Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink also returns this festive period for yet another splendid skating season.