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European Christmas Markets Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09


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This feature appeared within the November edition of The Travel & Leisure Magazine 2009.
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European Christmas Markets Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09

  1. 1. ESCAPE to… CHRISTMAS MARKETS In the market for Chr stmas ■ Christmas in Augsburg Bavaria Tourism Traditional Christmas markets in towns and cities throughout the Continent and farther afield are now hugely popular for festive get-away breaks. Dave Richardson explores their attraction C onsidering that I’m not ancient Polish city of much of a shopper, my Krakow, and the tem- first experience of a tradi- perature was 20ºC tional Christmas market below freezing. came as a revelation. It was Yet more snow dust- nearly 20 years ago in the ed Krakow’s many spires ■ Children with toffee apples in Lemgo German National Tourist Board November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 15
  2. 2. Cologne's Prague market and Christmas cathedral market Leonardo Mediabank Leger Holidays Bruges at Christmas Rostock market German National Tourist Board Dertour ■ Christmas in Liege as darkness fell in mid afternoon, creating a although many of these are not traditional Jesus. This is the case at Nuremberg, one of true Christmas card scene. I followed the and as far away as Japan, Canada and the the best markets, also home of gingerbread crowds to the vast Market Square – said to USA. Germany and France both have about which is one of the favourite festive foods. be the largest in Europe – and made straight 80 listings, with Austria having 29 and The market at Munich, held on the for a stall selling hot mulled wine. Belgium 16. Marienplatz in front of the guildhall, is one Everyone around me seemed happy and In Germany – as in Krakow, no doubt – of the most impressive with over 120 stalls. soon I forgot about the cold as I wolfed this year’s markets will have an extra reason Many stalls still concentrate on traditional down sausage and fried cheese, before buy- to celebrate. November marked 20 years toys and festive fare, although inevitably ing some woollen slippers and wooden toys since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end they have been infiltrated by modern gadg- at bargain prices. I went away feeling warm of Communism in Europe, which led to the ets and clothing. and also the warmth of humanity, and ever revival of many traditions including a festive Look for regional variations, such as a since I try to visit a European Christmas Christmas. Glühwein (a warm mulled wine) Christmas pastry at Frankfurt’s Christmas market far from the blandness and rip-off and eierpunsch (an alcoholic drink with market. Bethmännchen is made from marzi- prices in Britain. eggs) can be found everywhere. pan with almonds and sugar, and young men I’m not alone in wanting to flee these used to send it as a token of their love. If a shores as Christmas approaches, despite the “Nearly one person in four is girl kept it they could remain hopeful – if increasing number of festive markets in this planning a festive break” not, they had to look elsewhere. country. According to research by Leger Cologne is another highly popular German Holidays, nearly one person in four is plan- Christmas markets started around 1400 in market, being held near the immense cathe- ning a festive break and a key reason is the German-speaking part of Europe, with dral which is one of the world’s largest. Many wanting to escape the over-commercialisa- Dresden (1434) being one of the first and of the most charming traditional markets are tion of Christmas. now attracting two million visitors a year. in smaller places, such as Trier, Mainz, Krakow is actually a fairly unusual Opening of the markets in early December Koblenz, Kaiserslautern, Speyer and Worms choice, as the most popular traditional mar- or late November coincides with the Advent – which call themselves the Romantic Cities kets are in Germany. The website religious festival, and some are called of Germany. Historic Highlights of Germany, offers information Christkindel Markt (Christ child market) a group of 14 cities, has four recommended on over 400 markets in 22 countries, with a child playing the role of the boy routes taking in the markets. 16 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
  3. 3. ■ Tallinn Christmas market Estonia Tourist Office Out of the Ordinary Here are a few more ideas for a Christmas market break with a difference: Tallinn, capital of the tiny Baltic country of Estonia, has revived a festive market which was popular long ago but abolished during Soviet rule.The 64 wooden stalls are set out in the medieval Town Hall Belgian Tourist Office Square around a huge Christmas tree, as Father Christmas and his elves – Scribble and Scrabble – work the crowd. Choirs, dance groups, poets and musicians keep you entertained.The market runs from November 29-January 7. Christmas markets in Belgium, in its central Just across the Baltic from Tallinn is ■ The Christmas square and adjacent Place du Marché. In the Helsinki, capital of Finland, a country angel at Nuremberg Flanders part of Belgium you will find mar- which claims Santa Claus for its own (as kets in every city, including Bruges (a great does Greenland, among others).The city break destination in itself) and – just Ladies Christmas Market runs from across the Channel – Ostend. The snow and December 2-6 with handicrafts made by ice sculptures in Bruges are an added attrac- Finnish women, followed by the main tion from November 20-January 10, while in market in Esplanade Park. the Belgian capital Brussels, a large ice rink The Hungarian capital of Budapest is can be enjoyed as well as the market. another ex-Eastern bloc city to revive its You can reach Brussels in less than two Christmas traditions.The venue is hours by Eurostar train from London, while Vörösmarty Square, which is decorated German National Tourist Board the journey to Lille in northern France is with a huge Christmas tree and an even faster at 80 minutes. Lille’s market is advent calendar. one of the best in France, a highlight being when Father Christmas descends an 80- ■ Traditional metre-high belfry on December 19. Christmas tree decorations If you prefer to fly then there are more countries to choose from, where you can Many visitors gravitate towards larger combine a Christmas market with a histori- cities as there is so much more to do, espe- cal city or even some skiing. Markets are cially during the long evenings at the darkest held in most Austrian cities including time of the year. Another reason some cities Vienna (a very cultural choice in the run-up are very popular is ease of access from the to Christmas), Salzburg and Innsbruck. UK , which is why Belgian and French mar- Vienna’s market is in front of City Hall, kets come into their own. where children can create their own presents Liege holds one of the oldest and largest at Santa’s Workshop, and dispatch them German National Tourist Board November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 17
  4. 4. ■ Salzburg Christmas market Salzburg Tourist Office from a special post office without the possi- Christmas market facts bility of postal strikes! Musical programmes with choirs and pastoral plays are performed on the steps of Salzburg Cathedral, while in When to go Innsbruck, a daily attraction at 5.30pm is the Christmas markets take place from late November or early December. Many Turmbläser, a brass band which plays close just before Christmas but some continue until New Year’s Eve and even Christmas songs from the city tower. into January. Innsbruck’s main market is in the medieval Old Town by the 14th century balcony Getting there German National Tourist Board known as the Golden Roof, with dozens of You can fly from main UK airports to major German stalls decked out with Christmas decora- cities including Munich and Frankfurt, and Frankfurt tions, locally-crafted wood and glassware, airport has an inter-city rail terminal for trains all over and typical Tyrolean clothing. the country. Brussels and Prague also have good UK air Prague has several Christmas markets, connections, but remember that low-cost airlines have strict the most important being in Old Town limits on baggage with big supplements to pay if you stock up on Christmas Square and Wenceslas Square. Brightly-dec- goodies.This makes rail a good option, including Eurostar to Lille and Brussels, orated wooden huts sell traditional Czech with easy connections in Brussels to Cologne and other German cities.Also products from handicrafts to corn on the consider coach tours, or drive yourself using Eurotunnel or ferries. Fred Olsen cob, sausages and other local specialties, and is one of the cruise lines with a Christmas Markets theme departure. in Old Town Square children can stroke sheep, goats and even a llama – although Tour operators include what connection a llama has with Christmas, Shearings (0844 824 6352,, Dertour (020 7290 1105, or the Czech Republic, is not clear. As with or, Leger Holidays most markets, however, it has a Bethlehem (0845 408 07 69,,Travelsphere (0800 567 7372, crib scene depicting Mary, Joseph, baby, Newmarket Holidays (0845 226 7756, Jesus and the Three Kings., Short Breaks Ltd (0844 482 2940, Whether the Three Kings arrive on,Titan HiTours (0800 988 5823, camels or even llamas, you can be sure of a, Great Rail Journeys (01904 521 936, lot more atmosphere when visiting a European market than if you stay in Britain – despite the best efforts of home-grown Sample prices Christmas markets such as York, Lincoln or Dertour’s huge choice in Germany and other countries includes a two-night Bath. They operate throughout December break to Nuremberg by air costing from £339 and extra nights from £53. and fares are usually low at this time of year Leger Holidays’ two-night break to Brussels and Bruges, by coach, costs from £149. – especially midweek. Most cities’ other Great Rail Journeys features a three-night trip to Cologne for £445, including main attractions are a lot less crowded than first-class travel by Eurostar and a Rhine cruise to Rudesheim market. in the summer. Maybe, like me, you’ll find that visiting More information German National Tourist Board Christmas markets becomes the habit of a The website has a lifetime. You certainly won’t be pining for comprehensive listing, with hotel and travel offers. Britain’s dreary shopping malls, with a glass German National Tourist Office: 020 7317 0908, of steaming glühwein in one hand and a siz- and zling bratwurst sausage in the other! TL Historic Highlights of Germany: Dave Richardson got fed up with Christmas shopping in Britain at a very early age, when he Romantic Cities of Germany: had to queue for an hour to meet Santa at a Austrian markets: and department store in Liverpool. In over 30 years of travelling he has visited nearly every country in Europe, and has a particular interest in Central Bruges: Europe including the former Communist countries. Tallinn Christmas Market: 18 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009